For James Masembe, 40, proprietor of Agali Awamu Hardware Masaka on Buddu Street in Masaka Town, farming is what he refers to as his own job.
“I take great pride in the job as manager and proprietor of this big shop, which I find so paying but farming is what I consider to be my personal job. And it is the reason that together with my partner, Vincent Kimbugwe Bukoto, we came up with the idea to start Aga Mixed Farm, located on our own land and developed by ourselves.”
Thanks to land fragmentation, the farm comprises different pieces of land in Buwunga and Kabonera sub-counties.
It comprises a pig breeding centre at Kijonjo Village, Buwunga Sub-county and other projects that include a coffee plantation, two banana plantations, a pig fattening centre, a fish pond, sweet potato fields, and a Robusta coffee nursery garden all together totalling to perhaps 25 acres at Butale near Bukoto Shopping Centre in Kabonera Sub-county in Masaka District.
The breeding centre stands out in the entire region as a model for intending pig keeping farmers.
Marked for its shiny tiled floor, it teaches cleanliness and hygiene in a pigsty. It is constructed in such a way that everyone entering the centre has to step in a disinfectant solution before getting into the changing room where everybody leaves their jackets hanging on hooks.
The next door leads into a well-stocked pharmacy, where vet drugs are stored for use by the manager, Robert Matovu, who is also a trained vet, in case the animals need medical treatment. From here, the visitor once again has to step into disinfectant solution before gaining entrance into the different compartments where the pigs live. Here, you find different pig breeds including Cambra or Camborough, Large White, and Cross breed of Cambra and Large White.
Most of the cages are occupied by a mother and her piglets, while other cages are home to just piglets.
The farm has piped water that is drilled from the ground and the pigs get their drinking water directly from nipples attached to water taps right where they live.
Members of the neighbouring community can also get water for their domestic use from the farm taps.
The pigsty is constructed in such a way that all the pigs’ urine flows directly into one tank where pig dung is collected to form biogas, which is used for both cooking and lighting at the farm. Slurry from the biogas
tank flows into trenches in the banana garden of about two acres, where it enhances soil fertility.
The banana plants look superb and the farmers will soon be selling bananas. The mature pigs are huge monsters weighing perhaps between 200 and 250 kilogrammes.
They feed twice every day, at 9am and at 5pm. Most surprising is the fact that there is no smell what-so-ever, and that one hardly sees any pig droppings in the cages. There is always somebody to remove the droppings and to place it in the biogas tank.
Most of the female piglets are sold when they clock three or five months. Each one is sold at between Shs150,000 and Shs200,000 depending on how large it is.
Their goal is to have at least 600 pigs at the breeding centre. Most of the male piglets are transferred to another pigsty some 15 kilometres away at Butale Village near Bukoto Shopping Centre for fattening. Some of the female pigs that are no longer productive at the breeding centre are slaughtered.
“What we actually do is to slaughter the pigs here and sell the meat to the butchers,” Matovu explained. “It would be difficult for an ordinary butcher owner to buy an entire pig and carry it on a motorcycle owing to their big size and weight. Most of the butchers that come to us to purchase pork prefer to buy pieces of around 80 kilograms which they can carry on motorcycles.”
The pigs are fed on a mixture of formulated feeds bought from farmers’ shops in Masaka Town and maize brand. Soon the pigs will be fed on sweet potato leaves since the two partnering farmers have started a huge sweet potato growing project at Butale Village near Bukoto Shopping Centre.
Matovu has informed his employers about the high nutritive value of sweet potato vines. If a pig limps or has a wound Matovu who is also a vet, has an explanation.
He knows why some pigs are short and why others are not and he explains the advantages and disadvantages. He seems to remember the birth dates of all the 156 pigs that were at the farm when Seeds of Gold visited.
Masembe too appears to fully understand the pigs’ behaviour and easily drives them around in their cages from one place to another in order to put a few things right.
At Butale Village the two partners, Masembe and Kimbugwe have set up a number of projects that include a Robusta coffee plantation (about 10 acres), a banana plantation (about six acres), sweet potato field (about eight acres) a pig fattening centre, a Robusta coffee nursery and a fish pond.
The farmers have a dream that since there is increased effort nowadays to lure more farmers into coffee production there will be greater demand for cloned coffee seedlings which they will soon begin producing.
The sweet potato field is a source of direct income since potatoes are sold to traders but their leaves and other residues are nutritious feed for pigs. The fish pond is still in the making but once its construction is complete the farmers want to stock it with tilapia .and lung fish.