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Uganda: Making money by growing ginger

Omara Francis wakes up every morning and toils in the garden near his house, using a hoe and his bare hands to prepare the soil.

Mr. Francis has three gardens, each one acre in size and dotted with trees. The trees, particularly the banana trees, provide shade for his ginger crop. Ginger is his sole source of income—but it is a good income.

The 37-year-old farmer lives in Ocekeleye village, in northern Uganda’s Oyam district. He says it is easier to grow ginger than other plants, and it earns him more money.

He explains, “The ginger I grow is mainly used in spicing tea or coffee at homes and in hotels in Uganda. The more ginger I grow, the richer I become.”

Mr. Francis says he earns about 800,000 Ugandan shillings ($240 US) per year from each garden when the harvest is poor, but a good harvest can boost his earnings to 1.2 million shillings ($360 US).

He does all of the work himself, or with his wife’s help. He says, “I harvest using my hands. I don’t worry about drying it because I sell the products straight from the garden.”

Mr. Francis started growing ginger in 2010, buying 20 kilograms of ginger roots—sometimes called tubers—for 60,000 shillings ($18 US) from the main market in Lira district, about 70 kilometres from Oyam district. He learned all about ginger farming from a farmer in a neighbouring village. Mr. Francis planted the roots in his field and multiplied them.

Ginger does not require much rainfall. The root germinates in seven days and is ready for harvest in one year. He says, “It takes me from February to February each year to harvest new crops…. Next year, in 2017, I will have the next harvest.”

Akello Rose is a small-scale farmer who also lives in Oyam district. She says she would like to follow Mr. Francis’ example, as he is currently the only ginger farmer in the area. But ginger roots are scarce, says Ms. Rose, which prevents her from becoming a ginger farmer.

Ogwal Richard is an agricultural extension agent in Lira district. He says growing ginger benefits small-scale farmers because it earns good money.

Mr. Francis says the income from growing ginger has helped him accomplish a number of things. He has built two houses and is planning to build another.

He says he will continue growing ginger for the rest of his life, and has big plans for his good income. He explains, “I will rent some land to expand my farm and I will use some money for medical services, as well as for buying goats and cows.”