Nice Barungi started farming in October 2013 with eight acres of eucalyptus trees, in Bushenyi District.
Her motivation to go into tree farming was to basically have a long term investment venture that needed less supervision. She also needed a future fallback position when her children finally enroll in a world class university.
“Farming in general is my passion. I love nature and natural things really have a big portion of my heart and life. l can take a day looking at my flowers, goats or birds. It gives me satisfaction,” she explains.
The land was acquired at Shs40m. She has about 4,000 trees on the eight acres of land. She planted 500 tree seedlings on each of the acres. Some dried owing to the harsh sun, and she replanted. Each seedling cost her Shs500. In total, she spent Shs2.5m to cover the entire land.
She spent Shs500,000 on the labour that planted the trees. To maintain the land, she paid out Shs800,000. But the maintenance was for a while. At a certain stage when the trees shed their leaves, they create organic manure for the plant upon rotting. In about 10 years, she will be harvesting.
She projects to sell each tree at Shs120,000 which will fetch her about Shs600m. She says that not much work and technical knowledge is required if one is to go into eucalyptus tree growing.
She hired someone that was recommended to her as knowledgeable on trees, pruning and spacing. “Tree planting is a passive investment that each of us can undertake with minimal costs. l challenge all of us to make use of our ancestral land back home to tap into this venture. It takes minimal supervision and is almost 100 per cent risk free,” Barungi explains. Mohammed Kakiika an expert in agro-forestry confirms Barungi’s remarks.
“You do not spend a lot on trees. After a year, all you need is cutting the grassing to avoid wild fires,” says Kakiika.
And while her money slowly grows on the trees, she is tapping into two other ventures. Urban commercial poultry farming and rearing goats. She rears 500 birds and 120 goats. The projects have increased over time and she is in the process of acquiring land where she can shift them. She has reared chicken for two years. She rears both layers and broilers. To ensure she gets the most commercial returns from her farming ventures, Barungi is emphatic on feeding and raising the hens organically. Her reason is to maintain quality eggs and size of the chicken. “I feed the broilers on pellets that ensure l hit targeted weights in a space of five weeks. This way, I am able to minimise costs that would come as a result of hens over staying on the farm as well as diseases that comes from poor feeds are minimised. This is how l break even,” the farmer explains. She buys her chicks from KCCA Kyanja and Biyinzika Poultry Farmers.
Barungi also uses proper biosecurity at the farm to keep away disease outbreak. Her target weight is usually two kilogrammes in five weeks for broilers.
“My buyers are friends and restaurant owners. Most of them buy in quantities of 50 birds,” she says.
She is keen on keeping records. “I have a stock book for each batch of hens l purchase. l record numbers coming in, record deaths, record each bird sold and at how much and to who. I record how many trays of eggs are collected from each house against number of birds,” Barungi explains.
She also records every expense starting with chick cost price, feeds, vaccination and treatment plus labour, water and electricity
At the point of sell, she totals all these expenses and divides them by the number of birds remaining. Then, she factors the price below which she cannot sell. That is how the farmer determines her profit.
From her records, she spends Shs150,000 on labour, Shs50,000 on water and electricity per month.
She employs one person to manage the poultry project. Barungi pays herself a salary of Shs2m per month from the poultry enterprise. For now, she is re-investing her salary.
“I am a hands-on person. l spare two hours every day for my birds, that is early in the morning before l go to work and when I return from work, by 5pm, to supervise their feeding,” she adds.
Lessons and challenges
Life has dealt the farmer with some hard lessons. For instance, one evening the poultry caretaker forgot to lock the house and the home dog accessed the house and killed 70 hens which had grown to three months. Barungi only managed to get her cost price from the batch. Another lesson came from helping a neighbour who wanted to cross breed his local hen with her breed of cocks. The hen was infected with Newcastle disease.
It spread the disease to 30 of her local hens and they died. This frustrated Barungi. when each hen died. It felt like a knife being pierced into her heart. The lessons she picked from the experience was that nothing is as painful as self-blame. From then on, she was keen on mistakes other farmers make. “Many farmers are economical and as a result, they fail to give their chicken enough feeds and supplements. Some even feed them on left-over food. I believe garbage taken in is garbage out.”
To profit from poultry, Barungi advises farmers to be hands-on, acquire knowledge and be up to date on best poultry practices. Keeping records is important too since it lets a farmer make business sense of their venture. “Add value to the birds and if possible get in touch with your final product consumers,” she adds.