Uganda: Farmer’s life brightened by sunflowers

| July 14, 2014

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Dan Mawaki started his business in 2012 by buying sunflower seeds, paying 1000 Ugandan shillings (38 US cents) per kilo. He planned to sell the seeds and earn enough income to meet his domestic needs. But his efforts fell short.

Later, Mr. Mawaki learned that sunflower oil is more valuable than the seeds from which it is produced. So he began adding value to the sunflower seeds. He realized that it would be more cost-effective to grow his own sunflowers. So, in 2013, he started growing sunflowers. He mills the seeds and sells the resulting cooking oil and sunflower cake. He says, “It was one of the best decisions I have made in my life.”

Mr. Mawaki lives in Busiro village, Bulambuli district, about 280 kilometres east of the capital, Kampala.

Today, Mr. Mawaki’s products are popular in the region. He grows about one and a half hectares of sunflowers and harvests nearly 900 kilos of seeds every three months. Each harvest earns him 2,800,000 Ugandan shillings [$1,088 US].

Mr. Mawaki used his profits to buy a milling machine. He says: “Sunflower is a multi-purpose crop, but it’s mainly used to make vegetable oil. When one plants sunflower, there is little to worry about because, [if] the soils are good, there isn’t any need for fertilizers.”

Before preparing and planting his land, he carefully selects the seeds, removing the rotten ones. It is important to weed at the right time and harvest when the seeds are ready. Mr. Mawaki prefers to grow varieties which dry quickly and are easy to mill.

His milling machine can produce 25-30 litres of cooking oil a day. He sells 20 litres of oil for 85,000 shillings [$33 US]. He also makes pellets from the residue, which he sells to poultry farmers for 550 shillings [21 US cents] per kilo. Commonly called seed cake, the pellets are an important and nutritious livestock feed.

Mr. Mawaki has ready markets for these products. His cooking oil and seed cake sell out as soon as they are milled.

Dollie Nankya is a poultry farmer who lives close to Mr. Mawaki’s farm. She buys his seed cake for her chickens. She says: “It’s cheap for me to buy the cake from Mawaki because I don’t need to pay for any transport … [cake costs] 600 shillings per kilogram in Bulambuli town, and it’s eight kilometres from my home.”

Mr. Mawaki says there has been an almost unbelievable change in his life. He was impoverished a few years ago. But now he employs three workers, and can afford the fees for his two sons to attend Busitema University, where they study agriculture.

With some satisfaction, he says, “I am settled because [I] am able to meet my daily needs.”