Asuman Lusala moves from one mango tree to another scouting for pests on the leaves and the tiny fruits.
The trees are at the fruiting stage thus he does not want anything to go wrong. Lusala grows the fruits in Doko-Namabasa Village, Mbale District.
The area traditionally is a maize, potatoes and beans zone, but Lusala took a different path, specialising in growing fruits, which he occasionally intercrops with vegetables in a bid to diversify his agribusiness.
In 2012, when Lusala started growing mangoes and oranges, he never knew he would earn big from the venture.
“When I decided to start fruit farming, I faced a lot of discouragement from my neighbours and relatives but I never gave up on my ambition. I now don’t regret going into fruit farming because I earn enough,” Lusala says.
“I switched to the fruits about seven years ago after growing maize and potatoes for several years and earning little,” he reveals. “In a good season, I would produce 30 100 kilogramme bags of maize and sell them at an average price of Shs20,000 to middlemen per bag,” Lusala explains.
But all that is now behind him. On his three acre farm, Lusala has more than 100 mango trees which are already earning him income.
Lusala says he started small, with only nine mango seedlings purchased from one of the farmers in the area.
“Because of limited capital, I decided to start with nine seedlings, which I planted near my home. The type of the mangoes was Kakule. I bought them from an old man, who is one of the successful farmers in fruit farming,” Lusala, says.
The Senior Two dropout, says later after some months, he bought more seedlings of Kakule and Bolibo, which he has planted on two acres. In 2017, he started harvesting.
“I harvest more than 250 sacks of mangoes per season from the two varieties,” he says.
Each sack of mangoes goes for between Shs40,000 and Shs50,000 at farm gate. He says in good season, he earns more than Shs10 million from fruits, only.
Lusala says he has diversified to growing other fruits such as oranges, jackfruits, apples, paw paws, avocado and vegetables such as cabbage, sukuma, egg plants tomatoes and other species of trees.
“I use only three acres of my land to grow fruits and I have also hired plots, where I grow vegetables,” he says.
Apart from fruits and vegetables, Lusala has also planted a number of trees including Grevillea, Robusta, Lusina, Musizi and food crops such as cocoyam and red pepper.
“Cocoyam and red pepper have saved me a lot of money because I no longer buy spraying chemicals since I can make my own from dried leaves, which I mix with ash to get medicine for spraying other crops,” he says.
He says attending agricultural galas and seminars has boosted his farming though acquiring skills. “I also have extensive field visits to farmers in the country to equip myself with more knowledge and skills on farming,” he says.
He says that after realising that the use of chemicals was making his soil infertile, he abandoned the practice and started organic farming. He adds that unlike inorganic chemicals that kill useful micro-organisms in the soil, organic ones help to build soil fertility.
He says it is due to use of organic methods that the quality, size and appearance of his fruits, has improved. “The use of organic manure on my farms has improved the health and sweetness of my fruits unlike before,” he says.
The availability of a ready market both within and outside Uganda has encouraged him to go large scale.
“Fruit growers have to expect a rise in prices because the government is establishing fruit factories,” he says. Lusala says he sells his produce to companies and traders from within and neighbouring countries mainly Kenya.
“Most of my buyers come from Kenya and neighbouring districts such as Jinja, Iganga, Tororo and Busia,” he says.
He advises farmers to grow varieties of fruits, saying they are rewarding.