Uganda: Vegetables and bananas mean prosperity for farmer (By Charles Okalebo, for Farm Radio Weekly)

| April 22, 2013

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Near the source of the Nile in central Uganda, even little children can find the home of Muhammed Hassan Magumba. The thirty-six-year-old is one of the leading farmers in Jinja district. But ten years ago, it was a different story.

Mr. Magumba was a grocer in the village of Butiki-Kyekidde, but realized that his business was failing. Although he worked hard, too many people took advantage of him. He remembers, “People who came to buy from the grocery took goods on credit … I could not resist.”

In 2004, Mr. Magumba decided that his business was not working. He visited Charles Ebong, a farmer in neighbouring Kayunga district. There he learned new farming methods, including how to use animal wastes. He took a risk and started growing vegetables.

He bought a cow and used the manure for his crops and the urine to replace pesticides. Mr. Magumba says that urine was particularly successful in countering bacterial wilt disease in bananas. His yields increased until he was making a profit of 40,000 Ugandan shillings ($15 US) per day.

Within a year, he had saved seven and a half million Ugandan shillings ($2,900 US). Mr. Magumba used the money to enlarge his farm to almost three hectares, and diversified into growing bananas and raising goats. With this increased capacity, he started to supply hotels in Jinja and Kampala. He also sells to traders from Juba, in South Sudan. Mr. Magumba provides several of his neighbours with both planting materials and business advice.

Hajji Suliman Bagalana is the agricultural officer for Jinja District. Mr. Magumba often questions him on new or improved technologies. Mr. Bagalana says, “Magumba is an enterprising farmer who is always consulting experts.”

Mr. Magumba has three and a half hectares of bananas, one hectare of horticultural crops and two hectares of cassava and potatoes. He also grows maize on two hectares rented from neighbours.

He employs nine people on the farm. His wife is in charge of records and accounts, and keeps the books up to date. Mr. Magumba says: “The problem many upcoming farmers face is that they are not good at bookkeeping. They consume both capital and profit, leaving nothing to keep the business running.”

Daudi Migereko is the local Member of Parliament and the Ugandan Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development. In February 2013, he directed community leaders in Jinja District to promote Mr. Magumba as a role model in horticulture.

The farmer says that growing vegetables is a very sensitive enterprise which requires a lot of care and commitment. He believes that farmers often do not spend enough time on their gardens. Without due care, he says, it is possible to lose half your investment before the plants even make it to the fields.

He says, “I do not think that I would have been able to pay school fees without farming.” The farm allows him to provide for his family’s needs, support his neighbours’ businesses, and meet market demand.

Once a failing grocer, Mr. Magumba is now a successful farmer. His diligence has proved to be his fortune. Mr. Magumba was wise enough to know when to stop throwing good money after bad, and where to get the knowledge to re-start his career.