Clad in his army uniform, Lt. Danson Aryeijuka moves around a two-acre field of cabbages. “I have been doing this for the last two years,” he says. The farm is located in Ndeija village, Rwampara, Mbarara district. It is managed by his wife, Rosette Kiconco, whenever he is away. Two acres of cabbages may look ‘small’ to the ordinary eye.
However, cabbages are a high value vegetable which can generate a handsome return from small space. One acre takes as many as 12,000 heads of cabbages. If each is sold at sh500, the farmer earns about sh6m in three months.
“When we were commissioned in 2014 as Uganda People’s Defence Force (UPDF) officers, President Yoweri Museveni hosted us at State House, Entebbe.
He advised us to have side income-generating projects to support our salary. He went on to advise those who are posted to barracks and have land to make use of it for agribusiness. We should accept that there is never enough salary,” he says. This message kept ringing in Aryeijuka’s head. So, two years later, he started implementing it. “I had lived with my wife, Kiconco, in the barracks for over five years, but we were not doing well, financially.
We agreed to relocate her back home,” he says. Aryeijuka has served on several missions, including a sojourn to Somalia, where the UPDF is helping restore peace. He saved part of his earnings from the missions to improve his life. Then, with other things taken care of, he decided to get a loan from UPDF’s Wazalendo SACCOS. As he waited for the approval of the loan, he researched about farming.
“I read a lot about various farming enterprises before I decided to go for vegetables,” he says. He points out that while vegetables are labor-intensive, they offer faster returns than other enterprises. “In averagely three to four months one has their money back as long as everything is done right,” he says. Aryeijuka got a loan of sh12m.
“I used sh8m to buytwo acres of land in Ndeija,” he says.
It is on this land that he planted 17,000 cabbages in the first season. He has so far cultivated cabbage three times. He grows the Gloria F1 variety.
Aryeijuka says when he got the land, it needed to be cleared and ploughed. He spent sh500,000 on this task.
“I hired workers who tilled it using hoes,” he says.
He then bought seeds at sh250,000 for the two acres. Other expenses included mulching that cost sh250,000, weeding at sh100,000 and pesticides that totalled sh300,000. “I spent sh1.8m from planting to harvesting,” he says.
After buying the seeds, Aryeijuka set up a seedbed. He used black, fertile soils mixed with manure before planting.
He also used an artificial fertiliser to help them grow faster. After four to five weeks, the seedlings were ready for transplanting to the main garden. Transplanting was done in the evenings and it took several days.
“Each acre takes 10,000 to 12,000 seedlings,” Aryeijukasays. Cabbages are a high risk vegetable. This is why he took special care ofthe plants by checking the leaves for any signs of diseases.
“I used preventive pesticides to keep the diseases at bayand my crops were not attacked,” he says.
Aryeijuka advises that a farmer should consult an expert before applying any preventive pesticide on the crops.
After four months, he earned sh11m after selling the 17,000 heads of cabbages. “Prices ranged from sh500 to sh700, depending on the size.
In my second season, I got sh13m and I am expecting sh12m-14m from the third season,” he says. He explains that compared to last year, working expenses rotate around sh2m-2.5m per season. He says getting market for his produce is not such a big challenge.
“There are not somany farmers who grow vegetables in Mbarara. In fact, most of the vegetablesconsumed in Mbarara come from Kasese and Kabarole. “I saw the market evenbefore I started the farm,” he says. Aryeijuka says they do not need storagefacilities at the moment because whatever is harvested is bought immediately.