What you need to know:
Christopher Kataama is a prominent farmer working on some 18 acres of land at Bulando Village in Masaka City. He has an imposing storeyed poultry house, a flourishing pig section, a Robusta coffee plantation, a vanilla garden, a banana plantation, and fields of beans and vegetables.
When he left Makerere University in 2001, armed with a bachelor’s degree in Urban Planning, Christopher Kataama thought he could easily get a well-paying job in Kampala and live the happy life of the city that he had dreamed about in his school days.
“I walked the streets and knocked at so many office doors expecting to find employment, but after trying hard for several months and failing to get a job, my elder brother Aggrey Kataama, a prosperous poultry farmer in Masaka tried to set me up in business and he put me in charge of an electrical appliances shop in Kiyembe, one of the busiest parts of Kampala,” Kataama narrated to Seeds of Gold.
“Still things didn’t work out well for me because crooks within the city tricked me and defrauded me of nearly everything. Almost three years after leaving university, I gave up life in Kampala and with just Shs90,000 in the pocket I went to live with Aggrey at his poultry farm. He welcomed me and appointed me to work as supervisor. He did not pay me a regular salary and, I had not also asked for it,” says Kataama.
According to him, the freedom to carry out any farming activity of his own catapulted him into a farmer. Kataama says he chose to do pig rearing.
For Kataama, the piggery enterprise turned out to be quite successful because within a year or so he had so many pigs. “My brother too developed an interest in pig keeping and today he owns hundreds of pigs. As supervisor at his farm I acquired so many farming skills which forced me some years later to buy this land where I have also established my own farm,” says Kataama.
Today, Kataama is a prominent farmer working on some 18 acres of land at Bulando Village in Masaka City. He has an imposing storeyed poultry house, a flourishing pig section, a Robusta coffee plantation, a vanilla garden, a banana plantation, and fields of beans and vegetables.
“When I told my brother that I was set to leave him to start my own farm he was rather reluctant to let me go but he eventually agreed and even donated to me some 1,000 chicks as capital for me to start a poultry farming business and he has since then been supportive with advice,” he recalls.
Kataama has been running his own farm since 2013. Before the arrival of Covid-19 he had more than 3,000 hens (layers) but owing to the subsequent pandemic lockdowns he has reduced the number to just about 1,500. However he has lots of pigs. Like many African herders he is hesitant to disclose how many pigs he has but a quick walk through the pigsty easily reveals that they could be hundreds.
The droppings from both the poultry house and the pigsty form most of the organic manure that he applies in his crop fields. When Seeds of Gold visited, Kataama was busy working in his field of climbing beans, locally referred to as “nabadama” down in the valley.
The beans were bred to be ready for harvesting within three months after planting. They were all green, vigorous, and heavily laden with pods.
The entire field of beans and vegetables measures perhaps six acres and he is careful to plant the crops in phases, one plot after another.
“The idea is that when the beans in one plot are ready for harvesting this month, there are other plots that will be ready for harvesting in the subsequent periods so that I harvest and sell a number of times in a year. If things go well, the harvest in one acre may be as high as 20 gunny bags of fresh beans with each at between Shs150, 000 and Shs250, 000,” he says.
The buyers, most of them traders, find him at his farm. Because of his field’s location close to the swamp the ground has sufficient moisture to sustain good growth nearly all year round. The swamp is also the source of water that he pumps to huge tanks that supply water to the pigs and poultry house up the hill.
He puts about a basin of livestock manure at the foot of all the climbing beans that are supported on small poles and measuring about six feet high. He must spray the beans regularly with fungicides to keep pests away.
However he does not use herbicides to kill weeds. “I am aware of the selective herbicides that I could use against the weeds but I need the weeds for fodder for the pigs and for natural sustenance of soil fertility,” he explained to Seeds of Gold.
He employs between four and eight people to physically weed the fields and to work on the other farm projects. If the weeds are not taken to the pigsty to feed the pigs they are placed in heaps here and there in the beans and vegetable fields where they rot in due course and turn into manure. Kataama also grows green pepper. About five acres of his land are devoted to Robusta coffee growing. He has a plan to uproot all the eucalyptus trees on his three acres of land and use the space for growing coffee. He has been careful to plant cloned coffee that has been proven to be resistant to the dreaded coffee wilt disease. The coffee is intercropped with bananas.
He said he planted most of the coffee about three years ago and this year he had his maiden harvest of about seven bags of dry coffee bags.
“I am a little dissatisfied with the spacing of ten by ten feet between the trees and I am yet to plant more coffee trees in the rows in an effort to get closer to the more productive Brazil model of spacing that we have been told about.” He also does not yet use herbicides to control weeds in the coffee plantation for exactly the same reasons he does not use them in the beans and green pepper fields.
Asked if he still has any hopes of returning to Kampala in case a well-paying and comfortable office job surfaces, he replied, “That would be extremely difficult for me to do because then I would have to wait for a monthly salary yet here I don’t have to do that. I have the food, my own accommodation, and money because I sell farm products much of the time --- if it’s not a pig, a bunch of bananas, vegetables or beans, and maybe coffee, I can sell some eggs. I think I am happier doing farming than taking up any other job.”
Christopher Kataama has been running his own farm since 2013. Before the arrival of Covid-19 he had more than 3,000 hens (layers) but owing to the subsequent pandemic lockdowns he has reduced the number to just about 1,500. However he has lots of pigs. Like many African herders he is hesitant to disclose how many pigs he has but a quick walk through the pigsty easily reveals that they could be hundreds.