For Mr Bull Katale, former chairman of UTODA PUT SAFE, life would have been quite different if he had not taken President Museveni’s advice to invest in farming. UTODA PUT SAFE which he headed from 1989 to 1999 was a taxi owners, drivers, and operators’ organisation in Masaka sub-region.
During a recent conversation with Seeds of Gold Katale said a delegation of UTODA PUT SAFE paid a visit to President Museveni at his Kisozi Farm. “We told him about our financial challenges as individuals and as a group,” he narrated.
“He listened patiently and in response he told us to stop depending only on our taxi business for income. He further advised each one of us to save money and buy land to begin farming. He also told us that it was easier for him to help us as farmers than as taxi operators, drivers or owners. That is when I started taking farming seriously and began the process of buying the 39 acres of land where I have established this farm.”
The farm is located at Kagona Village, Mukungwe Sub-county, and Masaka District.
Benefits of farming
Among the achievements he has made since he went into farming are a number of commercial buildings that he has built at Kagona onMasaka-Bukakkata Road.
He has also began the process of putting up a gas station. He told Seeds of Gold, that he is also working on establishing a recreation hall and gardens in the same place which he calls Bukoto East New Life Meeting Point with a view to tap into the entertainment industry by hosting music and drama events in the future.
On the signpost hanging outside the place are the pictures of a mini-bus taxi, a cow, and banana trees which, according to him, symbolise the place’s financial history.
“It means that I was a taxi driver in the beginning, before going into farming, looking after cows, and growing crops such as banana.” He owns a Toyota Prado SUV, a Sahara pick-up truck, and he also owns two taxi vehicles driven by salaried drivers that must deposit some money on his bank account every day.
He said after buying land President Museveni gifted him with two Friesian cows both of which unfortunately died due to some mistakes made by one of his employees.
However, he went ahead to purchase more cows. Like many traditional cattle keepers he will not tell how many cows he has but according to a quick estimate by Seeds of Gold, there are about 12.
He has a variety of enterprises on the farm which include cloned South Africa eucalyptus trees, cloned Robusta coffee, vegetables, fruits such as mangoes, pawpaw, avocado, jackfruit, passion fruit, maize, beans, sweet potatoes, and cassava, among other crops. He keeps poultry too.
Hopeful for the future
“I sell most of my crops to market vendors in Masaka and oftentimes, when I drive to town, I carry some crops on the pick-up truck to the markets. He has a good reason for allocating some three or four acres to cloned South African eucalyptus trees.” “It is important for a man to have a project that gives him hope for a huge sum of money, especially during old age,” he says.
“These trees will be tall and thick some years from now and they will be worth hundreds of millions of shillings at the time when I will perhaps be too old to work. The forest gives me hope for a comfortable and peaceful retirement.”
He mainly uses organic manure to grow crops on his farm. “One of the advantages of keeping cattle is to have ready manure right on the farm for application on the crops,” he tells Seeds of Gold.
“And when I sell my coffee I make sure I get back the coffee husks after hulling. The husks are put first in the poultry house for some months where they get mixed with chicken droppings before being used in the crop fields.” This explains why all the crops on his farm have vigour and a green colour.
Planning farmer cooperative
Many of his former colleagues in the defunct UTODA PUT SAFE turned into farmers and he plans to mobilise them to form a cooperative society. “We will then market our farmed products together and even attract government funding because when we went to Kisozi, President Museveni said he wanted us to go into farming and that he would find us there to provide financial support to us.”
Mr Katale has already benefitted from the World Bank funded Agriculture Cluster Development Project (ACDP) which has provided him with synthetic fertilisers and tarpaulin at subsidised prices for use in his Robusta coffee growing enterprise. He however faces a big challenge controlling the coffee twig borer pests on his farm.
“The government must come to our aid and find a solution to this problem,” he says as he points to a coffee tree whose twigs have been destroyed by the twig borer.
On the other hand he encourages other farmers to prioritize Robusta coffee growing because apart from being a cash crop it is also a good source of firewood. “Time and again the farmer has to carry out pruning which includes cutting down some coffee branches that may be used as firewood,” he explains. “When more people turn to coffee growing there will be less need for them to go looking for firewood in the natural forests and that way we can preserve the environment better.”
Spreading the word
It is tough physical exercise walking all over Mr Katale’s farm which is subdivided into small gardens planted with different crops.
However for him, it is a daily routine which is understandable because he employs a number of people who must be supervised. On some of the plots he carries out intercropping and it is quite common to see such crops as cassava growing together with maize or coffee, or tomatoes.
Asked why he has chosen to have so many different enterprises on the farm he replied, “I need money every day and I should have something to sell nearly every day, ranging from avocado, vegetables like eggplant and nakati, sweet potato, or even milk.” He sells each of the broiler cocks from his farm at Shs50,000. He laughs at people who say they cannot grow coffee because it takes long to pay. “Plant the coffee and as you wait for it to mature, grow crops such as beans, or groundnuts between the rows and keep earning money,” he advises.
He is proud to have been given special recognition by the Kabaka and being appointed Deputy Pokino (traditional chief of Masaka). “I take pride in that position and honour and it is the real reason I bought that large Prado for me to move about in the region spreading the Kabaka’s message of encouragement to his people to do more farming in order to be food secure and to fight poverty by growing cash crops like coffee.”
However, mixed farming method comes with its own challenges. “When starting, you should be ready to spend heavily on livestock and crop experts as you learn so that later, you can stop relying on them for some things,” says Katale. However, to be a successful mixed farmer, do not start by growing many crops or keeping several kinds of animals.
“If you do this you risk failure. Start with one project and introduce others as you gain confidence,” he says. More income for Katale comes from trainings that he offers farmers and agriculture students. He charges Shs20,000 per farmer and Shs30,000 for a class of students.
David Mubiru, an agronomist at Naro, says mixed farming is the way to go if farmers are to make more money and fight new challenges such as climate change.
“The organic manure like slurry helps improve soil fertility. With biogas production, we reduce the cutting of trees as a source of fuel,” says Mubiru, noting that the method of farming is capital intensive as one deals with various challenges that include diseases at ago. This, however, can be mitigated through training so that one does not rely on hiring crop and animal experts all the time.
A farmer requires at least two acres to practice intensive mixed farming. However, it all depends on what he wants to keep or grow, he adds.