I am John Guweddeko, 59, a resident of Kasawo Trading Centre in Kasawo Sub-County, Mukono District. I am a commercial farmer who grows coffee, cocoa, pawpaws and bananas. I have three acres of coffee, one acre of cocoa and another acre of bananas while pawpaws are on quarter an acre.
I have a certificate in agriculture, which I obtained from Arapai Agricultural College. But before I started farming, I worked as an agricultural officer in Nakifuma County, Mukono District for 13 years.
Search for better opportunities
As an extension officer, I was in charge of sensitising cocoa farmers on good agronomic practices, and was also in-charge of the processing plant, which was located in Kasawo.
In 1990, I resigned from civil service to search for better opportunities in the private sector. I joined Kyagalanyi Coffee Ltd, where I worked as a nursery supervisor and later became the manager for Nanga coffee farm.
While working with Kyagalanyi Coffee, I made some savings with which I bought 10 acres of land, so that I could engage in farming.
I had seen many farmers get paid a lot of money for their coffee. So, I decided to use my land to grow coffee. In 2002, I quit my job to fully concentrate on farming.
As a person, with an agricultural background, the beginning was not difficult. I started by making a nursery bed, with clonal cuttings I got from Kawanda agricultural research institute.
I placed the cuttings in potting bags, where they stayed for three months. When the seedlings were ready, I transplanted them to the main garden.
I watered them for a period of three months. I did this because the rainfall at the time was not adequate. Watering also had a number of advantages such as controlling soil erosion, suppressing weeds and also fixing nitrogen in the soil.
After the groundnuts, I planted beans and did this until the coffee seedlings grew tall and big and could not be inter-cropped with other crops. Besides these advantages, growing of cover crops ensures maximum utilisation of the land.
I planted clonal coffee because it grows fast. One can start picking coffee berries when the plant is between two and three years old.
The variety is also high–yielding since a farmer can get 1,000kg of clean coffee (FAQ) or kase from one acre.
After three years, the coffee was ready for harvest. I made sure that I picked only ripe berries. This was because I wanted the coffee to be of high quality. I dried it but did not sell it as kiboko because I wanted to earn more money by adding value.
So, I processed the coffee and sold it as clean coffee or FAQ. In total, there was 780kg of clean coffee, which sold at Shs2,000 a kilogramme; this came to Shs1.56m.
I was paid cash, which motivated me to continue. I expanded the coffee plantation to two acres and later to three acres.
Some of the coffee plants are still young (one year) and I expect them to mature in two years. By that time, I hope to earn about Shs12m a season and, in a year, about Shs24m.
I started growing cocoa 11 years ago. I got seedlings through a government initiative to encourage farmers adopt the crop. I planted musiizi trees to provide shade to the cocoa. Cocoa needs some shade to grow properly.
After three years, they were ready for harvest. After harvesting the pods, I remove the fresh seeds, which I sell to ICAM Chocolate Ltd at Shs2, 000 per kilogramme. The company has personnel, who come to buy the seeds from me.
Unlike coffee, I harvest cocoa throughout the year, which enables me to earn some income continuously. However, the biggest harvesting season is between October and December. I harvest about 4,000 kgs of fresh cocoa seeds. This means I earn about Shs8m a year from cocoa.
This one is still small. There are about 150 pawpaw plants. From this, I harvest at least 50 pawpaws every week. I sell each big pawpaw at Shs700 and a medium-sized one at Shs500.
The good thing is that I do not spend a lot of money on them like buying pesticides since this crop is not often attacked by pests and diseases. I earn about Shs200,000 a month from this.
Banana (matooke) covers a quarter an acre. I got the suckers under the National Agricultural Advisory Services (Naads) programme. I grow mpologoma variety; it has big bunches and grows faster compared to other varieties.
I mulched the banana garden to control soil erosion, preserve soil moisture and suppress weeds. I sell each bunch at an average price of Shs8,000.
In a month, I sell about 30 bunches, which brings in Shs240,000. However, some of the matooke is consumed at home.
Apart from farming, I am hired by organisations like World Vision and Naads to train farmers in proper agronomical practices. From this work I also earn some money.
Using proceeds from farming I have been able to pay for the education of my children.
Secondly, I have built a nice house for my family in Kasawo trading centre and I hope to build a commercial house from, which I will also earn some money in rental income.
I also bought a car, which has eased my movements. I also use it to transport manure to the garden.
Also, my standard of living has improved compared to when I was not in the farming business. I can afford other luxuries.
My biggest challenge is the changes in weather patterns. This has resulted in low and unpredictable rainfall. Crops like coffee and banana require enough rain for good growth.
Another challenge I face is the high incidence of pests and diseases like coffee wilt disease, coffee twig borer, banana weevil.
This lowers the quantity and quality of my produce. To control coffee wilt I uproot affected plants and burn them while for the twig borer I ensure that there is no shade in the coffee plantation. Also, I spend a lot on buying pesticides to control the diseases and pests.
Land fragmentation is another challenge I face because I do not own 10 acres as one piece of land. The land is scattered in Kasawo, which to a certain extent, hampers my plans of plantation farming.
He earns most from coffee
I have sustained the coffee nursery bed although I no longer use coffee cuttings to make plantlets. I now use elite seeds because cuttings need a lot of watering and care for them to sprout. I place the seeds in potting bags.
I buy potting bags at Shs10,000 for one kilogramme and buy the top soil for the potting bags at Shs40,000 for a small truck. In a season, I use 20 such trucks.
In addition, plants grown from cuttings take at least seven months before transplanting compared to five months when grown from seeds. I constructed a shed with poles and a net, to raise the seedlings until they are ready for sale.
I sell 80,000 seedlings in a season. The price for each seedling is Shs300. In most cases, I get orders from Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA) whom to supply seedlings.
From coffee beans and seedlings, I earn Shs48m a year. After deduction of costs on labour and inputs, it comes to Shs27m.
On labour, during planting and weeding, I hire some people to help me with the work. But I mainly use family labour in the garden.