Friday September 22 2017

Ugandan farmers growing Chinese vegetables, cereals for local market

A farmer growing Chinese vegetables in her

A farmer growing Chinese vegetables in her cherry tomatoes green house in Wakiso. Photo by Lominda Afedraru 

By Lominda Afedraru

As the number of Asians in Uganda keeps increasing, farmers in horticulture sector have embarked in growing Chinese vegetable varieties taping the local demand for the same.
This applies to farmers who are growing cereals such as Chinese rice and millet varieties.

Farmers growing vegetables in Wakiso District have embarked on growing vegetables such as Chinese cabbages namely Bok choy and Nappa cabbage varieties, Chinese spinach such as yin Tsai, Chinese tomatoes, broccoli and Chinese pumpkins, among others.
Ms Sylvia Naiga, a farmer belonging to Namulonge Horticulture farmers group is one such a farmer engaged in growing the crops but expresses challenge of seed availability because her group has to order for the seeds through agro input dealers yet they are expensive.

This is for crops such as cabbages and Chinese chilly which are on demand in Ugandan market.

Experience from a farmer growing Asian vegetables
My name is Christopher Nsamba, 62, a farmer from Busukuma Sub County in Wakiso District, majoring in growing Asian vegetable varieties.

I have been a farmer right from childhood because my parents who were farmers failed to send me to school and I went ahead to work with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) based at the Ntaional Crops Resources Research Institute Namulonge as a porter when I was a young man.
I saw a number of people in the area growing vegetables mainly local varieties like Nakkati and taking them for sale in markets within Kampala where they were earning good income and I decided to do the same in the late 1970’s after purchasing some piece of at Shs1, 200 per acre.

I bought two acres of land which I utilized for growing vegetables and I kept purchasing more gradually and now I own 40 acres of land majority of the portion I use for growing both indigenous and exotic vegetable varieties.

Five years ago I decided to concentrate in growing Asian vegetable such as Broccoli, Chinese cabbage, Chinese pumpkin, Squash, Butternut, bitter gourd, Yumensy, Kunshishai, Pak choi, Radish and Asian Cucumber, bitter melon and straw berry among others because its economic gain is better than that attained from sale of indigenous vegetables.

The market for the Asian vegetables is readily available and we usually have market days at the American Embassy every Friday of the week where foreign nationals come to buy the vegetables.
We usually bulk them and share proceeds among four members of Namulonge Horticulture farmers group who are growing these varieties. Some varieties are sold at Nakasero Market mainly on Sunday and some in restaurants of Asian origin and Ambrosoli International School.
I kg of Chinese cabbage is sold at Shs1, 500 or more and the leafy vegetables are sold at Shs2, 000 or more depending on one’s bargaining power.

Apart from growing these vegetables on farm, I have a demonstration garden where I am multiplying seedlings of sweet pepper, eggplant and cherry tomatoes under greenhouse which I sell to farmers interested in growing them.
Each seedling of the different varieties is sold at Shs150 and they are usually ready after two weeks from the day of potting them.

Much as we get better income from the exotic vegetable varieties because of the willingness of the foreign nationals offering better pay, we are faced with the challenge of climate variation whereby the tropical down pour from the rain is plenty causing rotting of the plants as well as prolonged dry spell leading to wilting.

Availability of seed is another big challenge because sometimes it is impossible accessing seed from container village in Kampala and if at all one is privileged to find, the cost is so high because a Sacket containing 100 seed of sweet pepper and eggplant from costs Shs60, 000.
Mr Ouyang Daobin, Economic Counsellor at the Chinese embassy in Uganda in a recent interview said that Ugandan farmers need to position themselves to take advantage of the growing demand for organic foods in China.

The Chinese government has entered into a tripartite agreement through Food and Agriculture Organisation to provide technologies and crop varieties from China for Ugandan farmers to grow.
This is mainly in form of expertise on agronomy practices of these crops for farmers to earn better yields.
Through this cooperation, Chinese experts offering guidance to local communities in Uganda have helped transfer new farming technologies and introduced new crop varieties like hybrid rice and foxtail millet.

The Uganda government has a positive attitude about Chinese investment in the country's agriculture sector.
The Commissioner for Crop Resource ministry of agriculture said studies on the growth of Chinese hybrid rice in Uganda has shown positive results because the rice can yield up to 10 metric tons per hectare compared to the traditional varieties which yield about 4.5 metric tons per hectare.

The hybrid Chinese fox tail millet can yield eight metric tons per hectare compared to the conventional millet which yields up to 1.5 metric tons per hectare.
Studies have shown that hybrid Chinese vegetables can also do well in Uganda with the possibility of producing 12 tons per hectare.
Most of the farmers growing green vegetables are doing it in green house to avoid damage from pests and diseases.