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I am enjoying a juicy purse, thanks to my mango trees

By Vision Reporter

Added 29th January 2013 02:00 PM

Growing mangoes is not considered a profitable venture by most farmers in western Uganda. Most people in this region consider them to be for domestic consuption and not for sale.

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Growing mangoes is not considered a profitable venture by most farmers in western Uganda. Most people in this region consider them to be for domestic consuption and not for sale.

By Aloysius Byamukama

Growing mangoes is not considered a profitable venture by most farmers in western Uganda. Most people in this region consider them to be for domestic consuption and not for sale.

However, for Debra Kwarisiima of Rubaya, Bunenero, Kashari in Mbarara district, growing mangoes has turned out to be a lucrative business. Having grown them for seven years, they have provided her with income which Kwarisiima says it has enabled her to relieve her husband of some of the family’s financial responsibilities.

How she started

Kwarisiima was inspired to start growing mangoes because she wanted to move away from bananas, which many other farmers in the region were engaged in. She says starting the venture was very costly. She spent over sh5m on clearing the five-acre piece of land on which she planted 200 mango trees at the start of 2005.

Kwarisiima says most of her neighbours discouraged her from growing mangoes saying it was not profitable. “But with my husband’s encouragement, I carried on and the more they despised me, the more I concentrated on making the project a success.”

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Inspecting the plantation with some of her workers

What it takes

Kwarisiima says growing mangoes calls for hard work, self-motivation and above all, commitment. “It looks simple after you have started making profits, but growing mangoes is demanding because you have to constantly take good care of the trees for better yields,” Kwarisiima says. She says she has worked hard to expand the venture to cover 10 acres on which she has planted 1,240 mango trees.

“Growing mangoes has become a family project and everybody is involved because they know it is their source of income,” she adds.

Kwarisiima says her husband, Geoffrey Katebarirwe, was impressed by the initial returns that he offered three more acres of the family land to be used for cultivating mangoes. Her first harvest brought in sh4m, which is the least amount she has earned since 2008.

In 2010, she earned sh10m and since then, she pockets over sh8m every harvest season. Kwarisiima, sells the mangoes in 5kg and  10kg tins, 50kg and 100kg sacks and if one wants a few mangoes, a fruit costs sh500 or more depending on the size. She says she chose grafted mangoes because they produce big fruits and flower quickly. This gives her an advantage in the competitive market. You would be lucky to get mangoes from Kwarisiima’s farm if you had not ordered earlier. Her market has spread across the border with customers coming from Rwanda, South Sudan and Tanzania.

“In western Uganda, she supplies the mangoes to supermarkets and traders from Mbarara central market. I have established a ready  market for my mangoes,” she adds.

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Some of the cattle Kwarisiima bought using profits from mangoes

Achievements

I have gained popularity  from growing mangoes,” she says. She quickly cites President Yoweri Museveni’s visit to her
farm in 2010, which Kwarisiima says has motivated her to keep up with the project. She has also put to rest her husband’s worries regarding their children’s school fees and increasing  the livestock on their farm.

The mangoes bring in more revenue for the family because people  who come for training on her farm, including university students who do their internship there pay.

Challenges

Kwarisiima says hailstorms destroy all the flowering mangoes, leading to reduced yields. She also says she employs many shamba boys. This has increased her costs in terms of wages. “Sometimes, there are fake  pesticides on the market and the moment we use them, we lose some of the trees,” Kwarisiima adds.

What you need to know before planting mangoes

In Uganda, mangoes are grown extensively mostly in  the east and north of the country and some parts of the central region, especially Luwero and Masaka districts. In western Uganda, however, mangoes are not considered a major crop. That is why featuring Debra Kwarisima’s story, a mango farmer in Mbarara district is an eye-opener to the fact that mangoes can also be grown in western Uganda.

1 One of the most important things to consider in growing mango trees for business is the suitability of the climate, the soil and the irrigation at the proposed site. Although mangoes can potentially grow in varied kinds of soil, it is preferable to plant them in light welldrained soils with low fertility.

2 Consider planting windbreakers at boundaries before planting the mangoes to protect the trees from the wind. Mango trees grow best in frost-free climate, with a cool, dry winter. Mango tree growers must also plan for irrigation and drainage to prevent soil erosion. About six million litres per year per hectare of mango tree is needed.

3 Choose the appropriate mango variety that is best suited to your region and climate as well as your targeted market. The commonest varieties include Takakata, Grenn, Florigon, Apple mango, Palvin and Kent.

4 Before planting mangoes, it is important to have sufficient land to plant your trees. The actual spacing between trees would depend on the varieties planted. However, there must be enough area for spraying machinery and harvesting aids. It has been recommended to plant only around 200 to 350 trees per hectare. Plant mango tree rows from north to south to maximise sun exposure.

5 Mango growers can choose from grafted plants and seedlings. Their choice would depend on the mango varieties they choose as well as their desire for early harvests. Grafted trees may give fruits in the third year, but reaches the peak in the sixth to eighth year whereas seedlings take longer to grow. Places where you can go for grafted mango trees include Kawanda National Agriculture Research Institute.

6 While planting, dig holes big enough for the roots to spread comfortably. Aim for a mango tree with eight main supporting limbs with a height of around three to four metres.

7 Proper pruning should also be observed and only a small amount of fertiliser is needed for young trees, but they should be applied often. A proper fertilising plan must be organised after taking a soil and leaf analysis.

8 During harvest, one can pick the mangoes with stems attached and remove the stems later or use harvesting aids. However, those are not so common in Uganda.

 

I am enjoying a juicy purse, thanks to my mango trees

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