Uganda: Earning Shs1 Million a Month From Seedlings and Grafting

After retirement from his job as an agricultural statistician Michael Opoka Obeja, 74, embarked on investing in agriculture. He focused on raising seedlings, operating nursery beds and grafting fruit trees such as mangoes, avocados, oranges and passion fruits at his home in Kasubi ward in Gulu Municipality, Gulu District.

The start

Initial investment was Shs1m which he saved when he was working in the district’s agriculture department.

On a piece of land measuring 39.6m by 42.7m, he carries various other farm activities in addition to the main enterprises–raising seedlings and grafting fruit trees.

He grows crops such as cassava, vegetables, yams and bananas for both domestic consumption and the surplus for sale.

At first, Obeja says, his family resisted his idea of investing in small-scale farming. They thought it would not be a wise investment of the family money.

But it was only later that they accepted and his wife joined him to support his project.

The family members are the source of labour. Alongside him, his wife and children do all the work in the farm.

Innovation

Using locally available materials, Obeja constructed his own “screen house” on the farm.

This is where he stores the fruit seedlings for 14 days after bedding and grafting them.

During the two weeks, while they are in the screen house, the grafted seedlings sprout and grow. “After this, they are ready for sale to the public or distribution to the customers,” he says.

Market

His products have market as far as South Sudan and Kenya, from where traders come to buy from him.

Within the country, they go across the northern, Teso and central regions.

He sells his products in bulk and has both customers for retail and wholesale basis. The price ranges from Shs1,000 each for the former and Shs500 each for the latter.

“My customers normally listen about my seedlings on radio talk shows and others see them as I display along the Gulu airfield road at my home,” Obeja explains.

Benefits

With the proceeds from his farm enterprise, Obeja says payment of school fees is no longer a problem. He is able to cater for all his four children; three are in secondary school and one is studying at the university.

He has been able to pay for the monthly bills for the water and electricity used at home and the farm.

“My family is having a balanced diet as we have access to different fruits and we also have enough money to buy food for the family and cater for their medical bills,” states Obeja.

He has also started to build three family residential houses at his home using the profit from the farm. He expects to complete the building projects at by the begining of next year.

As he caters for all the family and farm expenses, Obeja points out that he does not forget to save some part of the money.

He has also been able to create employment opportunity for his wife with the capital saved from his business.

“My wife now oeprates the simsim grinding machine that we bought with the farm money. She is like an agent for my clients since she sells my other products alongside her business,” Obeja says.

Challenges

A challenge that Obeja cites is competition from distribution of free seedlings by the Operation Wealth Creation (OWC). This has had an effect as it reduced the number of his customers, as most of them are also beneficiaries of the government programme.

Errant weather patterns are also another challenge that he points out. During the long dry spells, the seedlings will also dry up in the farm. And then during the rains, which also tend to be heavy, it destroys the seedlings.

Like any other farmer, the presence of pests and diseases are also a challenge to him. This is because they lead to losses, which affect his production.

Last but not least is the difficulty in accessing agro-inputs, which are vital in enhancing the farm’s productivity. Fertilisers and pesticides that he needs to use are normally not available in Gulu Town. Because of this, Obeja has to travel to Kampala which is expensive for him.

Future plans

In the near future, Obeja plans to rear poultry on his farm. For this, he is thinking of the Kuroiler chicken.

As regards his forte of fruit trees, he wants to introduce apple and cocoa growing in northern Uganda, particularly Gulu District.

He also wants to be one of the best farmers and agricultural consultants in northern Uganda.

As a final word, Obeja urges fellow men to work hand in hand with their spouses to achieve success in anything they do. “Respect and transparency is the key,” he adds.

To note

Grafting describes any of a number of techniques in which a section of a stem with leaf buds is inserted into the stock of a tree.

Grafting is useful however, for more than reproduction of an original cultivar.

It is also used to repair injured fruit trees or for topworking an established tree to one or more different cultivars.

Nurseries often use the budding method to produce fruit trees.

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