He changed from a cattle keeper to a crop farmer
Posted Tuesday, March 5 2013 at 20:47
Old habits die hard as the saying goes and this is exactly the situation that George Kashokye Rumaari, found himself in when he got rid of almost all his cattle to invest in banana, sugarcane, fruits and pine. The 47-year-old farmer belongs to the Bahima, a traditionally cattle keeping community. He told Otushabire Tibyangye about how his risky gamble paid off.
I had kept Ankole long-horned cattle since my childhood but I had not gained much because it needs a lot of land and constant attention.
In 2000, I felt I had had enough and wanted to change to tilling the land.I sold most of the animals and went into growing banana, sugarcane and fruits because they bring in better returns.
Fellow cattle-keepers, thinking that I had run mad, laughed at me and called me all sorts of names. In 2002, I thought of diversifying my agricultural activities after realising that the animals were not bringing in enough money.
Making the change
I was only realising Shs300,000 per month from the sale of milk yet the animals were occupying a huge part of the land. I sold off most of the 200 animals I had and remained with about 20, which I keep on a smaller piece of land. I used the proceeds to start a banana plantation by hiring labour and acquiring plantlets. I also started fruit growing, sugarcane and tree planting.
Now, I have about 40,000 pine trees. From banana growing, I realised the input was less than the outcome since bananas do not need a lot of care once the plantation has been properly established.
Because banana trees need a lot of manure for better results. I use compost manure and cow dung from the remaining cattle in the banana and fruit gardens and the results are encouraging.
Bananas are a perennial crop that will last a lifetime with good management. I started with five acres and now have 20 acres.
To maximise the use of my land, I experimented with intercropping sugarcanes and bananas and they have blended very well. I also used the information from the Community Development Officer to enhance my farming skills.
Because the animals had degraded part of my land from overgrazing, I planted pine trees on that land. The total area occupied by pine trees is about 40 acres. In addition, I have planted 8,000 assorted fruit trees—mangoes, oranges, guavas and tangerines.
Since my land is hilly I have used sugarcane plants to rehabilitate the galleys. The sugarcane leaves are used as mulch in the banana plantation and the fruit trees are used to control soil erosion.
I have 16 acres of sugarcane and intend to partner with other farmers in the area to expand sugarcane growing and put up a small-size factory to process the cane to make cattle feeds and jaggery (brown sugar).
I earn Shs3m from matooke per month and Shs 700,000 from sugarcanes per week. The fruits are yet to earn me some money but the prospects are very promising. I hope to reap big from mangoes and oranges, which are on high demand in this region.
In two years’ time, when the fruit trees have matured I expect to get about Shs5m from the fruits.
The constraints include long dry seasons and disease. Sanga Sub-county, which is part of Nyabushozi county, is prone to prolonged dry seasons and thus becomes very dry from about May to around September.
This threatens agricultural production. During this time of the year, the sugarcanes and matooke tend to do poorly as some get stunted. If we could get irrigation equipment, the production would remain high.