Sunday July 20 2014

Curtain falls on Sebei’s great farmer

Wilson Chemusto

Wilson Chemusto 

By Allan Chekwech

Kapchorwa-“I have a grand dream for Sebei. I am a man who tries to uplift farmers. I am just 55 and I still have a lot to do for the world”.

That is what Wilson Chemusto, aka, Farmer, told this newspaper late last year during a courtesy visit to his home. Dressed in a white T-shirt, grey trousers and gumboots, he waxed lyrical about farming, he talked with authority, he breathed with vehement ambition, he dreamed a dream of prosperity; a better world. The farmer painted a picture of a man on a high.

With a clever sense of humour, he joked with his children the same way he would with his peers and visitors to his home. But the cruel hand of death robbed Sebei of such a man last weekend, much to the chagrin of the dwellers of the mountainous region. He was 56.

In Kapchorwa where he had helped found Kapchorwa Commercial Farmers Association and had established a Shs3b warehouse courtesy of World Food Programme, the man born on December 12, 1958 in Siron,

Kaptanya Sub-county in Kapchorwa District to Amisi Chesongok and Zisiriya Kokopandrew had become a household name. He had become the powerhouse of the hoe and the garden; a model of sorts and a conqueror of the terrains.

Academic journey
It was in 1965 when Chemusto’s academic journey kicked off at Kapkwomurya Primary School. Because of cattle keeping and rampant rustling, Chemusto spent 10 years in Primary. It is while in primary that Chemusto developed a love for his pet activity – farming.

“While in primary school, I got involved in youth farming and that is why I got a dream to follow my passion,” he told this newspaper during his hey days. And follow the passion he did; 100 per cent of his bread would come from this dream he nurtured just at the turn of 10 years on earth.

So in 1976, he joined Mbale Secondary School for his O-Level. However, his academic journey was soon put on a halt in 1979 due to a gloomy political environment occasioned by the Liberation War that kicked out Idi Amin.

Chemusto, despite dropping out in Senior Four, rallied enough courage to go on and teach at Kapkwomurya Primary School without a teaching certificate. Great ambition he had in his nerves in deed.

As English writer Jane Austen states in her novel of manners, Pride and Prejudice, everyman in possession of a fortune is in search of a woman.

And yes, in 1984, a 28-year-old Chemusto walked up the hills to the family of William Chesambu in Chebukat Village, to ask for the hand of his sweet heart, Sophie, in marriage.

He was shown the green light and he rolled down hills to Siron with the lady; and wedded her in 1986 – two years after the birth of their first born.

The two would get four children; Andrew Timothy Mangusho, Aggrey Lawrence Chebet, Emily Chemutai and Claire Chelimo. And after establishing his family and setting the stage for education of his children, Chemusto soon found himself before black and white again at Makerere University in the early 2000s.

He did a string of certificates from the Ivory Tower, including a Diploma in Public Administration and in 2006, enrolled for a Bachelors course in Business Administration at Busoga University.

Although he kept on oscillating between the classroom and the garden, the farmer maintained a keen eye on the prize he missed when Tanzanians with a group of Ugandan exiles kicked out Amin in 1979. That prize was a degree. He would graduate in 2010.

When the degree landed in his house, he aimed higher. A remarkable effort, it must be noted. At the time of his death, Chemusto was putting together his academic weapons to enrol at Uganda Martyrs University for a Master in Business Administration. It is painful that he did not live to accomplish his dream; but God planned it that way.

Besides his academic journey, Farmer had a host of achievements to his name. In 1990, he produced the best quality maize and won the National Agricultural competition in maize production. He bagged the golden award.

“I was given a ticket to travel to Britain where I visited several farmers. The motive of the trip was to be able to share the experiences back home. When I came back, we formed the National Farmers’ Federation,” he told this newspaper late last year, adding “When I returned, I thought about what to do and how to do it for my region and country”.

It was immediately after the trip to Britain that his path to prosperity was further cleared. Chemusto soon became a role model to many.

“I am now a role model. People across the country come to consult me on agriculture. I am now moving into the nuclear farm. I want to answer President Museveni’s call for commercial farming,” he said then.

“I am a man who tries to uplift people from subsistence to commercial farming. I started humbly but I now employ more than 30 staff and 200 casual labourers. We work with 6,000 farmers, including World Food Programme, Nile Breweries and Naads,” Chemusto said.

Chemusto would proudly count the things farming had brought him. From building a house, buying cars to educating all his children to university level, he grinned gallantly.

His team dealt in barley, maize, sorghum, wheat, among others.

However, although his road had turned smooth, there were a few hurdles that gave him a bloody nose – at times – and there are those he still wished could change for the better.

Climate change, land fragmentation, laid back youth and difficulty in changing the mindset of many farmers from subsistence to commercial farming always gave the role model farmer sleepless nights.

Nonetheless, Chemusto said the youth and women must get involved in agriculture. His widow, Sophie, runs the Great Lakes Coffee initiative which brings together a host of women farmers in the area.

What others say
During the requiem mass at St Luke Church, Ntinda last Sunday, Mr Ateenyi Kanaginagi on behalf of Unada Board of Directors, described Chemusto as the face of Unada and that the man from Kapchorwa was always a team player.

Unada bosses also stressed that the farmer was always available when called upon; he was just next door.

Mr Pat Cheborion, the assistant commissioner for Immigration at the Ministry of Internal Affairs, speaking on behalf of the Sabiny community in Kampala, said the region had missed a very enterprising person who had started investing in the central region.

His widow Sophie Chemusto, speaking at the requiem mass, said Chemusto was a loving, kind and understanding man who always had ambition for his family and region.

“It is very difficult to say goodbye to my husband. He was a very loving and kind man. I miss him a lot,” she said as she turned around to reaffirm her love for children and family members who stood behind her as she delivered the pain-filled speech.

However, the death wouldn’t have been more painful for anyone other than Mr David Kissa, Chemusto’s closest friend for decades and workmate at Kacofa.
Mr Kissa, while assuring the community that he would carry on the farmer’s legacy, said he had lost a man with whom he had trekked the smooth and rough road.

“He has been my friend, brother, workmate, etc. We have ascended and descended together, he has been everything to me. We started Kacofa with a group of 27 members under a tree. But now, we have more than 3,000 members and a warehouse worth Shs3b.

Chemusto would always face challenges in the face, he would fire all his bullets and reserve one for times of crisis,” Mr Kissa said, adding that he would do anything possible to keep Kacofa breathing so as to make ‘Farmer’ - a man he said would see gold in dust - smile even in his grave.

Son says
His first born, Mr Mangusho, aka, ATM, says he lost a father and brother in one person.

“He was more of a brother than a father to me. I shared a lot with him. He was very open and always updated me on everything he was doing,” Mr Mangusho says, adding that his father had been approached to run for a political seat for the good he had done for the community but instead they had decided that Mangusho runs for the Kapchorwa Municipality seat should the district be accorded a municipal status before 2016.

Although Mr Mangusho says the death dealt him a heavy blow, he hasn’t developed cold feet on contesting the seat.

Chemusto died of stomach complications in a Mukono hospital last Saturday. He is survived by a widow, four children and three grandchildren.

He was laid to rest at his ancestral home in Siron, Kaptanya Sub-county, Kapchorwa District last Tuesday.

Chemusto may not have accomplished whatever plans he had, but such is life! May his soul rest in eternal peace.