It is almost standard practice these days for young people to migrate to large towns in search of well-paying jobs, leaving great employment opportunities behind right in their home villages.
Many others, upon completion of their education in towns, choose to hang around there in the hope of landing successful careers.
It is a common belief that anybody with good formal education should not live far away in rural areas, even for those holding high qualifications in agriculture.
However, Pascal Migadde, 30, holds a totally different opinion. He believes it is far more rewarding for him to be a farmer in his home village of Manja, Kisekka Sub-county, Lwengo District.
After completing A-Level in Kampala in 2011, he hang around looking for profitable employment and doing odd jobs until he remembered that he had inherited some land from his late father on which he could carry out crop production.
“I returned home determined to work hard and to earn a living by farming,” he told Seeds of Gold.
“Today I earn a lot more money than I earned when I lived in Kampala and I am not planning to go back looking for employment. The only economic activity I hope to do in Kampala a few years from now will be construction of my own rental houses using the money I am currently making here as a farmer.”
His farming journey
It has been a long and exciting journey for him. “Upon my return I chose to wake up very early in the morning and begin with work on my own piece of land, before going off to work as a labourer on other farmers’ land in the same village just for me to earn a bit of money to buy necessities such as soap and clothes,” Migadde says.
Working on other people’s farms was an opportunity for him. “I learnt good farming practices which I applied on my own small farm. I began with growing tomatoes, maize and beans on two acres but I soon realised that the crops’ prices were unstable and unpredictable. I then got the idea to plant Robusta coffee which has a more stable market,” he says.
With the introduction of Robusta coffee in his garden, he found himself spending more time there than he spent on other people’s farms.
“I would sell maize, tomatoes and beans, as I waited for some years to begin harvesting coffee. To my surprise, after I planted cloned Robusta coffee, which grows very fast, within about two years I began harvesting coffee. The advantage of growing coffee is that it is a seasonal crop that is sold in large quantities when the harvest is good and the farmer has the opportunity to get a large sum of money in a single payment, which may be saved or invested in other ventures.”
Over the years, Migadde has managed to buy more land and today he owns five-and-half acres.
He has also planted more coffee and embarked on other farming enterprises. He has about an acre of passion fruit, and about an acre devoted to banana production.
He is also into poultry keeping with about 400 layers and he keeps pigs as well.
Last year, he sold coffee worth more than Shs70m. He harvests and sells banana bunches every fortnight and he collects about 12 trays of eggs every day.
When Seeds of Gold visited him, his employees were harvesting passion fruit and he had some gunny bags of the fruits in the store ready for sale.
This year he has embarked on construction of a larger residential house for his young family of four.
“I find it a lot easier and more rewarding to be a farmer right here in my home village,” Migadde said. “Here, I live in my own house and I never worry about paying rent or buying food as I used to when I lived in Kampala. Yet I get an average daily income of at least Shs30,000 from selling eggs, passion fruits, and bananas as I wait for the Robusta coffee harvesting season,” the youthful farmer says.
Some of his challenges include the coffee twig borer pest which he must fight constantly using expensive pesticides.
He also complains of fake agro-inputs sold by some fraudulent dealers. Often he has to make night visits to his gardens to scare away thieves. He is keen on weeding and pruning so as to achieve high yields.
He also believes in planting improved seeds and regular application of manure. He mainly uses chicken droppings to enrich the soil in his gardens.
He is spearheading a campaign among his fellow youthful coffee farmers to practice hygienic coffee post-harvest practises – such as picking only red ripe coffee cherries and drying the coffee on clean mats or tarpaulin.
Last February, he was selected by National Union of Coffee Agri-business and Farmers Enterprises (NUCAFE) which is a coffee farmers’ organisation to represent Uganda in a global coffee conference that took place in Kigali, Rwanda.
“My advice to fellow youthful farmers who want to go into coffee production is that they can begin with planting the crop right away and intercrop it with crops such as beans, cabbages, tomatoes, or even maize during the first two years. Since the crops are generally harvested and sold within three or four months the young farmer can get some income as he waits for coffee which takes a bit longer to bring in money,” he says.
He takes pride in doing hard work and in carrying out good supervision.
Every day he makes sure he inspects his gardens and livestock enclosures. “I must walk all over and look everywhere to find out what is not going right,” he told Seeds of Gold.
“These days I spend all my energy on my personal enterprises and I no longer go to work elsewhere as I used to do before. I take pleasure in doing hard work personally although I sometimes have to employ some people to do a bit of the work.”