A banking job or tomatoes; she prefers the farm anytime
Posted Wednesday, July 16 2014 at 01:00
The tourism graduate who once worked as a banker has used her father’s land and crafted her own nitch as a maize, tomatoes and diary farmer, writes Fred Muzaale
I am Teddy Kiwanuka, a commercial farmer in Luwunga village, Nama Sub-county in Mukono District. On my farm I grow maize, tomatoes, egg plants, and cabbages. I also engage in dairy farming. Even though I do farming from Nama Sub-county, I live in Munyonyo in Kampala. I hold a Bachelor’s degree in Tourism from Makerere University.
Before I took on farming two years ago, I worked with a bank as a new business officer in the sales department. This job earned me a good salary. But in 2011, my colleagues and I were laid off by the bank without any prior warning. Life without a job became hard as I could not afford to provide all the things for my family as I used to. I tried to look for another job but getting one was not easy. But while I was still at a bank, I had planted three acres of maize on our family land in Nama. I planted this maize because I had heard many of our clients at the bank saying it was profitable.
I injected Shs830,000 into the project and in three months I got Shs2.2m when I sold the maize when it was still fresh. This confirmed what I had been told, that farming was profitable. So when I lost my job, my mind went straight to farming since we had plenty of idle land. I decided to dedicate all my energy to it and swore never to be employed again. But the start was not easy. I had no money as I had spent all the savings on hunting for another job and looking after my family. But this didn’t stop me from starting. I used the little money I had to kick-start the venture.
After selling the maize, I got money which I used to start the tomato growing. I also continued growing maize. At first, I bought Danny and Maxim tomato varieties which I planted but I didn’t do well because they required me to erect sticks on which they would climb since this variety is a climber. But because I had never grown tomatoes I didn’t know that this variety grows well when grown in a greenhouse.
I tried to tie ropes on the tomato vines but even then they didn’t do well. Even though I was frustrated by this, I decided to ask farmers who had experience in growing tomatoes. These farmers advised me to get ripe tomatoes and squeeze out seeds as this saves money. They told me to grow Assilla tomato variety locally known as musununu because they are marketable since they have a longer shelf life on top of having high yields.
I took the advice and got the tomatoes from which I got the seeds. I dried the seeds, and potted them in polythene bags. In the polythene bags I put soil I had mixed with compost manure. Potting the seeds saves time when it comes to transplanting as the farmer just carries the whole pot to the hole with the soil. The polythene bag is removed before planting. Potted seedlings also don’t wither easily as the soil is carried and planted with them.
I put the potted seeds in a nursery bed which I had made. Within a period between three to four weeks the seedlings were ready for transplanting into the main garden that had well drained soils.
At the start, I planted three acres of tomatoes, where I injected Shs3m. I spent this money on clearing the garden, buying pesticides and artificial fertilisers such as Vegimax, Dythene and others. I also used it to pay for the labour during transplanting, weeding, mulching and spraying the tomato. In the main garden I dug holes where I put some compost and farm yard manure to enhance soil fertility. It is, however, advisable that the seedling should be planted some inches away from the manure. Planting directly into where the manure is affects the seedling by making it wither.
A week after transplanting I started spraying the tomato plants with DAP fertiliser or BOOST (all chemical fertilisers) to boost their growth and also make them strong and healthy. DI grow (green) should also be applied on the tomatoes to boost growth of the plant. But the dosage to be applied depends on the health of the crops.
Even though insecticide and fertilisers are important for proper tomato growth, they should not be applied at the same time as insecticides weaken the strength of fertiliser. I also mulched the tomato garden with grass. Mulching controls weeds and also conserves water in the soil.
The tomatoes were attacked by leaf spot disease. This disease manifests itself as black spots in the centre of the leaf. The affected leaves turn yellow, before falling off. It is caused by long periods of warm and wet weather. To control it I sprayed the tomato plants with Dythene.
Another disease that attacked my tomato was the tomato blight disease which is caused by a fungus. Its symptoms include; dark brown round patches on leaves and stems. I control it with fungicides. But during flowering periods, I don’t spray them with concentrated insecticides as this will either kill or scare away bees and other insects crucial in pollination.
If pollination does not take place, the fruiting may not happen. Even then, the un-concentrated insecticides should be applied only twice a month to give time for insects to carry out pollination. When they are still young I spray three times a week but when I begin harvesting I only spray once a week. But this also depends on the weather. When it is raining you have to spray regularly as the insecticides are washed away as soon as they are sprayed on the plants.
I began harvesting tomatoes after two months. Before they reached their peak, I was picking five boxes of tomatoes. But when they reached their peak, I harvested 20-25 boxes of tomatoes.
Market for tomatoes
My tomatoes are bought by traders from Kampala and Juba in South Sudan. They buy the tomatoes from the garden. They are the ones who hire people who do the work of picking. When they are done with picking tomatoes, they sort the tomatoes according to their size. The price for a big box of tomatoes is higher than that of small ones.