Wednesday May 7 2014

A radio presenter tells how a challenge from a listener got him into farming

Matovu Jr in the garded where he

Matovu Jr in the garded where he planted tomatoes.. PHOTO BY RACHEL MABALA 

My name is Aloysius Matovu Junior a.k.a Mulamuzi. I am a radio presenter at Dembe FM, where I host an afternoon show called Gigenda gitya.

It has a section which involves talking to people, encouraging them to work so as to change their lives. It was last year in April when Ms Ruth Nalwoga, a regular listener, called in during my radio show. I was talking about record keeping in business, being honest and how to start a business mainly in farming, how to acquire a loan, among others.

Nalwoga inquired whether I was involved in farming. My answer was no but I told her I had plans to do so but lacked land. So, she offered to introduce me to her uncle, Mr Lutta, who owns vast land in Kiwoko village in Luwero District.

She also volunteered to manage the farm when I started farming. Her offer somehow saved me from spending a lot of money.

But before I established the farm, Nalwoga brought me a few bunches of matooke from her plantation to show me how much I would gain after I invested in farming.

All Lutta wanted was my assurance that I was going to put his land to good use.

And because I do not pay any fee or rent, I normally send him some produce from the garden as a token of thanks.
I not only started a farm because of the free land I received but I also put in time to find out what type of crop would do better on that type of soil.

Starting out

I started farming in July last year with two and a half acres of land where I planted maize, then included tomatoes a few months later. And as time went by, I also bought two cows at Shs950,000 to supplement the tomatoes and maize.

I started with capital of Shs678,000. With this money, I purchased 24kg of maize seeds (Longe 10 variety) each at Shs4,500 from Naseco, a seed trade company. I bought a tin of weed killer at Shs50,000 and paid Shs30,000 to the person who sprayed the area.

After that, I hired two people to clear the land and plant the maize, their charge was Shs200,000 each acre. Following our negotiations, they cleared the half-acre free of charge. Then, I hired a caretaker at Shs80,000 to supervise the farm.

Because the land was not cultivated at the beginning, it had to be done during weeding when the maize was at one and a half months. It cost Shs180,000 for the labour.

In December, I harvested 14 and a half sacks of 100kg each. I was charged Shs2,000 per sack by the persons who packed the maize in the bags; that came to Shs28,000.

Each 100-kg went for Shs70,000 and the half-sack was sold at Shs35,000. In all, I earned Shs1.15m and the net profit was Shs472,000.

Growing tomatoes

It was around the time of the maize harvest that I decided to grow tomatoes on three-quarters of an acre after being tipped by a colleague about their high market demand.

So, I raised the money for clearing the land, buying seeds and pesticides, and hiring labour. Clearing the land cost Shs100,000, the chemicals to prevent the tomatoes from being attacked by pests cost Shs164,000, the seeds were at Shs25,000.

Also, I had to create a water reservoir to trap water for irrigation during the dry season. This cost Shs70,000. Then, I bought two watering cans; each was at Shs4,500. However, this water reservoir dried after using it for three weeks. So, the water needed for the tomatoes was fetched from wells nearby.

We did this for eight weeks, this cost Shs134,400; the workers watered five times in a week using six 20-litre jerrycans per watering. Each jerrycan was Shs200. The dry maize stems were used to mulch the tomato garden and the whole process cost Shs80,000 while on weeding I spent Shs70,000. In total, I invested Shs647,900 to get the kind of tomatoes I wanted.
I started harvesting after three months. The first yield was 10 drums of tomatoes which got me Shs250,000; each sold at Shs25,000. But later, I was advised to sell the tomatoes while they were still in the garden, given the fact that I could not manage it well during my absence yet the rain season had started.

I was told that tomatoes are so delicate that when it rains, they rot more especially with poor management. So, I sold a whole garden of tomatoes at Shs1m.

After they were harvested, I planted maize again on the whole land. I expect the harvest in June.
From tomatoes, I got Shs1.25m and made a net profit of Shs602,100.

Managing the farm

It is over the weekend that I go to the farm in Luweero. But if I have a function on Saturday, I postpone the farm programme to Sunday after I am done with my morning show (Tumutendereze) at 10am.
I normally want to follow up on the farm work and whether the workers have done what I allocated to them the previous week.

Sometimes, I get involved in the farm work like spraying, weeding, mulching, depending on what I find them doing.

Achievements

For the few months I have spent in the business of farming I have gained some knowledge but still need to learn more about many things.

Starting from the two and a half acres that I started with to three and a half acres is an improvement. My first harvest convinced Mr Lutta to give me more land.

I am happy that I can weed, spray, and mulch my crops. With experience I have got, I can differentiate between fake and genuine seeds. One time, a dealer wanted to sell me maize seeds but they were packed differently , which was like what I bought from Naseco.
Also, negotiating with traders in the market is no longer a problem because of the help and advice I got from Nalwoga, given the fact she was into farming before me.

Getting net profits of Shs472,000 from maize and Shs602,100 from tomatoes with the little money I invested is also an achievement.
I have made connections with other farmers and also been able to feed the market and my family.

Challenges

While it has been a great experience, among the problems I have encountered is the distance from Kampala, where I stay, to Luweero, where the farm is, which is around 78 kilometres.
It limits me from supervising the workers effectively. Also, the unpredictable weather which at times calls for irrigation to maintain the crops, makes it more expensive due to the costs involved.

For example, what happened when I planted the tomatoes, towards the end of the rainy season, I put up a water reservior and it dried up in a few weeks, which called for getting water from the well.
This was unexpected but I had to incur more costs to get what I wanted.

The market is comes with unstable prices. Like when all farmers harvest, the market gets flooded with produce, meaning low prices and little or no profits because the produce is sold cheaply.

Future plans
I want to expand the maize farm to at least 10 acres in July. I also plan to have one acre of tomatoes around November. Other plans are investing in piggery with at least 10 animals then use the maize I am to harvest in June to feed them for at least six months.

My long-term plan is to secure my own land where I can permanently grow crops like bananas, pine trees and also invest in poultry.

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