His big family is an asset on the farm

Ouma with his wives working in a sunflower field. PHOTO BY MICHAEL J. SSALI

What you need to know:

Many would think two wives and 17 children are burden but for this Dokolo farmer, there is no greater blessing. Michael J. Ssali talked to him

I am Richard Ouma, a farmer and resident of Oyengopere Village, Kwera Sub-county, in Dokolo District. I have been a farmer since I left school long ago after P7 at the age of about 15 years.
In those days I would work in the field with my parents but when I became older and fit to marry, I was allocated 20 acres of land by my father. On that land I have established a home as a married man with two wives and I grow a variety of crops with the members of my family.

We grow maize, beans, millet, and cassava for food, and sunflower for cash.Farming is quite a well-paying occupation for us these days unlike in the past when we just grew crops unaware where we could sell them.
The Kony insurgency in the nineties in our region made matters much worse because we hardly grew enough food for ourselves.
As peace returned, we grew crops such as maize and cassava which we sold to traders from Kampala and Mbale.
The income from the crops was, however, discouragingly low even when we had good harvests due to the meagre prices at which we sold them.

A good idea
About seven years ago, a fellow farmer, Walter Ogong Opio, approached me with an idea. He told me about sunflower which he said was very much needed for the manufacture of cooking oil and other products.
He said the crop was fast growing and is weeded only once before harvest, which happens after about three months.
That if I chose to grow the crop, I would be given seed on credit and that the buyers normally entered into an informal contract with the farmer regarding the buying price and post-harvest handling of the crop among other conditions.
There were also farmers meetings during which we were taught about the best production practices.
I had the land and the required labour at home. My two wives are very hard working and our children were all available to do the work.

One of my wives has eight children and the other has nine children. For us, there is no money spent on labour because we do all the work. In my opinion, a farmer should have many wives and children to do the work on the farm.
So we committed 15 acres to the crop and we earned over Shs8m in the first rainy season. Yet we were to plant sunflower again in the next season of the same year, which made us realise that sunflower growing was very profitable.

Investing the proceeds
The crop’s production is rendered more difficult in the first rainy season because there are pests such as millipedes and birds for the farmer to fight.
However in the next rainy season they are not there and so farmers tend to earn more from crop. In the second season, we earned more than Shs12m.

We later elected Walter as the site coordinator for sunflower farmers in our parish. He is responsible for purchasing the sunflower grown by 480 farmers and taking it to Bata Village Bulk Buying Centre in Dokolo and organising our payment.
I have often been told to keep the money in the bank but I prefer to invest it in buying cows and to sell the cows whenever there is need for cash.
The cows provide the family with milk to drink. I have also bought more land including a plot of land in Kaberamaido Town, where I intend to build a commercial building.

Achievement
One big achievement I have got out of sunflower growing is putting up a permanent house in which I live with my family.
Another achievement from sunflower growing is that I have been able to take all my children to school and to meet all their school needs such as books and uniform.
My first born son, Simon Epachu, has finished his degree course at Kampala International University. He has a Bachelor’s Degree in Procurement and Logistics.

The other son is undergoing training in motor vehicle mechanics at Kaberamaido Technical Institute.
I have four children in secondary school, six in primary school and two in nursery school. The others are still too young for school but I am determined to give them the best education.

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