Amooti Isingoma beams with pride as he leads a group of farmers from different districts around his 300-acre cassava farm in Kabarole district. “Cassava has completely changed my life although I had little knowledge about the crop,” he says.
By Ronald Kalyango
Amooti Isingoma beams with pride as he leads a group of farmers from different districts around his 300-acre cassava farm in Kabarole district.
“Cassava has completely changed my life although I had little knowledge about the crop,” he says.
He tells the farmers how he endured hardships, including trying out almost every crop, but with little returns.
As if that was not enough, someone also duped him into planting cabbage on a large scale, saying the crop would be bought by Sudanese. But the cabbage ended up rotting on the farm, after the deal maker vanished.
How he started
Isingoma ventured into commercial farming in 2007 after his wife, Rose, encouraged him to make use of his father’s 300 acres of land, which lay idle at the time.
Despite the previous challenges, Isingoma did not give up. He got a loan of sh200m to finance his next venture, which was large scale cassava growing. Little did it occur to Isingoma that he had embarked on a journey to establish one of the biggest model farms in the country.
He sought advice from crop experts and researchers, among them Dr. Anton Bua, the head of the cassava programme at the Namulonge-based National Crops Resources Research Institute in Wakiso district. Armed with a disease-resistant variety, Isingoma planted 150 acres of cassava, which have since expanded to 300 acres.
Partnership with NAADS
In 2009, a group of Sudanese identified Isingoma’s farm as a source of good planting material. They offered to buy his 150-acre garden at $2m (about sh5b).
“The amount was so tempting that if it was not for government officials, I would have sold off the farm,” he says.
Isingoma says this happened at the time when some parts of the country had been submerged by floods, so there was a countrywide demand for planting material.
The National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS) secretariat later signed a memorandum of understanding with him to supply 42,000 bags of cassava cuttings at about sh2b to selected farmers in eight districts in eastern and northern Uganda.
According to Florence Kabugo, a technical officer at the NAADS secretariat, 7,000 acres of land have been established under the scheme as multiplication centres. Later, they are expected to act as sources of clean planting materials for other farmers countrywide.
Value addition and market
Isingoma recently acquired an electric cassava slicing machine. He says cassava tubers are washed, dried and placed into the machine, which shreds them. The cassava chips are later milled into flour, though this is still done on a small scale.
Isingoma says his constant contact with the Namulonge-based researchers exposed him to a new technique of selling cassava cuttings without uprooting the tubers, which he has been doing for the last three years.
But Isingoma revealed that potential buyers, some from as far as China and Kenya, have approached him to buy the tubers.
Cassava is among the high priority commodity crops on the National Agricultural Research Organisation’s research agenda.
The crop was introduced in Uganda by Arab traders between 1862 and 1875. Its cultivation greatly increased between 1931 and 1933.
The cash crop also ranks second among the major food crops regarded as the most important cheap source of staple food.
Its flexibility in the farming and food systems, ability to do well in marginally-stressed environments and apparent resistance/tolerance to pests and diseases, particularly locusts, encouraged its rapid cultivation.
It is presently grown throughout the country. A total of 3.5 million metric tonnes of the crop were produced from 450,000 hectares of land until 1990 when a mosaic epidemic devastated the crop.
The Government recently announced that cassava will be adopted as the main hunger and famine food crop in Uganda.
I rejected a SH5b offer for my farm