Name: Ruth Kibowa.
Location of farm: Mayuge Town Council, near Mayuge district headquarters.
Enterprises: Keeping local chicken, growing rice and ground nuts.
Size of land: 16.5 acres.
How she started: With one hen, given to her son as a gift from his grand mother.
Marketing skills: Sells to large scale buyers. She only sells in bulk.
Winning formula: Getting interested in her work.
Contact of farmer: 0782909355.
By Joshua Kato
ABOUT 10 years ago, one of Ruth Kibowaâ€™s children got a gift from his grand mother. It was a hen. When the young boy brought it home, there was debate on whether to slaughter and eat it, or rear it so that it produces more chicken. The family agreed to rear the hen.
That was a decision that none of them knew would change their lives. The hen produced 10 chicks the first time. â€œAll of them grew up, four were cocks, while six were hens,â€ Kibowa says. From one hen, the family had got 11 hens.
The hens scavenged for themselves on the small family plot located just a few meters from Mayuge district headquarters.
After three months, the hen produced 13 chicks. â€œThis time, two were cocks while 11 were hens and all of them grew up. In the space of six months, they had 25 chicken at home. Kibowa realised this could turn into a paying venture.
After two years, the flock had grown to 600 chicken. â€œAlmost all of them had been generated through internal multiplication,â€ Kibowa explains. The neighbours had already noticed the progress of the chicken and were talking about it.
At the time, she kept them in a temporary grass and wattle structure and largely treated them using local bush herbs. In fact most passerby thought she had already spent a fortune to have such a big number of birds.
But of course, among all those who passed by while admiring the huge cocks and hens were thieves. Before the Kibowas could even earn from their efforts, thieves broke into the temporary shelter and stole everything!
â€œThey left only two chickens and a cock,â€ Kibowa remembers. Since every chicken cost an average sh8,000 at the time, she lost around sh4.8m!
She was not cowed. She instead re-enforced the shelters and started multiplying the chicken again. In two years, through internal multiplication, she had 800 chicken in the enclosure.
Kibowa was lucky to have gone on a study trip to Soroti. â€œI learnt so many things in Soroti. Of course I was already keeping my chicken, but I also learnt how to grow oranges and ground nuts,â€ she says. When she returned, she decided to grow crops too.
â€œI was targeting over 1,000 local birds, but then I got a deal. There was a plot of land for sale and I did not have money to buy it. I decided to sell 500 chicken to buy it,â€ she says. They fetched her sh4.5m!
Kibowa remained with 300 birds and she started multiplying them again. â€œIt was easy to multiply them quickly because over 100 of them were laying eggs,â€ she says.
Once laid, it takes only 21 days for an egg to become a chick. Once hatched, the most trying period is between a day and one month. â€œThey fall prey to rats,â€ Kibowa says.
On top of that, since the chicks are not looked after by their mothers, Kibowa devised locally available systems to keep them warm, especially at night. She placed them in two pots at night to keep them warm. While during the day, she placed them in a small basket where they are fed.
In just six months after selling off the 500, Kibowa had another 800 chicken. â€œI again sold them off and bought another plot, near Mayuge district headquarters,â€ she says.
She again retained 200 chicken for further multiplication. From the profits she started constructing a house. It is an imposing structure that can fit, in any of the posh suburbs of Kampala.
At the moment, there are 230 chicken at the farm, because she recently sold another big consignment.
Her chicken business was boosted by the NAADS programme. â€œThey taught me how to synchronise chicken rearing,â€ she says.
This is where chicken are adapted to lay eggs continuously. They also gave her several chicken which she mixed with her flock, a wire mesh that she used to construct a 5 x 5 decimal enclosure in which the chicken feed during day.
â€œPreviously, I was keeping chicken on free range,â€ she says. Free range is when the chicken go out and scavenge for food.
The enclosure, has several feeding boxes that are located on one side and several chicken drinking cones. It is connected to the two chicken houses behind the main house.
Kibowa has through the years created a good market for her chicken. She is assured of buyers who take the chicken in bulk. â€œI do not sell to individual buyers, I only sell in bulk,â€ she says.
Buyers come from as far as Kampala for the chicken. She alerts them whenever time for sale comes.
With the chicken rearing now fully entrenched, Kibowa intensified other enterprises. Among these, she acquired a heifer for milk production. The heifer produces at least 10 litres per day some of which is sold.
On her 16.5 acres of land, she also grows ground nuts, mainly the high yielding Serenut two and three. Last season, she harvested 35 bags from one of the acres.
â€œI had been growing foods on this land for many years, but not on a commercial basis,â€ she says.
She also grew up-land rice last year and harvested 30 bags. â€œThis was a medium harvest but I intend to grow it on an even larger scale next season,â€ she says.
Her success in agriculture has since drawn the attention of the powers that be. A look in a grey visitors book shows that among the key people to visit include State minister for Agriculture Major Bright Rwamirama, top district leaders including the area MP Henry Bagiire and farmers from other parts of the country.
She has also been selected as one of the lead farmers in the district.
But there are challenges too! While she likes using a tractor to prepare her land, there is only one in the district!
And it is an old, fairly run down Massey Ferguson. â€œBecause it is only one, we have to line up for it,â€ she laments. To prepare an acre of land, a farmer parts with over sh70,000.
â€œMy dream is to own my own tractor, so that I plough my land,â€ she says.
The unpredictable climatic conditions have also affected her agriculture. Between January and February, the area faced a dry spell.
â€œI need a source of water both for my birds and crops, she says. Previously, she had a water pump, that has however since broken down. At the moment, water for the chicken is fetched by hand from a swamp below.
But in all, Kibowa is satisfied with the journey she has moved through the last ten years. A journey that started with just once hen.
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