It is important to be determined in life and never to give up if one needs to achieve his or her vision.
This is what happened to Mr Charles Byarugaba, a progressive Irish potato farmer from Kabale District, having started his farming initiative from scratch.
Seeds of Gold caught up with Byarugaba and when he begins narrating his story, one sees a determined man whom other upcoming farmers must emulate in order to progress.
Byarugaba, a resident of Nyabyumba Village in Kabale District, dropped out of School in 1972 in Primary Four due to lack of school fees.
In 1990, he started his career as a young man by going to settle in Masaka, where he was working as a casual labourer fetching water from wells and supplying in people’s homes to earn a living.
As a young man, he was already married with two children and had to look for a way to fend for his family.
This led him to migrate to purchase a manual camera and he became a cameraman taking pictures at several functions and selling the photos to earn a living.
Journey to farming
To achieve his childhood dream of becoming a successful farmer, Byarugaba returned to his village in 1996.
He started by growing crops such as sorghum, maize, Irish potato and climbing beans for home use.
In 1997, a non-governmental organisation, Africare, engaged its experts to go and sensitise farmers in various villages in Kabale about application of best agronomy practices in various crops.
It is then that the team identified Byarugaba as a hard working farmer and they began engaging him in their activities.
“Since most farmers in Kigezi Sub-region were engaged in Irish potato farming as their income earning initiative, Africare zeroed on sensitising us about best ways of growing the crop in order to acquire quality products,” he says.
Byarugaba was trained as a farmer facilitator, where he acquired skills in training his fellow farmers on how to adopt best practices in Irish potato farming.
This meant he would be facilitated financially by organisations carrying out activities with Irish potato farmers in Kigezi region.
He later joined Uganda National Seed Potato Producers Association (UNSPA) comprising of organised farmers who deal in Irish potato seed production.
They work in collaboration with scientists at from Kachwekano Zonal Agricultural Research and Development Institute (KaZARDI) and other organisation that come to the community to help farmers improve the seed system for improved yields.
Byarugaba was trained as a small-scale Irish potato seed bulking farmer in 2000 by the scientists at KaZARDI and since then, he has bred hundreds of seeds of the Kinigi and Rwangume varieties.
“When I got the opportunity to train as a potato breeder, I did not even think twice. I seized the chance to learn best agronomic practices, new technologies and the selection of seeds and storage,” Byarugaba says.
The scientists trained him in quality seed production which was his turning point and he has invested heavily in this area which is fetching him good money.
After training, Byarugaba invested Shs30m into the business, money that went into buying seeds from KaZARDI, with each going for Shs180,000.
The rest of the money went to transportation and setting up his first screen house. Byarugaba explains that to produce the seeds, he uses a tractor to plough the land, and then digs furrows for planting.
During the planting, he mixes the soil with organic fertiliser which prevents the soil from hardening. He then selects quality seeds that are free of diseases for planting.
Then using a sprayer, the farmer applies pesticides along the furrows to prevent pests from attacking the seeds in the ground. For the prevention of potato blight that attacks the leaves, he applies ridomil gold.
As soon as the potato plant sprouts, he weeds for the first time to break the soil.
The seeds mature in two months. But two weeks before maturity, it is advisable that the stems are uprooted to harden the potatoes before harvesting.
“After uprooting, I put the seeds in buckets and sort them based on quality before storing in trays,” says Byarugaba.
The seeds are further sprayed with acetic acid super powder to prevent pests from invading them for quality assurance purposes.
He sells the seeds to farmers in district at Shs180,000 per 80 kilogramme bag. He says there is high demand for seeds among farmers but supply from breeders is inadequate, therefore, a huge opportunity exists in the business.
Last year, he established a second screen house, which has now doubled his seed production rate. In total he invested Shs60m to set up his screen house with the help of a donation from Africare. It comprises other components such as water reservoir, which he uses for irrigation.
Byarugaba has now registered his farm as a company dubbed Nyabyumba Farmers Innovative Resource Center Ltd. He is the proprietor of the company and his 10 children are shareholders.
He usually distributes the seed produced from the screen house to his children who carry out the multiplication. It is then sold as bulk and the proceeds are divided among the distributors at an appropriate time. He is able to breed Irish potato from the two screen houses and produce 16 bags of seed, which he is uses for multiplication.
From these bags, he is able to harvest between 200 and 400 bags per season.
Irish seedling production takes four months to attainment of seed and this means the seed production is done twice a year.
In a year Byarugaba is capable of producing between 900 and 1,000 bags of seed and each bag is sold at Shs180,000.
Irish potato seed producers sell one kilogrammes developed from the screen house at Shs150,000. Byarugaba says this is rather too expensive for farmers to afford and so he goes ahead to multiply them so that farmers are able to afford.
Seed development process
Mr Byarugaba is now being helped with the scientific breeding process by his son Bright Mbabazi whom he educated and graduated with Bachelor’s degree in Agriculture at Makerere University.
Mbabazi is now the manager of the screen house and together with other workers they are able
to obtain Irish potato seedlings from KaZARDI which is planted in ,containers filled with saw dust as its growing media.
After one month they are transferred to another section of the screen house and once they have grown for two months, they are planted in plates where sand is used as the growing media.
These will take four months to mature and get ready for harvesting.
This is replanted and the seed obtained from the second generation with small size tubers are the ones used for commercial seed multiplication.
The varieties favoured by farmers are Kinigi and Rwangume varieties. Byarugaba has now branded them as Charles K Byarugaba clean and quality potato seed production (CK & B) potato seed.
There are other hybrid varieties which farmers can access from KaZARDI, namely Naropot 1 – 4 which are known as Victoria varieties and Kachpot 1 and 2 with yield capacity of 7-8 tonnes per hectare.