By John Kasozi ,/b>
MOST aspiring commercial farmers remain in absolute poverty because they do not know what crops to plant in order to make profit says Peterson Nnyombi, the presidential adviser on agricultural matters.
â€œLast year, I happened to be part of President Yoweri Museveniâ€™s Buganda region entourage that visited farmers. Most of the farms in the area had very low value crops,â€ he recalls, adding that on average, most them had a maximum of five acres of land.
As we stroll through his orange orchard, Nnyombi insists that farmers with five acres of land and below should opt for high value crops if they are to make profits.
Nnyombi, the proprietor of Nnyonyi Integrated Intensive Farm (NIIF), says during his final year at Arapai Agricultural College in Teso, he took a personal initiative to study how to make profit from one acre of land.
â€œI researched on a number of high value crops and livestock,â€ Nnyombi says as he prunes orange branches. â€œI came up with a number of fruits and livestock like oranges, pawpaws, poultry and piggery.â€
After his studies, Nnyombi bought a plot (Kibanja) in Busimbi Railway LCI, Mityana town council and in 1988 embarked on orange growing beginning with a quarter-acre of land to see his cherished dream come true.
Today, Nnyombi has four-acres of land with Valencia, Hamlin and Washington Navel orange species. Three-acres of the land have mature trees.
Prior to taking on orange growing, Nnyombi had also analysed soil samples in Buganda which proved very favourable for orange growing especially the Washington Navel.
â€œMy orange project started with grafting seedlings. The response was good,â€ he emphasises.
Oranges are perennial crops. At any moment, some orange trees are either flowering or fruiting or ready for harvest, provided the farming management practices such as mulching, manuring and irrigation are adhered to.
â€œMy vision has come true,â€ says Nnyombi. â€œI have no regret and I have never failed to deliver my orders.â€
â€œI harvest them the very day Iâ€™m delivering. But this does not happen with the passion fruits, bogoya and apple banana (Ndizi). These crops have to be harvested as soon as they get ripe to avoid them getting spoilt,â€ he explains.
He sells 300kg first grade oranges per week to Shoprite supermarkets at the farmgate price of sh1,500 per kilogram. Shoprite receives the consignment in three installments on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The rest of the oranges are sold to various buyers in Mityana district. Sudanese have on numerous occasions approached him for oranges, but he cannot meet their demand.
Nnyombi cautions farmers to be very selective when choosing an enterprise to bail them out of poverty. â€œMaize which is grown by most Ugandans is one of the low value crops.â€
Currently, the farmgate price for maize grain is sh430 to sh440 per kilo in Mityana and Kasanda. And on average, one-acre of maize yields about 1,000kg to 1,500kg fetching sh430,000 to sh695,000 including costs. But the lowest price for a kilogram of oranges deep in rural areas is sh300.
He explains that enterprise selection is important to any farmerâ€™s economic venture. â€œMost Ugandan farmers are conservative. They are glued to subsistence farming.â€
He says on average, any orange tree yields a minimum of 100kg per annum. â€œAt sh300, a farmer earns a minimum of sh30,000 per tree per annum. If a farmer has 400 trees, then he or she earns a gross income of sh12m per annum.â€
From that gross income, you deduct sh6m as total expenses from costs when not yet in production; seedlings sh1m, ploughing sh200,000, hole digging sh200,000, weed control sh600,000, pesticides and fungicides sh300,000 and cost of applying of chemicals.
Then, after the three years when the orchard yields fruit other costs like harvest sh400,000, marketing sh1m and orchard maintenance sh2m are deducted.
After deducting estimated overheads of sh6m, the farmer remains with a net income of sh6m. This is why oranges are called a high value crop.
If a farmer has five acres of land, he should put three acres under oranges, the net income will be sh18m. The other two acres can be devoted to high value livestock enterprises like poultry, fish farming, zero-grazing and vegetables. This is referred to as intensive integrated farming.
â€œUgandans should move away from being telephone farmers. They should spend three or four days at the farm. The plants or livestock might be struck with viral and fungal diseases,â€ says Nnyombi, emphasising that Ugandans should stop delegating.
He says another leading management disease in Uganda is record keeping. â€œMany farmers do not keep records.â€
â€œIâ€™m willing to give advice to farmers ready to do serious commercial farming since I am already paid for that. I also have an obligation to fulfil the presidential manifesto to see that each farmer earns about sh20m per annum,â€ Nnyombi adds.
Most fruits grown in Uganda are of high value. The environment even favours the growth of both tropical and sub-tropical fruits like apples and grapes. Fruits like citrus, avocado, mango, pineapples, passion fruits, pawpaws and guava can grow anywhere in Uganda on commercial scale as long as they care.
Since the first presidential visit to Nnyombiâ€™s farm in 1990, he has trained about 40,000 people. These include all district production officers in the country, commercial officers, NAADS officers, assistant chief administrative officers, sub-county chiefs and district chairpersons.
The one-day visitors are given practical and theory lessons in orange growing, spiced with information on the other high value enterprises because the majority of Ugandans own few acres.
Nnyombiâ€™s success with the optimum usage of the land compelled the president to appoint him as an agriculture advisor.
â€œI have plans to install a new irrigation system after the ground lateral irrigation system was damaged by the workers while weeding with a hoe. Water is pumped from the valley dam that also serves as a fish pond,â€ Nnyombi explains.
Water is pumped to the tank at home and descends by gravitation to all corners of the orchard through the laterals.
Nnyombi boasts of over 80 farmsteads in Mityana which have taken on intensive commercial orange farming since last year and more than 70,000 seedlings have been given out.
He plans to carry out value addition and employ three permanent and eight temporary workers plus a guard, soon. His zeal for intensive commercial agriculture has seen him visit Israel.
He has just completed his bachelor of agriculture degree at Uganda Martyrsâ€™ University, Nkozi. He first acquired a certificate, then a diploma all in general agriculture from Arapai Agricultural College in Teso in the late 1980s.
Nnyombi says the proceeds from orange farming are enormous. â€œI have built shops for rent, bought four and three acres of land with coffee at Kayunga and Kanamba near Mityana town council. He has also been able to pay school fees for his children without a glitch.
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Oranges need light fertile sandy, well drained land. Well distributed rainfall or supplementary irrigation throughout the year guarantees continuous moisture requirement.
The recommended orange varieties are Washington Navel, Hamlin and Valencia. Washington Navel is a seedless big fruit, popular in supermarkets, which can be eaten as dessert. It matures early in the season, is easy to peel and has small and short spines.
Hamlin is a smaller fruit with a smooth, shiny skin and peels off easily. It yields more than Washington Navel. It has good juice extraction property, good for orange squash and orange concentrate industries.
Valencia is a small seeded fruit, with high yield. its rough skin peels off easily, has long pronounced spines, matures late in the season and fetches better prices when other types are off-season. The fruit is suitable for juice extraction, ideal for orange squash or concentrates.
Land preparation and planting lInvolves deep and thorough cultivation. Perennial grasses such as couch grass (lumbugu) should be cleared and burnt or sprayed prior to planting, with herbicides like Round-up.
- Spacing is 10ftx10ft providing for about 400 seedlings on one acre.
- Trees should be aligned straight in a row and across the rows. This necessitates proper layout of the field with pegs, string and tape measure.
- The planting holes should be 2ft deep and 2ft wide.
- Planting should be done at the beginning of the rainy season.
- The polythene should be removed and seedlings covered with soil that is pressed.
- The grafted area should be kept well above the ground to avoid infection.
Caring for seedlings
- Regular watering should be provided all the way up to fruiting, depending on weather conditions.
- Use farmyard manure like cow dung and poultry waste.
- Cover crops like beans or groundnuts should be planted during the first three years until the tree canopies have closed in.
- In case no cover crop is planted, then weeding along the rows should be done first and the remaining parts slashed.
- Timely pruning of branches results in higher fruit yields. Pruning should be round-shaped or in umbrella form.
- Abundant sunshine reduces insects, pests and diseases and enourages good quality fruit growth.
- Trees should not be left to grow above six metres. It makes harvesting, pest and disease control difficult.
- Reduce spraying and carry out hand weeding. Chemicals make young fruits turn to yellow.
Diseases and pests
There are three diseases that attack oranges; viral, fungal and bacterial.
Many pests attack various parts of the plant, especially in the young stage.
The most common pests are aphids, leaf minors, orange dogs (caterpillars), white flies, mealy bugs and scale. All these can be controlled by insecticides like demoethoate (rogor) and sunlight.
Fungal is caused by wet conditions especially during the wet seasons. In this case, prune so that sunlight penetrates to all branches. The fungal infection is controlled by Dithene M45.
The Citrus Tristeza virus transmitted by aphids can be controlled by using rogor. The viral disease comes with the seedlings from different nurseries.
Bacterial diseases are mainly soil-borne and can be fought using grafted healthy scions like lemon root stock.
Leftovers and rubbish should not be thrown in the garden.
And buy only from approved centres like Kawanda Agriculture Research Institute, Mukono Agriculture Research Trial Centre, Namanve NFA nursery or centres under the National Agricultural Research Organisation.
Use a sharp scateur tool to harvest mature fruits which have turned slightly yellowish and avoid bruising them. Wash, grade and put them in a cool place.
Socio-economic and medicinal importance of oranges
Oranges can be processed into juice, concentrates, marmalade and jam. They have very high content of vitamin C.
The medicinal qualities also help in beautifying and smoothening the skin and healing wounds.
People who eat oranges are less susceptible to diseases. The orange juice is an energy giving drink and boosts the bodyâ€™s immune system. It is also an appetiser, improves digestion and helps to treat constipation. People with that problem are advised to take a glass of concentrated orange juice in the morning and in the evening.
Oranges are a natural cleanser of the oral cavity and strengthen mammalian bones. The strengthening quality originates from the white membrane that surrounds the inner sections of the orange, very rich in calcium.
Oranges give relief to painful throat, asthma, coughs and colds. This is best achieved when concentrated juice is mixed with some warm water and drank.
Name: Peterson Nnyombi
Location of farm: Busimbi Railway LC1,Mityana town council
Farm size:Four acres
Enterprises: Citrus farming
How he started: with a quarter- acre of land where he planted three orange species
winning formula: Proper supervision and dedication
Total income: Above sh20m per year
Small farm owners should opt for high-value cropsâ€”Nnyombi