Sunday February 25 2018

Fortune in growing herbs and flowers

A flower farmer in his garden. File photo

A flower farmer in his garden. File photo 

By Denis Bbosa

Even as rentals continue to sprout around his one acre-farm in the urbanized Makindye-Kirombe suburb, Julius Musoke Luswata’s dreams of becoming a billionaire herb gardener in the next five years is not deterred by an inch.
Ten years ago, Luswata, inspired by his late father Dan Lwanga, started off by growing flowers and roses in his Senior Six vacation.
It dawned on him that this was his gateway to making a fortune in life, so he enrolled at Makerere University for a Diploma in Botany which he upgraded into a Bachelor’s degree in Botany.
He is about to pursue a Masters in the same field as his ambitions of being a billionaire herb farmer take shape.
“I started with growing flowers and ixora roses, but I am now concentrating on herbs and citrus fruits. Under Greenings Environmental Technology Company, in which he operates as a CEO, Luswata basically deals in growing ornamentals, different types of fruit trees, mangoes, avocados, passion fruits, grafted oranges, flowers (ixora white and yellow), herbs and natural trees such as mivule and agravalia.
“I’m trying to develop another six-acreage herbs farm in Mpigi to supplement this one acre in Makindye. I wanted to become a millionaire which I have achieved now. My target now shifts to becoming a billionaire in the next five years because the business is very lucrative.”

Why grafted plants
Luswata says he goes for grafted plants such as mangoes because most people in Uganda tend to want short term growth plants for early gains.
“We put different lemon and orange species together and get an orange in one year, I have reduced the period of a mango that would take 10 years to fruit to four,” he says.
Luswata is not shy to say that the high demand of fruits and high quality mangoes such as Taka taka, Kent, Red Apple in particular, also drives them to adopt the grafting farming technique.

Changing trends
He acknowledges the paradigm shift in many people’s mindset towards growing herbs such rosemary, thyme and mint which they have previously branded ‘European’.
“People in Makindye used to laugh at me when I started arguing my school fees went to waste. These days, many want me to share my success secrets with them,” Luswata reminisces.
“People are now being taught to grow plants such as rosemary that they can gain from. Their mindset has gradually changed from planting for decoration to planting something that is medicinal and beneficial.”

Insatiable market
He admits it will take Uganda ages to serve the herb market demand in

totality because they are now at 50 per cent.
“When you take the plant and it dies, the negligence is on your side

because we deliver it when it is at the required standard,” he explains.

As we conduct the interview, former Makindye Division Mayor and International Hospital Kampala (IHK) boss Dr Ian Clarke drops by for inquiry and makes a purchase of bulk passion fruits seedlings – a clear picture of Luswata’s largely corporate clientele.

Harvesting millions
With a labour force of eight, Luswata has seen his enterprise swell from a Shs100,000 project he started with in 2008 to gain a value of Shs100m.
The secret, he says, is loving what he does and gaining as much information as he can – little wonder he is dreaming of getting Shs1bn in five years at the same time he is contemplating undertaking a Master Degree in Botany.
A day, he averages Shs100,000 from plants sales which is roughly Shs3m a month – a far dream for many in air conditioned offices in town.
He does his work based on research and will tell you off cuff that herbs such as rosemary, lavender, oragon, thyme and mint are on high demand and form a bulk of the plants he has on his farm.
The flowers have also lured in another job opportunity for Luswata, he landscapes many compounds for upscale homesteads. He has lately inspired many youths to take on the venture since it requires less capital and land to start.