I am Margaret Kawooya, a resident of Katakala village, Mityana Town Council, Mityana District. I am a mixed farmer, who engages in poultry, dairy, banana, fruit farming, and piggery
Besides that, I am chairperson of the district service commission and also coordinator, Mityana Women’s Kolping project.
Before this, I was an animal husbandry officer for 20 years before voluntary retirement in 1998. I decided on an early retirement because I wanted to use my retirement package to start my own business.
Also, I wanted to practice what I and my late husband, who was an extension worker, had been teaching. By that time, we had a dairy cow, a few chicken, a small banana plantation and one pig. We had 30 acres of land that we bought with our savings.
My initial investment was in banana. I started by ploughing land and later I dug pits of three by three feet and six feet from one pit to another. In the pits I used cow dung as fertiliser, which I bought from local cattle farmers at Shs500,000 a truck.
But I first dried the cow dung, which I mixed with top soil before application.
This is so because when you put cow dung in the pits before it decomposes fully, it “kills” the plant. The banana plantation covered four acres. I got the suckers free of charge from local farmers and from my home area, Masaka. I only incurred the cost of transport.
All the suckers I planted were indigenous varieties like kibuzi, nakitembe, muvubo, musakala and nakabululu. I opted to plant these varieties because they are not only drought and disease resistant but their food is tasty compared to hybrids like mpologoma.
After about seven months, I mulched my banana plantation to preserve water in the soil and to control soil erosion and weeds. I used grass and maize stems as mulches. After a year, I begun harvesting.
At about one and half years, it reached almost full scale production. Currently, I harvest between 60 and 100 bunches a week.
I supply the bananas to hotels in Mityana town, and to individual customers, who come to the farm. Each bunch ranges from Shs10,000 to Shs15,000, depending on the market and season. For that which I supply to hotels, I am paid per week but for other customers, they pay cash on the spot.
During times like Christmas, the price of one big bunch shoots up to Shs20,000 because the demand is high during this period. But on average I can get about Shs1m a week from bananas alone. There is a ready market and the demand is high; I do not have to look for customers.
Now I have piggery, dairy and poultry units, so the waste from these are used as fertiliser in the gardens. But I use it carefully because if applied in large amounts, it can kill the plants.
Though I started the dairy unit with one cow, I bought two more cows at Shs 600,000 each. The cows were of indigenous breed, they gave me little milk; five litres each a day. So, I used artificial insemination to get cross-breeds. At some point, I bought a Jersey bull. It cost Shs1.2m.
Jersey is a good dairy breed. Its milk has a high butter-fat content. Apart from that, I bought the bull because at some point I realised the cows were going on heat but because I was not always at home, they were not serviced. This resulted into losses.
When I acquired the bull, there was timely servicing of the cows. Now, there are 32 dairy cows under the free range system. It would be bigger than this but I keep a manageable number.
To ensure that the cows get water, I set up a dam and installed a system that pumps water to the farm. This cost Shs7m.
The milk output has thus increased to 20 litres each a cow a day. I sell 200-250 litres of milk daily. Of these, I supply 150 litres daily to a dairy plant in Mityana at Shs700 a litre; during dry seasons, this goes up to Shs1,000 per litre. I am paid weekly.
The rest I sell it to customers whom I supply every day at Shs1,200 a litre. These pay monthly.
Sometimes when the demand is high, I only supply the dairy outlet. This is because he pays well unlike the others who sometimes delay or even refuse to pay. From my dairy enterprise, I earn about Shs175,000 a day.
There are oranges and mangoes on a quarter an acre. I grow Bire and Zillate mango varieties, which I bought from Kawanda agricultural research station at Shs2,000 each seedling. These not only have large fruits but grow faster. There are 95 mango trees.
It is two years and half since I started; I have harvested once and got about 15 mangoes from each tree. I sold each at Shs500 to traders and schools in Mityana town and got Shs710, 000 in total.
Because it is doing fairly well, some farmers come to learn from me. Most want to learn how to look after dairy cattle and poultry, how to plant and care for fruits trees.
I give free advise to them because I want many to come and learn from me so that they can improve their livelihoods. Even then since I also work with Kolping Women’s project, empowering women is part of my work.