My name is Robert Kyanda, 41, a fruit farmer in Iki-Iki parish, Iki-Iki Sub-county in Budaka District. I own a one-acre garden of mangoes, which has 100 trees. Alongside this, I rear turkeys and make bricks. I begun growing mangoes in 2013.
I don’t regret going into mango growing. The profit earned is enough to cater for my needs, including paying fees for my children’s education. The good thing with mangoes is high market value and high demand.
Local mangoes, known as kakule, are popular for their sweet taste and they are also a thriving commercial product.
There is an abundance of these mangoes in Budaka and the demand for them outside Budaka is high yet few people had interest in growing them. So, I decided to take it on.
Traders from Mbale, Malaba, Kampala and as far as Kenya come and book the mangoes even before they mature. Therefore, the market availability coupled with suitability of the area in terms of fertile soils was what motivated me to give it a try.
Being a mango farmer may be easier said than done. For the new farmer, there is no ideal number of trees to plant. The number would really depend on how much one wants to earn. Even backyard growers who maintain as few as two trees are able to earn income for their daily expenses.
Earnings from mangoes start from the sixth or seventh year, which is why it is crucial to get the right variety at the onset.
This is to make sure that the variety you plant has commercial value. Barring unforeseen circumstances, one hectare should give a return of at least Shs1m per season
I started with few trees and later expanded to 100 trees, from which I harvest more than 30 bags. At an average price of Shs20,000 per bag, I earn Shs600,000 at each harvest.
The spacing for mangoes should be 30 feet by 30 feet. Proper spacing while planting is important because if it is not followed, the trees will not grow properly and fruiting will be poor. The seedlings are put in pits of three feet by two feet, and farm yard manure is used.
I got the manure, which included cow dung and plant leftovers, from zero-grazing dairy farmers. All the seedlings were grafted to make them high yielding, pest and disease resistant and fast maturing.
At the beginning, things were not easy because I did not have enough money to procure the seedlings. I spent no less than Shs0.5m to start off this enterprise. It needs a lot of time, resources and commitment if one is to succeed.
The type, known as kakule, is high yielding despite the fruits being of medium size. From one tree, I can get at least three sacks of mangoes a season, which is Shs60,000.
Each sack is at Shs 20,000 on average. This is when there are a lot of mangoes on the market. When there is less supply, each sack goes to Shs 30,000 at a farm-gate.
Challenges and future plans
However, much as I have pointed out success stories, there also challenges. Some of them include unscrupluous middlemen, low prices and lack of fruit-processing industries to add value to their products.
I believe I have become successful farmer and intend to expand to more than 200 mango trees. Plans are underway to procure more seedlings and land to achieve this.
Saving the environment
Robert Kyanda explains that the benefits of mango farming hardly end at just making profit. The environment also comes out a big winner with the planting of mango seedlings. And as such they would make valuable allies for reforestation programmes.
The benefits of reforestation cannot be overemphasised: Trees help to filter water, combat salinity, clean the air and increase flows into water catchments. They also provide food and shelter not only to humans but also to wildlife. They are an integral part of the country’s biodiversity.
At the same time, being fruit-bearing trees, mango trees create opportunities for livelihood in the communities where they are planted. The variety of products and sub-products to be derived from the mango tree, both for export and local use, is enough to sustain the livelihood of communities.
SOURCE: Daily Monitor