He quit teaching  to concentrate  on farming

Bwankya admires one of the best performing coffee trees in his garden. Photo/George Katongole

What you need to know:

  • Mr John Bosco Ntanda Bwankya enjoys the benefits of being a mixed farmer. Mixed farming is defined as the practice of carrying out different farming activities on the same land. A mixed farm acts as its own insurance.

Mr John Bosco Ntanda Bwankya, now a prominent farmer and local politician living at Nabwiki Village, Kesekka Sub-county, Lwengo District has something good to say about the few years that he spent as a teacher at St James Secondary School Kalugulu. 
“Whatever little I earned I invested it in some farming activity,” he told Seeds of Gold recently.

 “Whenever I got my salary, I would take off some money, like perhaps Shs150,000 and buy some piglets to keep. Later I would sell the mature pigs at good profits and I would further invest the money in even more paying farming activities.” 
Up to this day, years after quitting teaching, Bwankya continues to save money and to invest it in farming. That is his trick.

How he started  
His late father left him a fairly large piece of land, measuring some five or six acres on which he started planting maize and Robusta coffee. He says it was easy for him to wait before harvesting coffee because maize which he intercropped with coffee is normally harvested in about four months. “When the rain fell in sufficient amounts I enjoyed good maize harvests. This enabled me to get some income as I waited for the coffee harvesting season.”  Today, aged 44, Bwankya has been purchasing more and more land and has continued to grow maize and coffee. “I have so far planted about 5,000 coffee trees to my recollection,” he says. 

Bwankya grows maize alongside coffee.

Buys more land 
The additional land that he has been buying in recent years is in the form of different pieces and located as far as Kalububbu Village which is some three kilometers away from Nabwiki, his village of residence. Given the known common coffee spacing model of 10 by 10 feet for Robusta coffee, it is easy to estimate that he now owns a total of about 10 acres of land.
“Land is so expensive nowadays,” he says. 

“But if I have the money it does not matter to me even if the seller asks for more money than the actual value of the land because I know that I am going to use it to produce more money. Moreover land always appreciates value; a piece you buy today at Shs5m it will be worth a lot more in just a few years.”
He owes some of his success to his wife whom he says is so hardworking and very understanding. 

He says the two normally plan their activities together. 
“I had to quit teaching to join her in the supervision of our farming activities. If you are away teaching at school it means you have to employ someone to do the work that you would have done even better.” 
He points to some young coffee trees that have been damaged by someone blindly spraying herbicide over them. Now he prefers doing the job himself or being close nearby when a paid labourer is spraying the herbicide.

Good harvests 
Most of the coffee that he planted when he went into active farming some years ago is now yielding good harvests. 
“My aim is to harvest a minimum of nine metric tonnes of dry coffee annually,” he disclosed. 

Since he is also a maize farmer he already harvests close to that volume when it is remembered that maize is grown twice in a year because of the two annual rain seasons. The couple, who have six children, also plant bananas in all their coffee gardens. “This is our food,” he says. “But time and again we sell some heavy bunches of bananas.” They always find some space in the coffee gardens for planting other food crops such as sweet potatoes, beans, and vegetables.

Bwankya grows bananas in his coffee gardens. 

Fruits of mixed farming 
He enjoys the benefits of being a mixed farmer. Mixed farming is defined as the practice of carrying out different farming activities on the same land. 
A mixed farm acts as its own insurance. When the crops fail because of a catastrophe like disease or a rainstorm the farmer may be indemnified by the money obtained from selling livestock products. 

Usually the farmer uses livestock manure to fertilise the soil in the garden to boost crop production. Then crop residues such as maize stalks, coffee husks and bean leftovers may be fed to livestock or just used as mulch in the garden. Bwankya keeps two cows and some pigs. When maize is harvested, the maize stalks are used as mulch in all his gardens. Some of them are consumed as fodder by his cows and pigs. Mulching is one of the effective ways of controlling soil erosion and weed growth. The organic material such as maize stalks and bean residues turn into manure when they decompose. Bwankya went on to disclose that he sells FAQ coffee and retains all the coffee husks for use as manure in his gardens. He also applies cow and pig manure on his crops. This could be one of the reasons why Bwankya’s crops grow with much vigour.  Oftentimes people doing mixed farming hit two birds with one stone. Both crops and livestock often give good yields and profits.

At one of his gardens there is a sharp contrast between the maize in his garden which is so green and strong and the maize in the neighbouring garden which was stunted and yellowish green. “My neighbour has actually asked me why the maize in my garden is greener than that in his garden. And I have told him that when I was planting I applied about a tea spoonful of a fertiliser called DAP in every hole before dropping the seeds.” 
He uses both organic and synthetic fertilisers.

He however does not really feel the burden of paying for the synthetic fertilisers and the pesticides that he uses in his gardens. 
A few years ago he opened a farmers’ shop in the village’s local shopping centre some 10 minutes’ walk from his residence where he sells fertilisers, pesticides, herbicides, and other inputs to fellow farmers. He and his wife manage the shop. So, if he uses any inputs from his own shop, the costs are subsidised by the profit he gets from selling the items to the other farmers in the area. 

“It is one of the many investments that I have made using my savings,” he explains. “I realised that nearly all farmers in this area use pesticides and herbicides especially during the rainy season. They also use a lot of fertilisers and I imagined that a farmers’ shop providing all those items would make sense to me. That is why the shop came to exist.”
To further reduce expenditure on his farm’s inputs, Bwankya has acquired the skill of cloning his own coffee seedlings. 

“I have been observing the coffee trees on my farm and I have noticed some very high yielding varieties which are also resilient and not easily destroyed by pests and it is from these that I pick twigs for cloning,” he explained. He also keeps uprooting and replacing the trees that are not high yielding.

One of his side hustles and major sources of income is to preside over traditional functions like wedding parties and kwanjula as master of ceremonies (omwogezi w’emikolo). He is a cheerful and entertaining speaker, which has perhaps oiled his constant re-election as district councilor.