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Oranges helped Opeded kick out of poverty

By Vision Reporter

Added 23rd March 2009 03:00 AM

SIMON Opeded was late for our appointment that morning. Six officials from the National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS) and I sat pensively under a huge mango tree in his compound, waiting for him to return from a local trading centre.

SIMON Opeded was late for our appointment that morning. Six officials from the National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS) and I sat pensively under a huge mango tree in his compound, waiting for him to return from a local trading centre.

FACT FILE
Name: Simon Opeded
Location of farm: Goria village, Usuk sub-county in Katakwi district
Farm size:8.5 acres
Enterprises: Growing citrus fruits, bee-keeping, poultry, and cattle keeping
How he started: With 162 seedlings secured on credit and harvested five bags that year. He later harvested 462 bags
winning formula: Hard work and perseverance
Total income: sh45m per year
Contact: +256782261904


By Frederick Womakuyu

SIMON Opeded was late for our appointment that morning. Six officials from the National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS) and I sat pensively under a huge mango tree in his compound, waiting for him to return from a local trading centre.

At last, his saloon car bounced over the ruts and made a sharp turn into the compound of a permanent house. Opeded sprang out to a shower of greetings in Ateso (the local language), handshakes, helping hands for 12 enormous sacks of chicken feeds, cement for his house, manure for his citrus fruits and a few household items.

The supplies were for the Obwangole Memorial Integrated Farm, which Opeded and his wife run. Staring at me, Opeded explained that he started the project in memory of his late parents who made him what he is.

It was also spurred by his extraordinary thinking, rising from the depths of poverty and insecurity that gripped Teso to build a future for himself and his offsprings.

In only six years, with hardly any external help, Opeded has built a permanent house, bought two vehicles and paid fees for his three children in good schools in Uganda. He has done this by growing citrus fruits, rearing poultry, goats, cattle and bee-keeping.

Opeded, a teacher by profession, says he used to earn only sh4.8m annually, but now earns sh45m from farming.

But his project is a lot more than this money: it is about people working hard to emerge from poverty and disaster to make their lives better.

A native of Usuk sub-county in Katakwi district, and raised by strict parents who worked as grade II teachers, Opeded and his 12 siblings would work long hours in the farm and also concentrate on their studies.

In 1987 when Opeded had enrolled in the seminary to train as a priest, two events happened that changed the course of his plans.

“The Uganda People’s Army, a rebel group then based in Teso, launched a rebellion against the Government and the Karimojong also raided 300 of our cattle,” he says.

“I could not move from school to collect fees. But even then, my father had lost everything.”
Later, Opeded’s siblings offered to support him but on condition that he abandoned priesthood.

“I was a bright student but my brothers thought people who became priests were failures in other fields,” Opeded says.

In 1992 he sat for A’level, passed well and was admitted to Makerere University for a degree in education, majoring in economics.

Opeded says he joined the teaching profession because of the humble and disciplined life his parents lived as teachers.

He adds that he also dreamt of becoming a businessman to help him keep record of his accounts. He graduated in 1996 and became a teacher at Teso College Aloet.

It is here that he started farming.
“One morning in 2003,” Opeded explains, “I was coming from my cassava garden when I saw two local orange trees in the neighbourhood.

They had many big oranges. I became envious and thought to myself, this man has the same soil like me. If his oranges can do well, why not mine.”

At that time, NAADS had started operations in Soroti district, just next to the school where Opeded taught. “One of my colleagues at the school had joined NAADS and embarked on exotic or improved citrus fruits farming.

I went to him for advice, but got more than I expected. He taught me about good varieties of citrus, how to plant and care for them.”

After getting the advice, he thought of starting with 200 citrus trees but had no money. “Each seedling cost sh2,000 and my salary wasn’t enough to buy even 10. That was when my colleague secured for me 160 trees on credit. I planted them on 8.5 acres of my land.”

In 2005, Opeded harvested about five bags of oranges but did not sell. “This was our first yield. It was scattered and we had no interest in selling.” He adds. “In 2007, almost all the trees started yielding and we were in business for the first time.”

Later that year, he harvested 462 bags which he sold in Rwanda, Southern Sudan and Kenya at sh40,000 per bag. He also had 8,500 orange seedlings which he sold at sh2,000 each. He got a total of sh35.4m.

It is this money that Opeded used to set up another project; poultry farming. He says fertilisers were very expensive yet the soil needed boosting. “Chicken droppings were the most viable option. “But also, chicken would give us quick incomes.”

In 2007, Opeded started with 207 layers and after feeding for about four to five months, he collected 200 eggs a day from them.

“We sold each egg at sh150. But after eight months, the hens began laying few eggs. After consulting an expert, we were told they had become off-layers,” he adds. “We sold the layers at sh6,000 each and raised sh4.8m.”

The income from eggs initiated yet another project: bee -keeping. “I knew that they would help to pollinate my oranges and also get nectar from them. I started with 30 beehives and if the season goes well, I hope to have my first harvest this year,” Opeded says.

By 2008, Opeded was earning sh45m annually from these projects. To show an example to the rest, NAADS Katakwi selected him as a model farmer because he was benefiting from their services about modern farming techniques.

Last year, as President Yoweri Museveni visited model farmers in Uganda, he made a stopover at Opeded’s farm.

“The president gave me sh2m to buy an exotic bull to help the community improve on the local breeds. I also have six local cows and I believe the bull was timely,” he adds.

Opeded says the president also saw his citrus fruits and promised to help him put up a dam for irrigation, to overcome the seasonal drought that often ravages the region.

“This will increase the yields. I will plant more seedlings — something very valuable,” he adds. “When the president came, people bought all the 10,000 seedlings I had. I got about sh20m which I used to buy this vehicle.”

Opeded used part of this money to build a permanent house and also open up another project. He has started a goat multiplication project, where he plans to buy 30 local she-goats and cross them with an exotic he-goat to be provided by NAADS.

“The motive is to improve on the local breeds so that we get value for money. Local goats cost sh50,000 and if we crossbreed, we shall be able to get sh250,000 from each,” says Florence Anyait, Opeded’s wife. “It is a good project, but sometimes my husband is over ambitious. That is why we disagree at times but he is a hardworking man.”

She adds that many of the projects are challenging and at times, the high costs of pesticides make it hard for them to spray their citrus fruits to get rid of pests. Opeded says they want to plant more citrus fruit seedlings, but the high cost of equipment for constructing a nursery house is beyond their income.

But despite the challenges, Opeded is full of plans, even for the community.

“I want to establish a farmers’ training centre to give them better farming methods and practices. I have acquired training from NAADS on bee-keeping and management skills, orchard management and production,” he adds. “I believe a good farmer has to give back to the community.”

If you know of anyone who has made money through an enterprising venture, nominate them for recognition.
Write to features@newvision.co.ug, or send a fax to 0414232050

How to grow oranges
Choose a location for your tree. A warm or sunny exposure is the best. create a place with well-drained soil, and avoid putting a citrus tree directly into a lawn. A nearby reflective wall, fence, or even patio can provide both shelter and a bit of extra warmth.

Carefully inspect the health and vigour of the fruit, to make sure foliage is in good condition and the stem is straight.

You can use the grafting method between the local varieties and exotic ones, then transfer to the garden for planting.

The nursery bed should have a shade to prevent too much sunlight or water from damaging them.

Dig a hole twice the width of the root ball.

Place the tree in the hole so that the root crown, where the roots meet the trunk, is higher than ground level, to account for soil settling.

Add the fill soil, mixed with high quality soil conditioner or organic matter, back in and water liberally.

Citrus must have well-drained soil as they are sensitive to water-logged soils.

When growing grafted fruits, make sure the bud union is at least a couple of inches above the soil.

Spray the trees constantly to get rid of pests like white flies

Prune in the dry/dormant season when the tree produce flowers. Cold season pruning allows growth but not flowers— Pruning the trees properly will result in healthier trees and more fruit

After the trees flower and begin to form fruit, thin the fruit to keep the branches from becoming overburdened and breaking. The best time to thin the fruit is when it is very small, to roughly six inches apart.

Harvest. In general, the hotter your climate, the earlier you can harvest. Fruit grown in cold areas ripens last. Colour is not a good indicator of ripeness. The best way to tell when to harvest your fruit is by taste. Harvesting can be done two to three times per annum.

Compiled by: Frederick Womakuyu

Oranges helped Opeded kick out of poverty

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