What you need to know:
- Benjamin Ssentogo Banadda was encouraged by the big turn up of customers to buy the eggs from his poultry which led him to bigger ideas
Benjamin Ssentogo Banadda, proprietor of Banadda Smart Farm located at Gangu along Busaabala Road in Kampala, has never forgotten his teaching stint at Wanyange Girls Secondary School where he taught History and Luganda.
Besides teaching he worked at a local radio station, Victoria FM, as a side hustle, and one of his duties every morning was to do a press review.
“I had to alert our listeners about the events making headlines in the local newspapers,” he narrated.
“This was around 2010 but my attention was quickly drawn to the weekly farming articles in the Monitor which were mainly about successful farmers. I made it a habit to keep the hard copy pages of the farming articles until I had a whole book of my own consisting of only Daily Monitor farming articles.”
Visiting model farms
He said that the stories inspired him to visit some commercial farmers near Jinja City and he remembers going to a poultry farm, the Hill Top Farm, which gave him a lot of inspiration to become a farmer himself.
“There were a number of chicken houses on the farm but to my surprise one of them was grass thatched and the farmer, one Tumwesigye, said the chickens in there were the best layers. This made it clear to me that to do poultry one may even begin with simple, low cost, structures like that one,” says Banadda.
He discussed the idea of quitting teaching to become a farmer with his wife, Rita Nakitto, who was by then teaching History and CRE at one of the St Lawrence secondary schools.
The two love birds agreed to turn into farmers on a plot of land, measuring 100ft by 50ft, that they had bought at Gangu along Busaabala Road in Kampala.
“Apart from the Daily Monitor articles, my late grandmother, Maria Ntonia Nakyanja, with whom I lived as a child, had demonstrated to me that it was really possible to live in comfort and to earn money from farming. I had picked up some of her farming skills,” says Banadda.
They did not back then have sufficient funds to start big but they were determined to succeed. They began with some two hundred layers. They were encouraged by the big turn up of customers to buy the eggs which led them to bigger ideas.
“We noticed that most of the customers were urban dwellers who could not keep hens. We also realized they needed other items such as tomatoes, onions, green pepper, nakati, eggplant, sukuma wiki spinach, cabbages, chilies, and other vegetables.”
They had to think more about planning their piece of land with the view to allocate more space to commercial agricultural use.
They had to make some trips to other farmers doing urban farming like Dr Grace Nambatya and Francis Lubandi to learn more about how to carry out commercial agriculture on a small piece of land.
They came to discover that with chicken manure right in their possession they could produce almost any crop without depleting the soil. So they began growing the vegetables. When a customer came to buy eggs he or she also wanted to take home some tomatoes and some other vegetables.
Yet there were many others who wanted to grow their own tomatoes and vegetables for domestic consumption.
“That is why we went into vegetable seedling production. We now provide potted seedlings to interested customers and the demand is quite encouraging. ”
Now and again the couple holds urban farming training sessions for people living in towns and would want tips on crop and livestock production in small spaces.
But how has it really been possible for people like Rita and Banadda to hit a better income than that formerly earned from teaching by farming in such a small space?
They now live in their own fairly well constructed house, their six children are attending good, high cost, schools, they have a pick-up for easier transport, and they are food secure.
One of their children attends Dr Naluyima’s MST Junior School where fees is about Shs2 million a term. Another child pays about Shs1m per term while their eldest son pays about Shs1.5 million. The rest of their children are in nursery school.
“I believe part of our success has been obtained from regularly displaying our products and activities in farmers’ shows and attending Seeds of Gold Clinics,” says Banadda.
“We display our work which ultimately brings us more and more customers. But of course, we also learn so much from other people at the exhibitions.”
The couple has some 30 banana stems on their land and they are sure of harvesting at least a bunch of bananas every week. They also keep an additional fifty or so hens in order for the family to enjoy chicken on weekends. They have eggs to eat nearly all the time.
“As poultry keepers sometimes we find what we call ‘damage eggs’. These accidently crack and break during the process of picking them up from the chicken house. Some customers buy them in that condition but as long as the eggs are clean they can be eaten.”
Due to the readily available chicken manure on the farm, the banana plants and all other crops grow quite vigorously. The farmers never worry about water shortage or long droughts because they have drilled two wells of their own. So they have water for their poultry all the time and they have all the water for irrigation.
Quite soon, the couple expects to open up a fully functional Banadda Skilling Centre where people will be going to get urban farming skills.
“I am not talking about people coming here to spend months or years attending lectures, and holding long discussions,” he says.
“Rather the center will undertake to train individuals how to do particular things like growing tomatoes or such farming activity from morning till evening when he graduates. We commit to make sure that after just one day of training by us he or she will go away with a lot of knowledge that is fully worth the fees paid.”
His fees won’t be high as he promises to charge only about three hundred thousand shillings per student. And when professional teachers speak about opening a training centre, it is foolhardy to doubt their word.