By Chris Mugasha
Vision 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 profile 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
A board with a long list of names hangs in one of the sheds at Kabeihura Mixed Farm. One could mistake the names on list to be for employees or members of an association, who had completed a meeting. But the names are of the lactating cows. This farm is run by Eliab Muhoozi.
Listening to Muhoozi’s narration, one comes to realise that other than technical knowledge, it takes passion for one to succeed in agriculture. Interestingly, Muhoozi ventured into farming without any technical knowledge. He learnt everything on the job. “I am a self-made farmer,” he boasts.
Muhoozi’s modern mixed farm is located in Kyamuhunga sub-county in Bushenyi district. The enterprises on his farm include: fish farming/hatchery, tea plantation, dairy farming, banana plantation, poultry, pineapple growing and forestry.
The tea plantation currently lies on 70 acres of land
How he has managed to succeed
While working with the defunct Uganda Tea Growers’ Corporation (UTGC) in 1975, Muhoozi bought land, part of which had a tea plantation.
Tea plantations had been abandoned because the tea factories, at the time, were not operating due to a breakdown of the tea processing machinery. There was no foreign exchange to buy spare parts and no means to transport the tea from the gardens.
Muhoozi had also abandoned tea growing and ventured into dairy farming. Ironically, at the time it was unheard of to practise dairy farming since there were no cows in the whole sub-county. “I continued with dairy farming until 1980 when I retired from UTGC to concentrate on full-time farming,” he explains.
Since then, he has been running his farming enterprises. Later, the European Union, through Igara Tea Growers, financed the rehabilitation of tea plantations and gradually, Muhoozi together with other tea growers, revived the tea growing business.
Fish farming is another of Muhoozi’s enterprises
Size of land
Muhoozi says he has managed to expand his tea plantation from 15 acres in the 80s to 70 acres today. He rears cattle on about 100 acres, while his banana plantation lies on four acres. The fish farming enterprise occupies three acres, where he has 30 fish ponds, including two fish built-up tanks.
He also grows pineapples and other crops like maize on about 10 acres of land. Muhoozi grows tomatoes in a greenhouse on part of the land and is also rearing 3,000 layer chickens.
Modern farming practices
Muhoozi applies fertilisers in the tea plantations to boost production, but applies organic manure which he gets from cow dung, and hen droppings in the other gardens to maintain soil fertility. For fish farming, he has a modern hatchery, and he is trying to graduate from fish ponds to built-up fish tanks.
Muhoozi has established plantations of caliandra and spear grass to boost milk production. He produces over 200 litres of milk daily. He also has running water on his farm.
Muhoozi sells his fish both on the local market and across the border, especially to the Democratic Republic of Congo.However, he says he is planning to begin processing and packaging fish into fish fillet and sausages for better returns. “The market for fish is immense because many people are abandoning red meat due to health reasons,” he says. For tea, he gets ready market from the tea factories in Kyamuhunga. Muhoozi, however, says the market for milk is a bit tricky. “The challenge is not the market, but poor quantities.
As long as you have the right technology, the market becomes easy,” he says. Every month, all the farming projects generate about sh40m. Out of this amount, sh20m is invested back in costs, including paying the workers, according to Isaac Muhanguzi, who is Muhoozi’s son and a director. Muhanguzi says tea contributes a bigger percentage to the farm’s earnings.
The farmer has over 3,000 layer birds
To mitigate some of the hazards on the farm, Muhoozi equipped himself with basic knowledge in treating some of the diseases and has adopted modern farming techniques. “Unfortunately, infections like banana bacterial wilt are hard to manage.
Even agronomists have still failed to find a solution for them, but as a farmer I use the best practices to survive,” he says.
To boost and sustain his earnings from fish, Muhoozi explains that he has finalised plans to produce fish fillet and sausages. “I am optimistic that once these products are in place I will venture into the international market,” he says. Muhoozi has also purchased machinery to process yoghurt, ghee and butter, among others. Currently, he has a milk cooler located in Mashonga trading centre, where locals buy fresh milk.
Access to finance
Muhoozi argues that one has to build capacity gradually to access reasonable credit services, which he himself has achieved. “When I go to the bank, for example, I am only asked to present a land title,” he says.
Muhoozi, however, laments about the high lending rates in some banks, which he attributes to lack of development banks specifically targeting agriculture.
Muhoozi is conserving the environment indirectly through different approaches like keeping the water rotating in the wetland (through fish ponds). He has planted caliandra which re-fixes fertility into the soils and 15 acres of eucalyptus trees.
The elephant grass he has planted which he says is rich in proteins also controls soil erosion.
Muhoozi employs 60 people on the farm. “I contribute heavily on the national economy, especially from my tea, fish and dairy enterprises,” he says. “Before I started dairy farming in Kyamuhunga sub-county, there was no milk there. Many farmers learnt from me to begin dairy farming.
They had a belief that cattle could not survive in the area because of tsetse flies.”
Investing in knowledge
Muhoozi has made several trips to countries like Holland, Denmark and Britain, particularly to study dairy farming and dairy processing. He has also visited Kenya to see how tea growing is done. Locally, he has visited successful farmers like the late James Mulwana’s Jesa farm.
Muhoozi says agricultural shows and competitions should be promoted by the Government and other stakeholders for farmers to exchange ideas and training. “When farmers compete, they improve their products naturally,” says Muhoozi, who became a first runner-up in the 1995 agriculture show.
To nominate: e-mail email@example.com, giving the name of the farmer, Village, district, Tel. contact or SMS: TYPE Farmer<space> Name of farmer<space> Tel.contact<space> Village<space> District Send to 8338