BY STEPHEN SSENKAABA
My Journey: Paul Mugisha
Bio gas provides enough energy for cooking and lighting
PAUL Mugisha from Isingiro district has been a farmer for over 15 years, but much of his experience was limited to subsistence farming.
â€œI used to grow crops to feed my family. I would then sell whatever was left, but there was never much left,â€ he says.
Despite this, he stuck to farming, investing his savings in agriculture. His efforts paid off when he became a beneficiary of Heifer Internationalâ€™s support to farmers.
â€œThrough this project, I received an exotic breed goat and advice on how to improve my yields.â€ He continued to work hard and his yields improved. In 2006, Mugisha became a beneficiary of the Millenium Villages project, an initiative between Columbia Universityâ€™s Earth Institute, the United Nations Development Programme and the Millennium Promise. The project seeks to lift rural communities in sub-Saharan Africa out of extreme poverty.
The project uses modern science and technology to address the needs of poor communities through basic interventions like providing high-yield seeds, fertilisers, medicines, clean water and other services.
From that time on, Mugisha became a model farmer and is now sharing his knowledge with other farmers in the district.
To date, Mugisha has two heifer cows and two calves, 21 cross breed goats and over eight acres of farmland on which he grows bananas, beans, maize, grafted fruits, including mangoes, oranges and avocados.
He also produces biogas for household lighting and cooking.
â€œI mix water and cow dung and put them in an underground container called a mixer. From here, I prepare them to produce bio gas,â€ says Mugisha.
He practices zero grazing, which he says enables him to manage his animals well.
For the last couple of years, Mugisha has obtained a steady yield from his farming. This has immensely boosted his income.
â€œFrom my cows, I obtain 20 litres of milk per day, out of which I sell 15 and spare five for my family,â€ he says.
Mugisha also gets income from selling his goats which he does once or twice every year.
â€œA single goat goes for sh5m. I could sell about three goats in a single month,â€ he adds.
From his plantations, this father of five children collects a reasonably good harvest.
â€œI am able to harvest 15 sacks of beans, 20 sacks of maize and several bunches of bananas. I sell most of these and keep the rest for my family.â€
Mugisha has also acquired modern farming skills from regular training workshops for farmers.
Biogas has also enabled him to save on fuel.
â€œI no longer spend money on fuel for lighting, nor time looking for firewood for cooking; bio gas provides enough energy for us to cook and light,â€ Mugisha says.
The cow dung that remains from the bio gas mixture is used in the garden as manure.
â€œI get enough money to look after my family and educate my children,â€ he says.
Mugisha also supplies food and dairy products to his community.
Despite the achievements, Mugishaâ€™s road to success has not been easy.
â€œI do not have the required materials to produce bio gas. Most of the time I use my own hands while mixing the water and cow dung. This is not safe,â€ he says.
Mugisha also finds drugs for his animals and the required pesticides to take care of his plantation costly.
Sometimes, the market for some of my produce dwindles.
â€œThis means that I do not make enough returns from my crops,â€ he says.
Water shortages are severe in this part of the country and the dry spells are long.
â€œThe long distance from the water sources which, are usually unsafe, makes life very hard for us.â€
â€œI would like to expand my farm. And since plans have been put for us to receive piped water and electricity, I am planning to improve my farm by introducing modern farming methods,â€ Mugisha says.
Name: Paul Mugisha
LOCATION: Ruhiira parish, Isingiro district
ENTERPRISES: Livestock and crop production
WINNING FORMULA: Hard work and use of high quality breeds