From parish chief to mixed farmer

I am Zakayo Kunyiga, 79, a resident of Busoke village in Kalagala Sub-county, Luweero District. I am a mixed farmer with 33 pigs, several dairy cows under zero grazing, four acres of clonal coffee and an acre of bananas.
Previously, I was a parish chief in Luweero District for 20 years. In 1992, I retired and started farming for business—to earn an income—and to sustain my family’s welfare.
I was growing food crops such as maize, beans, potatoes and cassava although on a subsistence scale. Often, I had a little surplus, which I would sell.

Better business
However, the proceeds from these crops were not enough to enable me cater adequately for my family. I had a big family of 10 children and grandchildren.
I later decided to venture into piggery. This was because I observed that the demand for pork was high. But there were few farmers, who were into pig farming.
Also, due to the proximity of Busoke village to Kampala, which is a big market, Gayaza and other such areas in the neighbouring Wakiso District, the demand for banana and milk was also high.
This is what led me to include dairy cows, coffee and banana in my farming business. For this reason, I was sure of a ready market for my produce. Since I already had 15 acres of land that I had bought using the savings from my previous job, it was easy for me to start.

Pigs

Before I started, I constructed a pig sty, with support from my children, using cement and bricks and iron sheets for the roofing. In total, it cost about Shs3m.
Then I bought pigs at Shs8,000. They were indigenous breeds two boars (males) and two sows (females). Later, I acquired exotic breeds, which are more productive than the local breeds. They grow faster and are bigger in size. I rear breeds such as Landrace and Large White. They are big and their meat does not have a lot of fat.
My customers are from Kampala, Luweero and other towns. A boar or sow goes for Shs600,000 to Shs700,000. The piglets are at Shs70,000 each.

Bananas

My banana plantation consists of Mpologoma and Kisansa varieties. I chose these varieties because they have big bunches, fast maturing and are tasty. Thus, it is liked by customers. Besides, Kisansa is not susceptible to drought, pests and diseases.
I bought the suckers from ohter at Shs1,000 each.
I dug pits where I put compost and farmyard manure to enhance the soil fertility, then planted the suckers a month later.
When the banana were about seven months, I mulched them using grass.
Mulching has a number of aantages that include controlling soil erosion, suppressing weeds and adding fertility to the soil when the mulches decompose.
I use the cow dung from the dairy unit as fertiliser in the banana plantation.
But I first wait the dung to decompose before I put it in the garden.
Every week, I harvest at least 15 bunches of bananas. Each bunch goes for Shs8,000 to Shs15,000 though the price shoots up to Shs30,000 a bunch during times of scarcity.
I also sell suckers at Shs1,000 each. From bananas, I earn Shs150,000 a month.

Coffee

I grow organic coffee because I do not apply artificial pesticides and fertilisers on them.
Before I got the clonal seedlings, which I bought at Shs300 each, I prepared the land and dug pits of two by two feet. I used the spacing of nine feet by nine feet. Since I planted the seedlings in a dry season, I watered them until the rains started.
When the coffee plants were about one and a half feet tall, I bent them so that they could produce many branches.
Bending the coffee plant forces it to produce many branches at the spot where it is bent. The many branches mean that a farmer will get more yields than when he or she has a coffee plant without branches.
Later, I mulched with grass to control soil erosion, conserve water in the soil and also to add manure to the soil when the mulches finally decompose.
When the coffee was about one and half years, I pruned it to remove the other branches. From coffee, I earn about Shs2m a year.

Dairy

I started the dairy unit with two local cows, which I bought at Shs250,000 each. I constructed a shed that houses these animals using wood and old iron sheets. I also constructed troughs, where the grass or any other feed is placed for the cows to feed easily. In one of them, I put water.
When my cows were mature, I went to an animal husbandry officer, who applied artificial insemination on both cows. The aim of doing so was to improve on the breed.
After nine months, the cows gave birth to cross breeds. When these matured, I used artificial insemination again. This time, the calves were 70 per cent Friesian. Then, I sold off the local breeds I started with.
From these cows, I get at least 30 litres of milk a day. I feed them on pasture grasses such as elephant grass and some legumes, which I planted on the boundary of my garden. I mix it with molasses.

Achievements, challenges, plans

Achievements: With proceeds, partly from farming, I have been able to construct a good house and also pay school fees for my children. Many of them have completed their studies and are now working.
Secondly, I have been able to save money, which I would have used to buy food and milk for home consumption.
Because of farming, my standard of living has also improved.

Challenges: The biggest challenge I face is the swine fever, which sometimes attacks my pigs. I spend a lot of money to treat it and sometimes, I lose my animals.
The coffee wilt disease is another threat that leads to my coffee trees. Although I keep replacing the dry coffee trees, I incur a lot of losses.
Because of my aanced age, me and my wife are now weak and cannot supervise all the farming enterprises effectively. This sometimes also leads to losses. I would have hired labourers but youth in my area do not want to engage in farming because they think it is “dirty work” meant for elderly people like me.

Future plans: In the near future, I plan to buy two dairy cows that can give me 30 litres of milk a day. This will help increase my income.
I also plan to venture into fruits such as passion fruits and oranges because they have a ready market.

SOURCE: Daily Monitor

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