By Ronald Kalyango
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 pro 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
Since Bosco Otto, 57, dropped out of school after his Senior Four in the early 1970s, he has been engaged in farming and, according to him, the benefi ts are enormous. His farm, located 16km out of Gulu town, is enough testimony that farming is like any other paying job once you apply improved methods and invest in proper technologies.
In 1972, upon completion of his Senior Four at Tororo Secondary School, Otto trained as a mechanic specialising in making spare parts for vehicles, ox-ploughs and bicycles.
Born in Abwoch village, he joined Uganda Asian Mills in Tororo and was later transferred to Akot Mills Engineering department in Gulu district where he specialised in making bags for packing sugar. “I worked for many years and realised that I was not making any progress in terms of economic welfare because I was being paid peanuts. I opted for an early retirement,” Otto says
How he started
By the time Otto retired in 1995, he was earning sh15,000 per month and when he compared it to the sh200,000 the people who had gone into farming were earning per month, he quit his job. “Before I quit my job, I planted about fi ve acres of cassava for home consumption. After assessing the market demand for cassava and realising it was good, I decided to go commercial,” he says. The results were amazing. From the fi rst sale of 100 bags of cassava and stem cuttings at sh10,000 and sh7,000 respectively per bag, he made sh195,000. By the end of the year, he had made about sh4.8m.
This encouraged him to diversify into growing bananas. In 1998, Otto was selected by the district agriculture offi cer as one of the prominent farmers in Gulu to go for a study tour in Mukono. He picked interest in bananas, partly because they mature fast and have a ready market. He got 45 suckers from farmers in Mukono free-of-charge and planted them on his three-acre piece of land.
Otto grows a variety of crops, including coffee
Getting more knowledge
In 1999, Otto was again selected to go for a farmers’ study tour in Nairobi. “I found out that the Kenyans also rated bananas highly,” he adds. He then decided to grow bananas. He bought 45 suckers each at sh5,000. A year later, Otto started harvesting his bananas and selling mature banana suckers too at sh5,000. This helped him expand his farm.
Moving into coffee
Before he could realise a harvest from the new suckers, Otto moved into coffee farming. As he looked after his farm, he also visited other areas of the country to get new farming ideas. “In Mukono, I had seen that farmers were getting a lot of money from coffee. I got advice from the Gulu coffee coordinator, who taught me how to plant and make a nursery bed,” Otto explains.
He bought about 475 coffee seedlings at sh500 each and established a nursery bed and later added about 10,000 coffee seedlings that were given to him for free by the district. “I sold each at sh200 to other farmers and raised sh2m,” he says. By December 2005, Otto was getting about 200 bags of coffee and selling each at sh200,000. Last year, he sold about 500 bags of Kiboko coffee.He used the proceeds to construct another house.
Into fruits and trees
Otto bought about 400 pineapple suckers and planted them on three acres of land. After a year, he harvested about 240 pineapples, sold some at sh1,000 each and earned sh1.2m. “Pineapple harvesting is done three times a year and weeding requires little labour.
It also has ready market throughout the year,” he says. With the pineapple project intact, Otto realised he was growing old and needed a project that would sustain him in his old age. “I bought 1,759 pine trees at sh500 each and planted them on about two acres of land. As much as I wanted money I also realised that the pine would provide shade to my 50 cows and reduce sickness associated with rain.
Bananas supplement his income
Indeed looking under the growing shades of the pine trees, were 50 cows. But his livestock business had begun earlier in 1990, when he bought fi ve heifers and two bulls. The herd increased to about 15 in number and he sold 10 at sh150,000 each. “It is part of this money that I used to build my first house and also take my eight children to school,” he said.
His biggest challenges include; lack of reliable workers for the farm, fluctuating food prices and expensive farm inputs. “But when you keep a keen eye over your farm, you are able to mitigate all these challenges,” he says.
Keeping records key
Otto explains that he has been able to survive in farming because he considers it a job. “I respect my job, which is why I make sure I do not lose it. You can only keep it by doing things right and this requires keeping records of all the farm activities,” Otto explains.
He also says giving back to the farm is important so that you do not become the proverbial farmer who milks the cow without feeding it. “I have workers who I pay on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. I buy farm inputs like fertilisers and seeds and at the end of the day, the farm expenses take at least 70% of the gross income,” he says.
Northern Uganda emerges as new coffee growing area
By Vision reporter
Northern Uganda had not been known for growing coffee, save for a few farmers like Bosco Otto. In the recent years however, this is changing. Through both the Government and private initiatives, coffee growing is now emerging as another cash crop venture in the north. The objective of the project is to alleviate poverty and improve the welfare of the people in the nontraditional coffee growing areas.
In 2010, the Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA) managing director, Henry Ngabirano, explained that they want to use coffee as tool to rapidly reduce poverty in households. The new development, he said, would also act as a fall-back position for coffee amidst the wilt disease, which hit the traditional coffee growing areas.
Ngabirano, together with UCDA board of directors, had visited the region to assess the progress of their intervention in the sub-region Ngabirano noted that the campaign had faced several challenges of prolonged dry spells every year, coupled with wild bush fire, as well as low adoption rate for coffee production since it was a nontraditional crop for the region
In northern Uganda, UCDA has to date distributed 250,000 coffee seedlings to farmers. In addition 4,000 banana suckers and 371,000 shade tree seedlings have been procured and delivered to farmers. A total of 115.5 metric tonnes of Kiboko coffee were marketed by farmers during the coffee year ending September 2012.
In Lango, they marketed 83.5 metric tonnes and 32 metric tonnes in Acholi. In West Nile, Arabica continues to be the predominant coffee variety grown in the area and this covers Zombo, Nebbi and Arua with 8,706 hectares being grown by 72,345 households. A total of 10,934 farmers are engaged in robusta coffee cultivation with 163 hectares of land being opened up for the crop.
Minimising post-harvest losses in coffee
By Joshua Kato
The final quality of coffee depends a lot on how well the coffee has been picked, processed, dried, packed and stored. In order to minimise contamination, it is important to carefully harvest and safely handle the harvested coffee through primary processing activities.
Coffee picking needs great skill and care to bring out a better product
The quality depends on how and when picking is done from the fi eld. Many farmers mix red ripe berries with shrivelled, black, discoloured and defective beans.
The unripe berries produce beans that break easily, are of inferior quality, are small and usually eliminated as part of the husks during milling, resulting in qualitative and quantitative post–harvest losses.
Recommendations to farmers
- Carefully pick only the mature red beans and leave the green ones on the tree to ripen further. Always pick, do not strip.
- Tarpaulin or other soft sheets must be spread on the ground below the coffee tree to avoid coffee beans dropping directly on the ground.
- The sheets also ensure proper collection of all the beans and minimise contamination.If they drop on the ground, the beans should be collected carefully.
- Remove all inferior or green beans, leaves, twigs and foreign matter from harvested beans. Pick regularly, every two weeks, to get good yields and better quality.
Coffee farmers lose up to 30% of their harvest due to poor handling during wet and dry processing.
This is mainly due to molding as a result of slow drying or poor ventilation in the storage units of dried coffee. Such coffee also develops off-flavours, which eventually affect its quality. Most of these losses are avoidable if the farmer makes an extra effort to carefully handle harvested produce.
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OTTO’S FARMING VENTURE GROWING RAPIDLY, THANKS TO RECORD KEEPING