Asiimwe’s mixed farming venture pays off

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Across Kyazanga sub-region, Lwengo district, Joseph Asiimwe, a resident of Kirumba village in Kyazanaga sub-county, is a well-known man.

Now 76, he recently told Seeds of Gold: “I had to step back from most of my management positions because I feel I’ve done my part and it’s time others take over.”

He was the lay leader (Sabakristu) at Kyazanga Catholic Parish for years and he served as treasurer there and served in different other capacities as a lay church leader.

For decades, he has been mobilizing other farmers to attend meetings organized by the Masaka Diocese Development Organization (MADDO) to learn modern farming practices.

He is behind the creation of the Kyazanga Farmers’ Cooperative Society, which today has 1,088 members.

“Today the cooperative society has its own office building, but for several years, especially when it was still just a group of farmers, it operated here in my own house,” he said. -he reveals. He was a board member of Masaka District Cooperative Union and he also served as Finance Secretary of Masaka District Local Council.

Father of 13 children, almost all of whom have completed their studies, Asiimwe now devotes himself entirely to agriculture, which has been his passion since he left Kampala where he was employed as an accountant in various institutions, including British American Tobacco, Produce Marketing Board and Lint Marketing Board in the early 1980s.

“It was with my personal savings as an employee at the time that I bought my first piece of land here, which was then about three or four acres,” Asiimwe explains.

He was later to expand it by buying more land from his immediate neighbours, most of whom returned to Rwanda, their country of origin, in the mid-1990s. Today his farm spans 89 acres and he raises livestock, in addition to growing bananas, coffee, beans and maize.

“Immediately after leaving Kampala in the early 80s, I moved here with a cousin of mine who was a very hardworking person,” he says. “We grew bananas and beans which we sold to earn money. But since I had come to know many people who included successful businessmen when I was still in Kampala, I took advantage of their contacts and started traveling around Kasese and Rukungiri districts in ‘where I bought coffee and transported it to Masaka Cooperative Union where I sold it.’ The coffee business proved to be very lucrative and that was how he raised enough money to build his current home, very impressive, with a tiled roof. He collected the coffee husks and used them as manure for his banana plantation. “Sometimes we sold up to a hundred bunches of bananas a month,” says Asiimwe.

How Asiimwe does it differently

Today his farm is divided into different parts. Five acres are devoted to coffee, six acres to growing bananas, and the rest of the land is given over to corn, beans, and pasture for cattle.

Assimwe stands next to one of the tractors rented from the farmers.

It is interesting to see how he made the different agricultural activities complement each other. He owns around 20 head of cattle and uses their excrement as manure for his banana and coffee plantations.

Since the kraal is located slightly higher on the slope than the coffee garden, all the runoff rainwater from the livestock resting area flows into the coffee garden taking with it a lot of enriching material floor. Dried bean residues are used as mulch in the coffee plantation.

The cow dung is deposited in the banana plantation and in the coffee plantation. He uses leftover maize and coffee husks as mulch in the banana plantation.

His advice to other farmers is that they need to be careful how they apply mulch in the banana garden. He says that when the mulch is spread too close to the banana tree stem, it increases the multiplication of weevils. He therefore encourages farmers to keep an uncovered space all around the banana stem. He also advises against the practice of keeping too many suckers around the stem as they will not allow the production of large clusters. He calls it agricultural hygiene.

His banana harvest is good most of the time and his average monthly sale is 100 bunches. He always makes sure that there are no weeds anywhere on his farm where he employs a few occasional workers.

Sometimes he harvests 100 jute bags of beans and 200 jute bags of maize, all of which he sells through the Kyazanga Farmers’ Cooperative Society, which he helped establish. “I’ve always herded cattle because it’s important for a farmer to be a breeder,” he says. “Animals such as goats or cattle can be fed crop residues and yet cattle dung can be used as manure for crops.” He was among the first to plant cloned Robusta coffee in the region. Due to the abundance of soil nutrients, all of his crops look healthy and grow with great vigor. He harvests an average of 50 to 60 jute bags of dried coffee cherries a year and he has mobilized other coffee farmers under the Kyazanga Farmers’ Cooperative Society to market their coffee through the Union National Coffee, Agro-food and Agricultural Enterprises (NUCAFE) to attract better prices and higher profits.

As a founding member of the Kyazanaga Coffee Farmers’ Cooperative Society, he believes that farmers had better form cooperative societies and micro-finance institutions in order to have easy access to credit.

“We work hand in hand with the National Agricultural Research Organization (Naro) and the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industries and Fisheries (MAAIF) as seed growers and growers of beans and maize of good quality. So we sell our products at much higher prices and we make bigger profits,” he says. They also have a savings and loans section from which members can borrow money to make improvements in their household and deal with issues such as buying fertilizer and other farm inputs, paying school fees or the purchase of land. The society also employs agricultural extension officers who visit individual member farmers providing advice on best practices to achieve good yields.

He is in charge of a few tractors belonging to certain family members, and the farmers in the neighborhood rent them for soil preparation.

Asiimwe has some challenges. When Seeds of Gold visited him, thieves had visited his coffee plantation the night before and harvested “where they had not sown”. His banana plantation is attacked by deadly banana bacterial wilt. He fights it off using his homemade tobacco concoction mixed with a poisonous herb known locally as oluwoko, ash, water, and urine. The solution is kept in a drum for about four days before being applied to certain banana trees in an infected area. “The concoction is also useful for controlling banana weevils,” he says. “However, banana bacterial wilt is difficult to destroy with natural pesticides,” he admits. “The best thing is to cut the infected plants and sprinkle them with pesticide so that no flying insects or birds transmit the disease from the dying plantain to the healthy ones,” says Asiimwe.

The farmer points to an uncovered area around the banana stem and says the practice minimizes pest infestation.

His other challenge is the unpredictable weather pattern these days. “We’ve had very long droughts lately and right now we’ve lost all the maize we planted on 30 whole acres due to lack of rain,” he says.

He is, however, very grateful to God for giving him the vision to become a farmer. “I’m busy and well employed in my old age, with no worries about rent or food security,” he says.

He believes in good nutrition for his family. He grows his own vegetables. Almost everywhere in his banana plantation, one can see katunkuma shrubs and several local vegetables such as jjobyo and nsugga.

Joseph Asiimwe divided his farm into different parts. Five acres are devoted to coffee, six acres to growing bananas, and the rest of the land is given over to corn, beans, and pasture for cattle. It is interesting to see how he made the different agricultural activities complement each other. He owns around 20 head of cattle and uses their excrement as manure for his banana and coffee plantations.

Joseph Asiimwe’s advice to other farmers is that they should be careful how they apply mulch in the banana plantation. He says that when the mulch is spread too close to the banana tree stem, it increases the multiplication of weevils. He therefore encourages farmers to keep an uncovered space all around the banana stem.

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