By Joshua Kato
trueVision Group, in partnership with dfcu Bank, the Netherlands Embassy in Uganda and KLM Airlines, is searching for Uganda’s best farmers. Every Tuesday, in Harvest Money we shall profi le nominated farmers, until September when a panel of judges shall select Uganda’s best farmers. Sh150m and a fully sponsored trip to the Netherlands await the best farmers who will be announced in October
He speaks about his trees with a passion akin to that of a newly engaged. As he takes us on a tour of his farmland, he talks about how eucalyptus trees will afford him an early retirement. Currently the headmaster of Vienna College Namugongo, Mohammed Kakiika is a prominent farmer at Nabalanga village, Nakifuma sub-county, Mukono district. He has a 25-acre banana plantation, approximately one million eucaulyptus trees, 77,000 coffee trees, 8,000 mvule trees, 8,000 musiizi trees, mangoes and jackfruit trees.
Kakiika believes agriculture is the way to go. “I have the potential to construct arcades in the city, but I realised houses are not the best investment,” he says. Kakiika says for one to enjoy farming and have consolidated wealth during retirement, he should start as early as possible, when still strong.
How he started
He conceived the idea of venturing into agriculture while in South Africa, when he visited the home of the head of finance Mercedes Benz, South Africa. “His home made me fall in love with trees; there is a variety of tree species planted all over his compound, which gives it a natural, calming scenery,” Kakiika says.
Kakiika started teaching at Aga Khan High School in 1990. He taught for one year and left for Kyeyo in South Africa, where he worked until 2001 when he returned to Uganda to venture into farming to improve on the food security in the country.
In love with farming
“When I came back to Uganda, I had made some savings, which I used to buy some commuter taxis. I hired them out to people and this became my source of income in addition to my salary as a teacher,” Kakiika says. He decided to invest the proceeds and the savings from his salary into farming. In 2008, Kakiika started by buying three pieces of land of about four acres each at around sh10m.
He then planted matooke and coffee, which he intercropped. “I have intercropped a number of crops and I am getting good yields contrary to popular belief,” he says. At first, he planted the local varieties like kibuzi, nakitembe, and musakala because he liked their taste and wanted to preserve them. “These take up seven acres of land,” he says.
In 2011, however, he bought 19 acres of land not far from his home and it is on this piece that he has planted improved banana varieties for commercial purposes. “There are over 10,000 banana plants on this land. I expect to harvest at least 1,000 bunches of bananas every month from here,” he says.
At the current average price of sh15,000 for a mediumsize bunch, Kakiika expects at least sh15m per month from bananas alone.
Kakiika grafts his own coffee trees
In 2009, the price of maize shot up, yet this was the main food for his workers on the farm. Kakiika used to spend sh180,000 on 50kg of maize fl our for his workers. This is when he started growing maize. The trees were still short, so he intercropped maize with the tress.
He harvested 68 tonnes of maize that season on a 77-acre piece of land. He still grows maize.
Trees are the way to go
Kakiika looks at trees as his biggest source of income in future. There are trees all over his land, including just next to his house. “Crops such as maize are a short-term investment, but for long-term, consider trees,” he explains. At the moment, he has over 1.2 million trees of different varieties on his roughly 400 hectares of land. These include pine, eucalyptus, mvule, musiizi and fruit trees like jack fruits and mangoes.
He values his trees at over sh12b! “With trees, it is a matter of choice on when to sell. For example, I sell three to four-year-old eucalyptus just to run the farm. I also sell discarded pine trees as fi rewood, but leave the bulk of them to mature,’ he says. Kakiika has already sold a lot of the eucalyptus trees to UMEME at sh120,000 each and he still has more. “I am still planting more trees,” he explains.
In his old age, he wants to sit back and earn from his trees. “Even if I die, this land cannot be easily disposed of by my children because I have equipped it with gold; they will fi rst have to harvest the trees worth billions of shillings, which will be enough for them. But if it was a building, that could be sold off,” he says. To sustain the crops during the dry season, Kakiika set up a number of water tanks on the farm, in which rain water is harvested and stored.
Kakiika has erected huge structures for poultry
At 15 years, a pine tree fetches at least sh500,000, while at 30 years, a mvule tree fetches at least sh3m! With 70,000 pine and 8,000 mvule trees, Kakiika hopes for a comfortable future.
He already has a market for his trees. At any one time, there is a truck loading trees on the farm to take to a clients. “I have trucks that deliver poles and fi rewood to my clients, who include schools that use the wood fuel for cooking and people who sell eucalyptus poles,” he says.
Strategy to success
Kakiika believes in involving the community, as opposed to the ‘village strongman’ mentality. As a result, he has encouraged many of them, especially his workers to start their own farms. “I employ people from the area on the farm.
I currently have 150 employees, whom I pay weekly, but I have resisted using prisoners on my farm because I look at it as exploitation.” To succeed as a large-scale farmer, he says, you must gain your workers’ loyalty. Kakiika says he achieves this by sharing his seedlings with the workers. This makes them feel appreciated and gives them a sense of ownership.
The area LC1 chairman, John Mary Ssemuju, says Kakiika’s investment has helped reduce the crime rate in the area, by giving youth employment. “All of them work at his farm and in fact, many of them are turning to farming for income generation, thanks to his guidance,” Ssemuju says. “We did background studies and extensive research before we joined agriculture.
I still visit farms of my friends and learn many things from them. This farm would not be where it is without guidance from God. He always shows us which direction to take,” says Kakiika. He also praises his dedicated team of workers. “Farming is a tedious, yet sensitive activity, which requires special attention for one to get better yields. One needs to have an eye for detail, which my team has been able to do and I am grateful to them.”
Regular expenses at the farm
Kakiika buys each of the eucalyptus seedlings at sh150 each from dealers. Ever since he started the farm, he plants at least 150,000 eucalyptus trees every year. At sh150 each, it means that he has spent at least sh120m on eucalyptus seedlings alone.
As far as coffee is concerned, he grafts his own coffee seedlings at the farm. Kakiika has got a regular team of 150 workers at the farm. Among these include various farm managers of the different units and ordinary workers. He pays between sh5,000-10,000 to the workers every day. This means that on a monthly basis, he spends at least sh22.5m-sh45m on salaries of workers at the farm.
Agriculture for wealth
Kakiika says the biggest challenge among the corporate elite is attitude.They see education as an escape route from village life. He says the elites should consider growing annual crops, which are a long time venture than going for beans and maize.
He acknowledges that the cries of the teachers are genuine, but he advises them to supplement their salaries with agriculture, other than waiting for salary increment. Kakiika says it is high time they got their hands dirty as this is the only way to get out of poverty. He notes that farming has given him hope and wealth as he earns a lot more than he would from salary.
Kakiika spends more time in the village with his workers, looking after his crops. At the farm, he has three posh cars that he uses to supervise his work.
A beautiful scenery of trees in Kakiika’s compound and the three cars he owns in his village
Kakiika says when he went into farming; he made some mistakes during the expansion and land acquisition which caused him financial losses. I thought of getting a bank loan, but fi nancial institutions were not willing to finance agriculture because of its risks
I ended up reducing the number of workers on the farm to get back on track. Another challenge, he says, is the dry season when all the grass dries up and pasture is not available for the cows. “Water scarcity become intense and the cows suffer,” Kakiika says.
Kakiika is the headmaster of Vienna College Namugongo. A member of the Nnabagereka Foundation, he is instrumental in organising the Kisaakate. He is also a Rotarian and a family man.
How to grow eucalyptus for timber and poles
By Vision Reporter
One of Mohamed Kakiika’s main enterprises is growing eucalyptus. He has learnt the job and he is doing it well. However, growing eucalyptus well requires good agricultural practices, especially the use of improved seeds, intensive land preparation and thorough weeding. The main species, E. grandis, will only grow well on suitable sites with good rainfall and deep, fertile soils.
High growth rates are achievable only when the optimum farming practices are employed – particularly with regard to thorough land preparation, the use of improved seeds and excellent weed control. Species Selection: There are a number of suitable eucalyptus species to grow for largesized poles and timber. With deep, fertile soils and mean annual rainfall of 1250mm, E. grandis will usually perform best. E. grandis will produce large, straight stems and could be providing you with a good income from two to three years (building poles), large poles by eight years and timber from about 12 years onwards.
There are two species that grow well in hotter, drier areas – E. ca maldulensis and E. tereticornis. They will not produce good sawtimber: They are more suited for fuel wood production in regions where E. grandis is not suited. Trials have, however, been done on E. cloeziana, E. pellita, E. urophylla, E. dunnii, E.longirostrata and Corymbia citriodora var. variagata (previously E. citriodora). The only local seed source recommended is the National Forestry Authority’s Fort Portal seed stand. Nearly all other local E. grandis seed sources are hybridised and are not pure.
The South African E. grandis seed is usually clean and should produce over one million plants per kilogramme. Most other E. grandis seed will be un-cleaned, with expected seedling yields closer to 100-150,000 per kg. Always check the germination rate with each batch of seed from the seed supplier. Stocking: When growing eucalypts for timber or large poles, the plant stocking (spacing) should not be as dense as for fuelwood and small poles.
For fuelwood and small building poles, a higher stocking compared to timber crops is justifi ed, especially as the rotation is only a few years. Common E. grandis stockings for fuelwood range from 1,337 to 2,500 sph, depending on the nature of the site and the size of poles required (Note: Higher stockings will generally produce a lot of smaller poles; if larger poles are required, re duce the stocking). Plantation establishment: The same golden rules for establishment of all eucalyptus crops apply.
These include; thorough land preparation; pre-plant weed control; planting only good quality seedlings; planting early in the rains, blanking (infi lling) no later than three weeks after the initial planting and most importantly, regular weed ing in the fi rst few months after planting.
To nominate: e-mail email@example.com, giving the name of the farmer, Village, district, Tel. contact or SMS: TYPE Tel.contact
Kakiika''s trees give him a safe landing on retirement