Mindset Change Boosts Kayunga Farmers
By Fred Muzaale
It is a hot and sunny day in Kangulumira Town, Kayunga District. However, at Kiwugu village, which is about one kilometre from the small but lively town, commonly referred to as “Uganda’s pineapple hub”, a group of farmers brave the scorching sun to tend the crop in an expansive and flourishing pineapple garden.
All of them are wearing green T-shirts with inscription, “Kayunga District SMU, Kangulumira Community”. One of the farmers, Samuel Kayizzi stands at the edge of the garden near the road. With a smart phone, he takes pictures of others who are weeding.
“This garden belongs to farmers, who are members of Kangulumira Saemaul Undong (SMU) community, Kayunga District,” the youthful Kayizzi, says “I am the chairperson.”
It is through this group, that 235 farmers from the sub-county carry out their farming activities together.
SMU is an abbreviation for Saemaul Undong, a South Korean word, which means mindset change.
“SMU is a South Korean village movement model that seeks to bring change through setting the mindset of people by working for development through self-help, diligence and cooperation,” he explains.
The idea of working in groups was started after one of the residents, Ronnie Balaza, interacted with a South Korean Jaydee Jang, who was on a visit in 2014. Then, Jaydee noted that agriculture, which is the main occupation of locals in the area, was not advanced because farmers were doing it on individual basis. This, Jaydee noted, would not make it possible for farmers to pool resources and their energies together to practice commercial farming.
“After their interaction, Balaza bought the idea which he then sold to residents, who eventually took it up,” Kayizzi says. Last year, Jaydee trained the leaders and later registration of members started.”
Initially they were 87 members but the group has grown to 235.
For one to become a member, he/she did not have to pay any subscription fee because they wanted to encourage as many people to join.
Afterwards, they held a meeting during which members suggested which businesses the group would carry out. They proposed eight enterprises namely; tomato, pineapple, passion fruit, poultry, livestock, piggery and banana. Each group has an average of 50 members.
“These were selected among many others because they had a ready market in the area. The weather too, favoured these enterprises,” Mr Kayizzi says.
Using funds raised from members’ contributions, they later initiated joint gardens/ enterprises on land which was also offered by members.
Shs30m was used to start the eight enterprises. However, Janepher Birungi the groups’ treasurer says, the expenditure would have been higher if some members had not contributed some items such as piglets, suckers and seeds freely.
“Each member is free to join an enterprise of his/her interest and choice,” she says.
In the groups, members receive training from agriculturalists and also learn from other group members, with experience on how to improve their projects.
For these trainings, the members make financial contributions of Shs5000 each, which funds are used to facilitate the instructors.
“These act as model projects from which members can acquire knowledge to start their own enterprises,” Mr Kayizzi says.
Although proceeds from group enterprises belong to the whole group, proceeds from personal ventures go to the individual proprietors.
However, the proceeds from group activities are to be used to initiate more model enterprises. This, Kayizzi says will bring on board other enterprises, which members are interested in.
Since the SMU model was adopted, residents have learnt to work together and now advise and assist each other on how to better their standard of living.
To promote a saving culture, they have started an SMU village bank. Each member is required to make savings every fortnight when they all meet. The money is given to the treasurer who deposits it in Centenary Bank.
But there is no fixed amount that each member is required to save.
For now, Kayizzi says members have not started borrowing the money as it has not yet accumulated to a desired amount.
He adds that when time comes; members will borrow the money and pay it back without any interest.
Market of produce
The farmers have both the local and export market for their produce.
“We sell some of the produce to big markets in Kenya and South Sudan,” Kayizzi says
The leaders sell the groups’ produce on behalf of the members. The money received goes to project account.
The biggest challenge is lack of storage facilities which makes them to sell off perishables such as tomatoes even when their prices are low. This leads to heavy losses.
Kayizzi adds that fake agricultural/ counterfeit agro- inputs such as seeds and fertilisers also make them to incur losses as the yields are often low than expected.
Land fragmentation among members is also another challenge which he says hampers use of tractors hence large scale farming.
Disease and pests outbreaks also affect the amount of yield they get compared to the effort and resources the put in.
In future, Kangulumira SMU community intends to add value to their produce like making juice from pineapples, which will earn them more income.
Also, they want to target international markets like the European Union, which are more lucrative. However, this will require them to improve the quality and quantity of what they produce.
They also want to take the SMU idea to other parts of the district so that many more people can have a mindset change, which will hopefully change the way they do their farming.
This, Kayizzi says, will help reduce poverty levels in the community.