Ex-teacher and clergyman tries his hand at farming
Posted Wednesday, July 2 2014 at 01:00
For more than 50 years, William Ganafa was a teacher and then a priest but he had always had an eye on farming. He told his story to Otushabire Tibyangye
I am Rev Canon William Ganafa, I am 75 years old and a resident of Kahihi village, found in Kagongi Sub-county, Mbarara District. I own Kihihi Mixed Farm which has bananas, dairy cows, goats and fruits.
This farm is a result of of investing part of my salary, as a teacher and later as a priest, over a period of time. Before I became a man of the cloth, I trained as a Grade II teacher and graduated in 1961.
Having worked for the church for close to 50 years as treasurer for West and East Ankole dioceses and dean of Ruharo Cathedral, I had to think of what to do after retirement. I looked at farming.
To keep cattle, I needed land. In 1962, I bought six acres of land with my first salary as a teacher. This has made the foundation for my farm, which has since expanded to 165 acres.
I love farming as a business and hobby. Having migrated from Nyabushozi in the late 1950s in search of education, my parents had a background of cattle keeping but did not have animals.
The area (Kashaari) was infested with tsetse flies making it difficult to keep cattle. But the desire to provide milk for my family was strong, having got married in 1962 and had my first child in 1963.
As a starting point, I bought a goat to test how dangerous the tsetse flies are but it was eaten by a leopard. I never gave up. I bought more goats and later sold them to buy a bull. In 1965, I sold the bull and bought a cow. For the tsetse flies, a veterinary doctor advised me to keep the cow under zero grazing.
With this cow, the issue of milk had been solved. As time went by, cows multiplied as the population in the area was also growing leading to clearing of the bushes and reducing of tsetse flies.
I got more cows and more milk, and also started trading in cattle. I was rearing, fattening and selling off bulls. As I got more money, I bought more land until it came up to the current size.
Keeping cattle being predominantly a man’s activity, the farm did not do very well. However, I am grateful to my wife, Canon Mary, who worked to develop the farm. She helped establish a banana plantation on this land.
Establishing a farm.
I started with Shs6,000 which I used to buy 16 bulls and four cows in 1966. I would sell off the bulls buy more cows and buy more land.
The money accruing from the sales was also instrumental in educating my children in some of the best schools in the country. I used the same money to also buy land.
Currently, I have 70 heads of cattle with 20 under lactation. I have also improved the land by fencing and paddocking it. There are eight paddocks, with five of them reserved for lactating animals. This controls the wastage of pastures and wards off intruding animals, which graze on free range.
I have established a water pumping system on farm with the assistance of a Shs 2m water pump from Mbarara District’s Naads office. It has enabled me to supply water to the entire farm.
For better results and to minimise transmission of diseases from herd to herd, I use artificial insemination and this is also for better offsprings.
There are more than 15 heifers which are about to conceive. Other achievements include, putting up a milk parlour, a biogas plant to provide energy for farm and home use, water harvesting system and improved yields.
I have also improved on the feeding by providing supplement feeds when milking and planting of legumes and pastures. I have already planted two acres of Napier grass and I plan to add lucerne and kikuyu grasses, and caliandra.
I have also opened up an acre of sugarcanes where I will be using the leaves to feed the cattle after harvesting the canes and also crushing the canes to provide feed for the bees.
On the farm, I have 25 modern bee hives and intend to have 100.
I have used cow dung, slurry from the biogas plant, goat urine and droppings to provide manure for my banana plantation. Through the yields have increased and I have also increased the acreage under bananas from five to 20 acres.
However, I am yet to improve the pastures and their preservation during the dry season, which affects milk production.
The area is prone to drought which severely affects milk production since most of us use traditional methods of cattle keeping and depend on rain-fed agriculture.
But with the acquisition of a water pump and permanent well, I want to embark on reducing the number of the cows and acquiring better dairy breeds for more milk. This, I hope, to achieve through selective breeding and direct purchase from well-known animal breeders.
I have also planted 300 mango, tangerine and orange trees on the farm. So far, I have managed to harvest fruits worth Shs800,000 from just eight mango trees. I hope that within two years, I will be able to get more than Shs 5m from fruits alone.
I started with only three indigenous goats, which I crossed with a Boer. They have multiplied to over 100, which I have been selling to farmers and traders. There are 120 goats and I sell them as long as there is demand.
I started with five acres just for home consumption. When demand for matooke increased and my family expanded, I saw a need to increase the acreage also.
I have since expanded to 20 acres with the intention of making to 40 with time. I harvest twice in a month.
Armed with a background of accountancy, I keep records of all transactions at the farm, that is on planting times, how much milk each cow gives in the morning and evening, bunches of banana per harvest, and money spent on treatment of animals.
Other records include details on sales: the goats and cows, milk, and bananas. I also consider in the calculations what is for home consumption and tabulating it into money. I keep records to see whether it is worthwhile to invest in any given venture because I would want to know whether I am making profit.
I want to buy a milking machine, put up a spray race for animals, grass cutter for the fodder and a pickup truck for delivery of milk and other farm produce. I also want to buy irrigation equipment and instal electricity at the farm.
I have been able to achieve all this because of my wife who has been at the forefront of supervision of the workers.
As a sign of recognition for my hard work, I was awarded a 50 Years Jubilee medal on May 1 at Rubaare, Ntungamo District. I am humbled to have received.
As a milk producer, like others, I am faced with the issue of price fluctuations. Currently, I sell milk in our cooperative society, Rukaka, at Shs300 a litre, which is less compared to selling on the open market.
So, I also sell some to private buyers in Mbarara town at a better price.
But we are putting up a milk factory in Ruti under Uganda Crane Creameries Cooperative Union, from which we expect to gain more from the market. I have bought three shares in the factory through the cooperative. I expect to buy more in the future.