Sserwadda harvests a pick-up of pineapples every two weeks. A truck carries about 1,500 pineapples per trip. He sells each pineapple at an average of sh1,000.
Serwadda quit the bodaboda business to grow pineapples
For many years, ridinga a bodaboda motorcycle in Mukono town was his only source of income. However, he realised that this was no longer sustainable. "I did not want to grow old riding a bodaboda. I had to find a way of settling down," he says. He took the step and today, Hassan Serwadda, a resident of Nsiima, Salaam Nazigo trading centre in Kayunga district, is a commercial farmer growing mainly pineapples and bananas (matooke).
"I started with nothing, apart from a hand hoe and my bare hands," he says as he stands on a section of his seven-acre pineapple and matooke farm, located off the main Nazigo-Kangulumira road, about five miles from Nazigo town. Serwadda's enterprise also now acts as demonstration farm.
"In 2008, I started growing green pepper to supplement my bodaboda work," he says. Sserwadda got the initial capital for the green pepper seedlings from his friend Hussein Mukimbi.
"He gave me sh5,000 to buy seedlings," he says. Serwadda says he started with green pepper because the crop was marketable at the time. "There were many people looking for the crop here. I realised that I could easily get market for them," he says.
He did not own any land at the time so he rented half an acre of land in his area. "I paid sh50,000 for four months and people used to call me a witch because I used to work during night and ride the bodaboda during the day," he says.
Serwadda says work was much easier since he had mastered the agronomic practices from colleagues who loved farming and he also had some of the inputs so he did not spend money on farm inputs. From the the green pepper, Swewadda earned about sh250,000 from the harvest and he saved sh200,000. .
Expanding into pineapples, matooke
In 2010, Serwadda rented another half-acre piece of and ventured into pineapple growing. "The beginning was not easy. The entire area was bushy. I did not have money to hire people prepare it. I did it alone," he says.
When the land was ready, he bought 6,000 suckers of pineapples and also rented another piece of land equivalent to an acre.
Serwadda intercrops pineapples with bananas
On half an acre, I planted a total of 6,000 pineapple suckers bought from local farmers at sh50 each. That came up to sh300,000. His acreage has since grown to cover seven acres. He intercropped the pineapples with matooke.
Sserwadda says that pineapple growing is relatively easy and is adoptive to dry areas since pineapples do not need a lot of water. .
Serwadda says pineapples do not require very fertile soils. They do well in acidic soils, which must be well drained. While it is prudent to plant suckers because they grow faster, one can use the tops from fruits though they take long to yield.
Switching to farming was not easy for a person who was used to earning daily. Pineapples take 18 months before maturing while matooke takes 12 months before the first harvest. However, Sserwadda soon realised that patience is part of the game. He learnt that good farmers must know what to expect, when to expect it and how to expect it. This way, he put all his energies on making sure that when the harvest came, it will be good.
"My Boda boda friends told me I was mad to leave what they thought was the profitable bodaboda business for farming," he recalls. But Serwadda had made up his mind and would not look back.
He patiently maintained the shamba for 18 months before he started to harvest. Between planting and the first harvest, he still did bodaboda work to earn some money to keep him going. By 2012, the pineapples started fruiting and money started coming in.
Given the increasing land pressure, he intercropped bananas and pineapple to maximise land and labour. Sserwadda says that intercropping pineapples with bananas gives a farmer more money than just having only pineapples. He says the bananas also offer a shade to the pineapples.
Serwadda says marketing is a big challenge. He sells pineapples to middlemen who then make a bigger profit, selling to consumers.
"The middlemen cheat us. It is also not easy to access bank loans to facilitate expansion. I have done all this without any bank loan. If I had funding, I would have made better progress.
Farm earnings and expenses
On average, Sserwadda harvests a pick-up of pineapples every two weeks. A truck carries about 1,500 pineapples per trip. He sells each pineapple at an average of sh1,000. This means that for each pickup truck with 1,000 pineapples, he earns a gross of sh1.5m. This gives him sh3m per month..
"I want to construct a simple irrigation system so that I can water my crops during the dry seasons," he says
"I have been able to buy a plot of land near Nazigo town and constructed a house. My family is also living relatively happily," he says.