On the night Hannington Nkayivu turned 50 , he returned home to a surprise. About 200 guests filled his compound to attend a birthday party organised by his family.
When the merrymaking was over, he could hardly sleep. “I went to bed and never slept. I kept reflecting on what it meant for my life and it reminded me that retirement which I had feared a lot was next door,” he narrates.
As a head teacher in the late 1980s, he asked a teacher he considered too old to impart knowledge in his pupils to retire. He precisely recalls the old man’s reaction.
“This meant he had to leave the school house. When we broke the news, the man collapsed and was unconscious. Then I said, ohh! This is what it means to retire,” he recollects.
Mr Nkayivu then started to plan his retirement. As the memories replayed that night, he decided he would retire early.
With inspiration from books such as the Success principles, Rich Dad Poor Dad, he realised retirement had to be in five years.
“The five-year period was my time to prepare and I realised I cannot retire when I have no foundation. So, I started planning,” he says.
Buying as much land as he could from his village was his starting point. Raised on a coffee farm, the peasant’s son decided he would one day take his father’s path.
But first, he opened a hardware shop and left management to his family. About a year before retirement, he planted trees.
At 55 years, Mr Nkayivu retired from training staff at The Aids Support Organisation where he worked for 22 years.
He applied for his National Social Security Fund retirement benefits (NSSF) which he received in three instalments (Shs114m, Shs15m and Shs1.8m) in less than 10 working days.
Upon receiving the first instalment, Mr Nkayivu bought a pick-up truck at Shs20m to ease his work.
From his estimation on profits, he invested part of the benefits in buying and selling agricultural produce but he abandoned the trade after meeting a few challenges.
His plan was to cultivate his land so he asked a young man to plough his nine acres.
“It took me months because of the demand. They worked for two days and I paid Shs120,000 per day,” he says adding that “I asked how much a used tractor costs and I was told about Shs40m.”
Using his NSSF benefits, he immediately invested Shs80m in two tractors to meet the demand from farmers and reduce delays in late planting.
Among his first jobs was a contract to plough land in cattle keeping areas within western Uganda.
His tractors were later hired to plough 150 acres of land under Alliance One before Mehta Group came knocking on his door early last year.
Each hectare brought in Shs250,000.
Back then, he had bought a piece of land in Mukono where he invested Shs20m to construct five double self-contained rooms and invested the other money into the hardware shop he started before retiring.
Reaping from farming
With the tractors, he gravitated towards commercial farming and started planting big chunks of land.
He now has between 50-60 acres of land but unlike his father, he chose to grow yellow sweet potatoes, sugar cane, bananas and trees.
“When I got the tractors, production cost for the potatoes had gone down,” he says, adding that it has dropped to a third, enlarging the profit margin.
His 11 manual labourers work seasonally and production has increased between 4,000-6,000 kilos per acre, each kilo goes for a minimum Shs1,000.
Mr Nkayivu monitors the tractors from his phone and receives payment through mobile money every evening.
But because it is difficult to save money paid through mobile phone, Mr Nkayivu says he has bought five bulls and expects to fetch a minimum of Shs2m after selling them.
He viewed this as an opportunity to use cow dung as fertiliser for his several plantations, especially the bananas, which are purely for commercial purposes.
“I have 11 heads of cattle. I collect cow dung every day which is enough to feed a banana plantation,” he says.
Mr Nkayivu says he sells a bunch of bananas at Shs30,000 during scarcity.
Besides his budding dairy farm, he expects to create more cash inflows with in one and a half years from the sugar cane planted on his seven acres of land last year.
“When I sell the sugar cane, I am sure if I get Shs20m, I can buy more land,” he says.
The 59-year-old who occasionally jokes about his old age says he hopes to intensify tree growing.
“This season alone, I planted seven acres of trees, because I know 10 years to come if I have my trees, they will replace the NSSF that I no longer save for and whatever I get, I put into trees,” he says. He has so far planted about 3,000 trees.
However, he says he faces challenges such as price fluctuations.
“When the market has too much, its trouble. The prices go down, you struggle and start thinking you need to diversify your planting,” Mr Nkayivu says.
It is for this reason that he has ventured into maize and banana growing. He wishes government could waive taxes on spare parts for tractors to make them cheaper.
He says besides that, soils have lost fertility yet pesticides are very expensive, “a peasant will most likely fail to afford modern agriculture with time.”
Initially, Mr Nkayivu had jumpstarted construction of his rental houses. He says he intends to complete the houses, should he win the Shs30m from NSSF friends with benefits.
“By May, I should be earning something not less than Shs1.5m per month,” he says.
Or, he could buy six acres of land in the neighbourhood to support orphans and vulnerable children affected by HIV/Aids, he says.
To vote for Hannington Nkayivu in the NSSF Friends with Benefits competition, dial *254# or visit www.nssfug.org/fwb