What you need to know:
- For the farmers, 2021 was a roller-coaster year. The sector weathered several ups and downs throughout the year including poor rains and accumulated interest in agriculture loans.
- Stephen Lwabukadde, a crop farmer experienced the issues firsthand.
When things don’t work out in a given planting season and the crops wither and die perhaps due to a long drought, this should not be sufficient reason for a farmer to lose hope and give up. It could be another disaster like a flood or a pest invasion and disease outbreak.
There are many factors beyond the control of farmers which makes the farming business quite risky. And it is difficult to think of any business that has no risks. Anybody who read the story of Mr Stephen Lwabukadde, a resident of Kitabyama Village, Lwengo Sub-county, Lwengo District, in the Saturday Monitor dated June 19, 2020 must have been touched by the heavy losses he made when a devastating drought hit his maize and bean crops. He had a microfinance institution loan to pay but he had no crops to sell. He had to struggle through thin and thick to offset the loan.
“But I did not give up. I had to continue growing beans and maize as I had always done,” he told Seeds of Gold.
He somehow managed to pay the loan and he quickly readied himself for the planting season during the recent rains. Fortunately, this time there was sufficient rain and today Lwabukadde is a happy man.
He advises fellow farmers to save some money for a rainy day and he says it was on such savings that he relied upon to buy seeds and fertilisers for growing the beans that he harvested in December and the maize that he will be harvesting this January.
Lwabukadde carries out farming on about six and half acres of land that belongs to his friend Joseph Kizito, who lives in Kampala.
“He has allowed me to grow the crops on his land and I am willing to let him take it as soon as he asks me to hand it over,” Lwabukadde says showing new coffee plants in the garden.
After the big loss that he suffered last June when he harvested no crops due to the long drought, he undertook to use the little savings that he had and engaged some labourers who carried out the planting. He managed to purchase some DAP, an artificial fertiliser used by many maize farmers by applying a soda bottle cover of the fertiliser and mixing it with the soil in the hole before planting the maize seed. He was also able to purchase some selective herbicides to kill the weeds. Very fortunately for him the rain fell in fairly good amounts and the beans and maize grew vigorously.
When Seeds of Gold paid him a visit about a week ago the 40-year-old farmer was almost half way through harvesting his beans which are locally referred to as Naads. He said he was expecting to harvest some 700 kilos from each acre.
Since he grows the crop on some six and half acres he expects to get at least 4,550 kilos of beans. Before the Covid-19 eruption he was one of the farmers that often sold beans at the Uganda-Tanzania border in Mutukula where they were bought at very good prices.
“However, even if these days such adventures may be out of the way, we have schools that will be opening soon and the students will need to feed. So I will still expect buyers coming all the way up to my home here,” he says.
He says that the current price for Naads beans is Shs1,800 per kilo and he was expecting about Shs9m. “Now if I get that money it should be more than I need to settle all my unpaid bills such as the wages of the men and women that have participated in harvesting and sorting of the beans. There are of course some debts at the farmers’ shop where I purchased some inputs.
About Shs4m may be used up to meet those costs,” he anticipates.
Lwabukadde still has something from which he still expects to get some money this harvest season, the maize which was also grown in the same field as the beans.
“I have always intercropped maize with beans. And now any money that will come from the sale of maize will be my net profit,” he said.
If he gets 3000kg per acre as he expects, he could harvest at least 18,000kg of maize.
“The trouble now is that the maize prices keep changing,” he says.
As he awaits his maize harvest this month (January) he expects the price to be at between Shs500-900. Even if he sells at Shs500 per kilo he could earn well about Shs9m all which, as he has disclosed himself, will be profit anyway.
Some of the achievements he has got include some pieces of land (bibanja) on which he grows bananas. To keep the banana gardens’ soil well-nourished he mulches with beans and maize leftovers.
“I am so grateful to Joseph Kizito who has allowed me to do my own farming activities on his land. I have therefore been able not only to keep my children in school but I have also bought my own land as a result,” Lwabukadde says.
To show his gratitude to Kizito he recently began planting cloned Robusta coffee in the six-and-half-acre piece of land. He is determined to even irrigate the young plantlets should the rains fail. “He bought the plantlets. Giving them the best care till they are fully grown up is the best way I can thank him.”
Beans are light feeders. They don’t require much fertiliser. Beans manufacture their own nitrogen directly from soil and, therefore, usually don’t need more nitrogen than the amount they produce during the growing season.
The soil may be lacking in other nutrients, however, and the only way to assess it is by performing a soil test. It is easy to give them just about all the nutrients they will need by mixing a light dose of fertiliser into the top two to three inches of soil on planting day or the day before.