Wednesday January 9 2013

Meet a teen who chose farming as his dream job

Meet a teen who choose farming as his dream job

Lufuga feeding his Freisian cows with maize bran. Photo by Johnson Mayamba. 

By Johnson Mayamba

I am Zaakaliya Lufuga. I am 18 years old. I completed my S4 last year at Nkoyoyo Day and Boarding SS at Matale in Buikwe District. After that, I did not think of joining A-Level but instead opted to go to an institute to pursue a course of my dreams.

With little skills I had attained from my O- Level agriculture lessons, I decided to utilise my father’s land in the village by rearing cattle and growing bananas, a skill I want to improve to continue earning a living and support my family.

Beginning of the dream
In less than five years, I am now reaping big from this farm at Matale. With a net profit of about Shs600,000 a month, it is just enough for me and I do not think of being employed by someone at all.

I now pay my own tuition at Bukalasa Agricultural Institute and also support my four siblings and parents at home.

My dream of becoming a successful farmer started in 2005. I come from a very humble family, which mainly depends on farming. By then I had just completed P7 and my father had no money to take me to secondary school yet I wanted to continue with my studies.

I needed Shs150,000 per term, which I failed to get. I then decided to try my hand at brick-making at home but only managed to make 5,000 bricks which I sold at Shs160,000 after a long struggle.

Since it was not enough to take me through even one term given the required school fees and other necessities, I decided to use the money to buy a Friesian male calf.

First big deal
After rearing it for 18 months, one rich man came looking for an exotic bull to take to his farm and I sold it to him at Shs1.3m. I then bought an exotic cow in 2007. Soon it produced and I started milking it.

Currently, that one cow l started with has produced five others; three of which are cows where I get milk both for consumption and for sale. On a good day, each cow gives an average of 20 litres of milk. I sell each litre at Shs1,000.

To feed the cows, I planted four acres of elephant grass which I supplement with processed feeds. Also, I hired a man to feed them, especially when I am busy with my studies unlike in the past when I would do both.

It was too much for me to manage both the farm and study; that is why I hired him to help in my absence.

The cows I milk, I feed each of them with 20kgs of processed maize bran daily in addition to 280kgs of elephant grass and 120 litres of water. When I do that on a daily basis, I get more milk from them. Apart from rearing cattle for milk, I also have a banana plantation on a five-acre piece of land. While I was still in O’Level, I concentrated more on agriculture as a subject to get skills in having healthy crops and animals on a farm.

Last year, with some money I had saved from selling milk, I started planting bananas. I bought 300 tissue-cultured plantlets at Shs2,500 each from NARO at Kawanda. Now, each bunch of banana from the plantation goes for between Shs15,000 and Shs20,000.

Education still priority
I usually harvest 100 bunches in a period of three weeks to one month depending on the demand for matooke. In a year, I can get a minimum of about Shs13m from bananas alone.

Much as I am already earning from this farm, education is still very important to me. After my diploma studies, I hope to go to the university for a degree course in Agriculture where I expect to get more skills of reviving the agriculture sector in Uganda. That is my dream.

Agriculture is a profitable venture that can easily transform people’s lives and lead to the country’s development if managed well. I advise those in the industry to seek help from experts on how to adopt scientific and modern methods of farming if they are to benefit from it.

As for the challenges, I cannot say it has been so easy because I still face them. In the first place, there is when the crops can be attacked by banana bacterial wilt but because I was taught how to treat them, I usually detect it and treat them before it is too late.

Another challenge comes when there is change in the weather. Sometimes it becomes too dry for crops and animals to get enough water, which affects the production. Other times, when it rains a lot, crops are also affected, especially when there are hail storms.

Also, some buyers want me to sell the bananas at a cheaper price. But because I want to make profit too, we haggle and come to an agreement where I do not lose much.

Some bananas are also stolen by thieves from the garden. I come thinking that the bunches are on only to find they have been cut and taken.

On the other hand, I have a challenge with Naads officials. Usually when they want to show someone that they are working, they come to my farm claiming it is theirs, which is not true. Recently, I had to stop them on the way.

Despite all the challenges, I never give up because I know with agriculture, one can never regret once the yields are good.