Wednesday March 9 2016

From university accountant to big-time rice farmer

Naleba in his rice fields in Butaleja District.

Naleba in his rice fields in Butaleja District. PHOTO BY YAHUDU KITUNZI 


When Hajji Ahamada Naleba, 65, left Makerere University as an accountant in 1973, he didn’t know that he would be a successful farmer.

The resident of Nabiganda Village, Mazimasa Sub County in Butaleja District, owns rice fields in Doho irrigation scheme, from which he says he earns good money, about Shs50-60m every season.

Hajji Naleba, who is also the district model farmer, started farming with half an acre in Butesa village, in Butaleja sub-county, Butaleja district, and over the years, he has acquired more land. It is now 80 acres.

“My parents were mainly maize growers though they cultivated other crops like sugar canes, sorghum, millet and coffee. I decided to grow sugar canes using the knowledge I acquired from my parents during childhood.” he says. “I started sugarcane farming because I wanted to make sweets but due to lack of enough funds, I could not.”

Later, with support from the Chinese, he ventured into rice farming. He started on one acre before expanding the area. He grows K95, Zaina and Winter varieties.
“An agency called Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) came in started sensitising us about rice farming,” recalls Naleba.
With the skills he got from Japan, he started training others. Although some did not take it up, it did not stop him. “After opening an irrigation rice scheme, I was trained on how to put channels, ridges, plants among others.”
He hires part of the land to other rice farmers. The rice farmer is a director of Manafwa Basin rice farmers Association with about 11,000 members. He also grows vegetables millet, maize and sorghum.

Future plans
He wants to start rearing fish, but he emphasises he wants to do it in a group. There is a plan to start growing onions and expand on his farming land.

“When I started farming, I would only manage only 25 milled bags of rice but this eventually increased to 800 bags in subsequent harvests, which was a very big achievement. From the proceeds, I have bought two vehicles including a truck to help with transportation of the produce. I earn between Shs1.7m-Shs 2m per acre. After harvesting, I keep records. This helps me track income per season.” Naleba adds.
Through farming, he has educated his 22 children, with 14 of them university graduates. He has also acquirecd a number of rice milling machines and constructed commercial buildings.

No regrets
He does not regret resigning his job at the university because he is now earning more than he did while an accountant.
He advises: “People should embrace agriculture in order to prosper despite one’s education and job. People should involve themselves in different kinds of farming, whether it is growing crops or rearing animals, because it is productive in many ways including better incomes or standards of living. I have attended several trainings on better farming methods, skills in farm management such as book keeping and using market information to make decisions. “
He is saving for a tractor that will make cultivation and clearing of land more efficient. In turn, he will hire it to fellow farmers which will supplement his income.