By Ronald Kalyango
and Rehema Aanyu
WHEN President Yoweri Museveni was told that Paul Ssembeguya, a livestock farmer in Sembabule district has 35,000 goats and 1,000 cows, he thought it was an exaggeration. The President decided to organise a visit to Ssembeguyaâ€™s farm located in Ntuusi village to verify the actual number of livestock animals.
â€œWe set off from Kampala at 6:00am and arrived at his farm at around 8:00am. We wanted to find the animals in the kraals,â€ Joan Kakwenzire, the presidential advisor on poverty alleviation, said.
Kakwenzire said the President was surprised by the animals and quoted him as saying, â€œOgu omushaija nayenda kunkiza ente (This man wants to outcompete me in livestock rearing).
Kakwenzire was narrating this story during the launch ceremony of a partnership agreement between Ssembeguya estates and the Government of Uganda.
The partnership involves the distribution of 54,000 local goats to 108 farmers in Sembabule district. Ssembeguyaâ€™s contribution will be 350 pure Savannah goats.
The sh6.4b goat breeding project will cover a period of five years.
All the contracted farmers will not be allowed to sell off the goats for the first three years of the projectâ€™s implementation.
â€œWe want to raise quite a good number of white savannah goats because our target market is the Arab world,â€ said Paul Ssembeguya, the proprietor of Ssembeguya estates. Initially it had been planned that each participating farmer should be given 500 local goats and 10 exotic goats but this is likely to change to 250 local and 5 pure goats, respectively.
It is envisaged that after a period of five years, Sembabule district will be in position to export a total of 16,000 goats on a monthly basis.
â€œOur target is 16,000 goats but if we export 5,000 goats, it will also be a success story,â€ he said.
Ssembeguyaâ€™s love to venture into animal rearing dates way back in 1990 when he completed S.6. He joined his uncle in the UK for odd jobs (kyeyo) to raise enough money for the start up capital. His uncle, Edward Mugalu, had told him that there was more money in animal husbandry compared to other businesses.
â€œI basically went to the UK to get capital to start my business as a farmer,â€ he says. Like most nkuba kyeyos, he saved and sent money home to relatives thinking that they will help him achieve his dream but to his surprise, they abused his trust.
â€œWhen I returned in 1996, there was nothing to show for all the money I had sent them to buy me land and build structures,â€ he says.
In 1997, he went back to Britain to work again. This time round, he was personally involved in buying land and setting up infrastructures for his business.
â€œI bought three square miles in Sembabule at sh14m and started my business. I had done a lot of research and calculations on making money out of cattle so I was confident I would succeed,â€ he narrated.
He began with a total of 50 local goats and 70 heads of local cattle which he crossbred with the pure breeds.
For the goats, he crossbred Boer goats from South Africa with the local goats to give him different breeds. A typical Boer can grow to around 50kgs or even more. Females can produce around 6 at a go, twice a year.
According to Ssembeguya, a Boer goat, if well fed can gain 100gms per day. â€œIn one year, it can gain about 35-40kgs, hence converting it into meat, compared to local breeds that take between 2-3 years to gain a paltry 20kgs and an average of 8kgs of meat.â€
When a pure buck mates with a local breed, the product is 50% and when the 50% off springs mate with the pure boer, the product is 75%. A 50% product always has shorter horns.
On the market, a 50% goes for around sh200,000, while a 75% goes for around sh350,000, compared to local breeds with price ranges of sh30,000 to 60,000!
Ssembeguya currently has 3,500 goats and 1,000 heads of cattle. He employs 50 people at his farm. The total value of his business currently stands at sh7b.
However, out of the 65 boers he had imported, Ssembeguya lost 29 goats to the heart water disease.
â€œThe animals lacked anti bodies to fight this disease and there was no medication in the country for this disease. It was a very difficult time because I lost a lot of money,â€ he lamented.
He later challenged his veterinary doctors and they came up with a drug that prevented the other livestock from contracting the deadly disease.
â€œThe drug made it possible for us to notice signs and symptoms of the disease before it was too late,â€ he says.
With a boost of $900, Ssembeguya imported another breed of goats called Savannah which are characteristically white in colour.
â€œUnlike the boers, the savannah have a higher libido and their production capability is excellent. They are also very popular in the Arab world where they are used for religious sacrifices and cleansing purposes,â€ he explains.
Today, Ssembeguya describes himself as a progressive commercial farmer with an undying desire to develop animal husbandry.
He attributes his success to working with people and employing veterinary doctors who keep his livestock animals healthy.
â€œIt is very important for one to avoid being an island. Employ technical people, tell them what you want and treat them well. They are not doing you a favour and neither are you by employing them,â€ he advises.
In 2006, Ssembeguya Estates Uganda Limited was nominated by the Uganda Investment Authority as the investor of the year (diaspora category). Owing to the success of his business, President Yoweri Museveni paid him a visit at his farm in Sembabule district.
â€œI did not know he was in search of goats to export to the Arab world. He fell in love with what he saw as he toured my farm. Apparently, his advisors had told him that it was impossible to rear Savannah goats in Uganda. I was a living testimony that it was possible,â€ Ssembeguya says.
This marked the beginning of his partnership with Government. The district production coordinator, Dr. Emmanuel Kawooya, explained that so far the Government, through the National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS) has supported Ssembeguya with over sh400m.
The first phase of the partnership took place in 2005/6 and cost the NAADS secretariat sh200m. Ssembeguya provided 410 goats and 15 shelters to 15 groups in Lwemiyaga, Mijwala and Sembabule town council.
The second phase of the partnership which was implemented in 2008/9 also cost sh200m. It provided 312 goats and 12 shelters to 12 groups in Ntuusi, Lwemiyaga and Lugusulu. Kawooya said that goat production in Uganda, especially Sembabule district has been used as an entry point into poverty reduction. Goat production in Sembabule district is the second most important economic enterprise next to cattle especially in the rangeland areas.
It is the second most important livestock species only next to cattle in terms of their contribution to the livestock sector of agriculture.
Goats play a vital social-economic and cultural role in the livelihoods of the rural communities by providing mainly meat and income.
The district also has a great comparative advantage for goat production because it is located in the south western dry Savannas with plenty of shrubs (mainly accassia) that is very suitable for goat production.
The district has 200,000 cattles, 120,000 goats, 35,399 pigs and 194,462 poultry.
The animal husbandry state minister, Bright Rwamirama, who launched the partnership said Uganda has a total population of 8 million goats.
He appreciated Ssembeguyaâ€™s efforts towards the development of the livestock sector and assured him of the Governmentâ€™s support.
â€œThis project will help in the establishing of nucleus breeders, out growers and stratify the breeders as we link them to strategic local and regional markets,â€ said Rwamirama.
Kawooya noted that despite the different interventions, the enterprise is still constrained with rampant goat diseases like helminthiasis, brucellosis, heart water, kid diarrhea and of late dermatomycosis which cause high morbidity and mortalities.
Other problems include indiscriminate breeding, theft rates of goats, inadequate water resources that cause water stress and high risk of exposure to diseases.
Name: Paul Ssembeguya
Farm location: Ntuusi village, Sembabule.
Enterprises: cattle ranching, goat breeding, animal procurement, marketing, export and import of livestock and livestock products.
Size of land: 5 square miles
Contact: 0752647812 /0782084105