I am Peterson Nyombi, the proprietor of Nyonyi Integrated Intensive Farm located in Busimbi Railway village in Mityana Town Council, Mityana District. I am also a presidential adviser on agriculture. On my farm, I grow mangoes, oranges, guavas and pawpaws on commercial scale.
My interest in fruits began in 1990, when I completed my Diploma in Agriculture from Arapai Agricultural College in Soroti District. I wanted to practice what I had learnt but I wanted something with high market value. I decided on mangoes, oranges and guavas, which had a better market but were in short supply.
Because there were no fruit farmers in the area, most of the fruits consumed here were brought in by traders from places such as Soroti, Kamuli, Kaberamaido, and Gulu. Therefore, the market availability coupled with suitability of the area in terms of fertile soils gave me encouragement to grow fruits.
The proximity to urban centres like Kampala, Mubende, Mityana and in other neighbouring districts was also an advantage as these could provide a ready market to the fruits.
I started with five acres of land, which I bought using my savings. I cleared the land by removing the trees. Since the area had a slope, furrows were set up to deal with water run-off and prevent soil erosion.
Mangoes were planted on two acres, oranges were on two acres, and guavas on a half an acre, which amounted to four and a half acres. In total, there were 600 mangoes and 400 oranges.
The spacing for mangoes should be 30 by 30 feet while for oranges and guavas it should be 15 by 15 feet. Proper spacing while planting fruits is important because if it is not followed, the trees will not grow properly and fruiting will be poor.
Mangoes were put in pits of three by three feet while for oranges and guavas were in pits of two by two feet, and used farm yard manure. I got the manure, which included cow dung and plant left overs from zero-grazing dairy farmers.
I bought fruit seedlings from the Kawanda agricultural research institute because I had been told by fruit farmers that they had the best fruit seedling varieties.
Each orange seedling was at Shs200 which was the same for guava at Shs200, and a mango at Shs400. All the seedlings were grafted to make them high yielding, pest and disease resistant and fast maturing. But the price has since shot up; an orange seedling is Shs3,000, guava Shs2,000 and mango Shs4,000.
In all, I spent Shs4m to start; Shs1.8m on seedlings and transport, Shs1.5m on field preparation and planting, Shs250,000 on pesticides and farm yard manure while Shs450,000 was spent on marketing and transporting of the fruits to the market.
The mangoes included Bire variety, which is high yielding despite the fruits being of medium size. From one tree, there at least eight sacks of mangoes a season, which earn about Shs250,000. Each sack is at Shs30,000 on average.
This is when there are a lot of mangoes on the market but when there is less supply, each sack is Shs 40,000 at a farm- gate.
The other is the Tommy variety, which has very big fruits—some weigh two kilogrammes.
It is also fairly high yielding and also paying. Despite their lower yields compared to the Bire, the size of each fruit is at a higher price. For instance, I sell one Bire mango at a farm gate price Shs500 while the Tommy is at Shs800.
Another variety is Zillate, which has big fruits plus being tolerant to drought and pests and diseases. I also grow the apple mango variety; it is very sweet and succulent. It is liked by many customers. The others include Maya, which has fruits that weigh 2kgs, and Ngowe that has fairly big fruits that are also sweet.
After two years, I had my first harvest. From an acre, I got 350 sacks which went at Shs 30,000 each and earned about Shs10.5m. From an acre of oranges.
I got Shs3.1m from selling 212 sacks; each was at Shs15,000. The harvest was small because the orange plants were still young. From the half acre of guavas I earned Shs 620,000 after selling 48 sacks at Shs 13,000 each. I also sold the guavas to buyers in smaller quantities.
But of all types of fruits, I realised that mangoes were more paying because a farmer does not have to spend a lot in caring for them.
While mangoes are sprayed with pesticides during fruiting and towards maturity of fruits, oranges have to be sprayed at least twice a month. Also, mangoes unlike oranges can last longer—up to over 50 years or even more. But oranges have a short life span of about 10 years. This makes mangoes more economically viable than oranges.
In a year there is one main season for mangoes, which occurs from November to December while for oranges I sell throughout the year as they flower all the time.
For guavas, there are two seasons from April to June and November to December.
I sell my fruits to super markets like Shoprite in Kampala and others in Mubende, Jinja, Mukono and Mityana.
I also sell to individual traders who come to my farm. For instance, I sell 10 sacks of mangoes a week to Shoprite alone at the peak of the season. But as the season nears the end the harvest also decreases.
While for oranges I can sell 15 sacks of fruits a week. The amount of fruits I supply to supermarkets depends on the amount of fruit supply on the market.
So, when the market is flooded with fruits, I supply small quantities of fruits but when there is a scarcity, I supply twice a week to meet the demand.
pest and diseases
The common diseases that attack mangoes and oranges are fungal diseases spread by aphids. They are tiny insects that suck juices from plants. But these can be controlled by spraying with pesticides.
The common pests are leaf miniors that drill holes in leaves; they can be controlled by spraying.
There are also small aphids that cause viral diseases.
A farmer should use clean planting materials. A healthy plant cannot easily be affected by diseases.
I train farmers on good agronomy practices. I train them at no cost. I don’t charge them because I want many to come and learn how to grow fruits and fight poverty in their homes.
So far, I have trained 530 fruit farmers. These farmers come from all over the country and I usually train them during weekends when I have time. They have to make an appointment before coming for the training.
Many of the farmers who come to my farm want to know where to get good seedlings, how to prepare the land, how to plant the seedlings and how to care for the fruit trees.
Because I am always busy with other duties, I only check on my garden during weekends when I am free. This is a challenge because the workers do not do the work effectively like I would have done it.
In some instances, I find some fruits have been attacked by pests and diseases or when the fruits have ripened without being harvested. Such fruits even when you harvest them they are poor quality hence fetch a low price.
The other challenge is the fake pesticides on the market, so I end up incurring losses. To solve this problem, I now buy pest cides from credible suppliers.
Also, the fruits are stolen by the people around my farm to eat or sell.
To solve this problem, I hire guards during the fruit ripening season. I pay them Shs100,000 a month.
Fluctuating prices is also another challenge because I sometimes fail to project what I will earn. In some cases I can spend a lot of money on inputs but when it comes to selling the fruits, I sell at a low price.
The biggest dream is to get funds and construct a fruit processing plant in Mityana. This would enable me earn more from fruits through adding value.
I will use the factory to extract the juice from oranges and mangoes, which I intend to pack. By doing this, I will earn twice than what I have been earning from my enterprise. I hope to do this in 2016.
Because of this, I want to expand on the acreage of my farm. For mangoes, I want to increase it to eight acres, then five acres for mangoes and two acres for guava.
I will use the proceeds from this enterprise to buy more land.
My advice to farmers, who intend to grow fruits, is that they should get clean planting materials. They should also ensure that the
varieties that they plant are good in terms of high yields and fruits.