My name is Boniface Aramaje Muneria from Bukwo Town Council and I am farmer whose journey began in 1965 at the age of 13 years. I learnt from my father who taught me how to plough the land at that age.
He was a peasant and we were not well off so as one of the older children I had to help my father fend for the family.
We grew maize, beans and, in the 1990s, we added wheat. Last year, as I was starting to plant maize for the season as usual, I heard of how much other farmers were earning from barley.
I talked about this with a few friends but they discouraged me from growing barley because Bukwo is largely a maize-growing area. But I thought twice about it and decided to talk to other people.
In fact, I talked to another friend, who is into barley farming. He was very encouraging; he told me about the incentives and support for farmers growing barley from Nile Breweries.
So, I gave it a shot. I used part of my 20 acres of land. I ploughed eight acres of maize and six of barley.
I was given inputs, pesticides and fertilisers at the start. I bought 15 kilogrammes of barley seeds at Shs40,000 each. In total, I spent Shs600,000.
Later, I was provided a combine harvester. I garnered 92 bags, which were bought at Shs97,000 per bag. Each kilogramme was bought at Shs1,000. That was Shs8.9m from barley. Meanwhile, from the maize, there were 100 bags. Each bag was sold at Shs55,000, which came up to Shs5.5m. It is mostly Kenyan traders who buy our maize because we are at the border of the Uganda-Kenya border.
Assured of a buyer
With the barley earnings, I paid back the advance from Nile Breweries, which was up to Shs2m in terms of inputs, fertilisers, pesticides and hire of combine harvester.
I was left with a balance of Shs6.9m as my profit, which means that I earned more money from barley than maize.
This was encouraging since this was what I got from my first season of planting barley.
The advantage is that I am assured of a buyer at harvest. For the next season, I plan to allocate more land to barley than maize. Besides, it takes three to four months to harvest, which is not the case with the maize, which takes a bit longer.
I planted in February, but first, there was training from the agricultural consultants. I have been able to learn a lot from them at the nuclear farm, where we are taught how to grow this crop and the best farming practices, which we have to follow in order to gain out of it.
I have passed on the knowledge with about 200 farmers.
More farmers have realised that they cannot only earn more from growing barley but get their money on time.
The conditions here favour barley growing. We have good rains, required altitude and climate for this grain, which will cannot grow just anywhere in the country. Barley is a delicate crop where you have to do the right thing at the right time.
I have already planted for another season. This time, it is on 10 acres from which I expect to earn more and therefore earn higher profits than the last season. This time I will plant more barley than maize because it has proved to me to be my wonder crop.
BACKGROUND TO BARLEY
Barley (Hordeum vulgare L.), a member of the grass family, is a major cereal grain. Important uses include use as animal fodder, as a source of fermentable material for beer and certain distilled beverages, and as a component of various health foods. The grains are commonly made into malt in a traditional and ancient method of preparation.
Barley is a widely adaptable crop. It is currently popular in temperate areas where it is grown as a summer crop and tropical areas where it is sown as a winter crop. Its germination time is one to three days and grows under cool conditions. It is more tolerant of soil salinity than wheat, and has a short growing season and is also relatively drought tolerant.