What you need to know:
Josephine Katenda Luutu used to grow yams but the money she earned was very little, so decided to venture into flowers after a friend assured her there was good money in it. She talks to Fred Muzaale about how her life has changed for the better.
I am Josephine Luutu, a resident of Naalya village in Kiira town council, Wakiso district. I am a small scale commercial flower farmer. I have been growing flowers since February 2012.
Initially, I was earning a living from growing yams on a 50 by 40 feet piece of land, located in a wetland. But I realised that I was earning little from this business.
From selling yams, I was earning about Shs 150,000 in a month. But at the beginning of 2012, I contacted a friend who was growing flowers near Kireka town. He taught me how to plant and care for flowers.
When I asked him about the earnings he was getting. He told me he was getting some “good money” and was living a “good life”. So, I decided to give it a try.
I started by removing all the yams from the garden. I later tilled the soil and made the soil fine. I created six small gardens and in the soil, I added compost manure to increase soil fertility.
After two weeks, I bought flower cuttings from flower seed sellers at a cost of Shs70,000 a box. In each pack, there were 40 cuttings. I bought three boxes where each box contained different types of flowers. I planted the flower cuttings by pressing them into the soil. For a start I planted three varieties, namely Mum Whites, Mums (Kapeesa) and roses.
After planting, I started watering them twice a day; in the morning and evening. I also sprayed them with pesticide to kill insects that damage the leaves and flowers.
I used Dichlorvus pesticide, which I mixed with water. I bought the pesticide at Shs15,000 for one-and-a-half litre bottle. This chemical not only kills insects but also makes the flowers grow healthy so that they do not drop off from the plant.
But since I had no prior experience in flower growing, some of the plants did not grow properly as they were attacked by pests.
After three months my flowers were ready for picking and selling. But since my friend already had established customers, he linked them to me. They came to my garden and bought the flowers. In a week, I harvested twice and sold a small bundle at Shs1,000 for all types.
However, the prices may go up to Shs1,500 a bundle when there is scarcity especially during long droughts. Currently, I have got customers from as far as Iganga and Jinja. But most of them come from Kampala city.
Many of my customers are florists and decorators though on some occasions I sell to individuals, who are have functions where they need flowers.
Mum whites are the most bought because florists use them in whatever decoration they make.
On a good day, I may earn as much as Shs100,000 though on some bad days, I may get as little as Shs10,000. In a month, I earn about Shs900,000 on average.
My best season is in the months of August through to December, when there are many wedding parties, graduations and other functions.
During periods when there are no customers, my flowers wilt and dry which makes me lose out in the market.
From my business, I have managed to pay school fees for my three children and currently I have embarked on constructing a home for myself in Mukono Town. I will shift to that home on completion since I am renting the house where I currently reside.
My biggest challenge is the lack of bigger and stable markets, where I can sell and earn more money. Though I grow flowers on a small scale, I do not have customers to buy all of them.
My other challenge is that I lack a storage facility, where I can store the flowers during times when I do not have customers. This would save me from the losses I incur.
Another challenge I face is the lack of land to expand so that I can grow flowers on a much larger scale.
In future, I hope to start a poultry farm of 2,000 birds. This will hopefully be when I shift to my house in Mukono. With the poultry farm off the ground, I will stop growing flowers and concentrate on poultry.
My other achievement is that my standard of living has greatly changed for the better compared to when I was growing yams.
You know with flowers, you can “harvest money” every day for a period of five months from the same plant, which is not the case with yams. This is because when you harvest a yam, you cannot harvest any more from that plant until you again plant it.
Flower growing has also enabled me interact with people from different walks of life especially the well to do whom I would find difficulty relating to.
In most cases some of my customers have become my friends and when I have a problem they give money in advance and collect the flowers later.
Expert take :What the flower farmers need to note
Fred Makumbi, chief florist at Rusadia Florists & Decorators, says:
Before we buy flowers from a farmer, we ensure they are fresh, of good quality in the desired colours and durable. For example, we cannot buy withered flowers. In case of urgency, we cannot buy “budded” flowers however if the flowers are to be used in two to three days, then we can purchase them. When farmers approach us, we consider price, quality and appearance, and we agree on how often they will supply. The price at which we buy flowers depends on the market demand, for example, a bunch of lilies is at Shs1,500 to Shs2,000.
Bob Njuguna, a florist at Peblows Floral shop, Kisementi, says:
Most farmers who grow flowers for export. However, if you are a farmer and you came to me with samples of your flowers, I would first consider their quality, appearance and whether they are what people like. For example, most people love roses so their demand is high. However, roses too come in two types and one of the determinants for florists to buy the roses is where they are grown. Roses from Nairobi are bigger in size than those grown in Uganda.
Disapproval might arise from the flowers being sub-standard. The price at which we buy the flowers depends on the market. We then agree on quantity and mode of supply.
David Malinga, a florist at Royal Gardens, Garden City, says:
We consider the quality of the flowers. By quality, we mean the flowers should be very fresh, healthy, closed and not short in length. In addition they should be well graded in bunches of 15 to 20 and have a good appearance. We like them closed so that they open up from here. If the farmer’s flowers are up to standard, we give them an order and they supply. Farmers should check with the florists, which flowers are on high demand so that they supply those.
John Kamau, also a florist at Royal Gardens, adds:
Apart from quality, farmers should consider how they are going to transport the flowers because they need to be handled with care. Some farmers use boxes, car boots, and buckets to transport them to florists. Farmers should resist from using boda bodas to transport flowers since they are usually delivered in poor condition.