Authored by Jennifer Kaiser
We started the day traveling to Kabimbiri, a rural town Professor Senteza grew up in. It was about an hour from the city. We split up into two groups to visit with different farmers. Boda Bodas (small motorcycles) were our mode of transportation. My group visited Henry Lwanga, who stressed that cocoa production was the new vision for agriculture in Uganda. Lwanga farms a 50 acre cocoa plantation that his grandfather began when he was young and that he took over after graduating from Mackere University. He explained the lifecycle of cocoa plants. It takes about 2 ½ to 3 years before a cocoa plant can begin yielding (poorly); the plant won’t have high production until its 7th year. In the 7th year, the farmer will have to harvest the cocoa plant every 14 days (germination cycle). Shearers are used to harvest the cocoa plantations which ensure that the pod is not destroyed when removed from the cocoa plant. The pod is then broken open, the seeds are taken out, and the beans are placed in boxes to ferment. The seeds are placed in one box for 3 days, moved to another for 3 days, and then to a final for the last 2 days to complete aeration. Next, the seeds are ready for drying, so they are laid out on the ground for the sun’s heat to dry them. After drying, they are bagged and ready for the market. The cocoa is then sold and made into chocolate, cocoa powder, cocoa butter, tea, and so on. Lwanga uses a product called PUSH which is an antiherbal bio-fertilizer that increases yield for cocoa pods. He applies it four times during every cycle: 4 leaves, pre-flowering, pod formation, and before harvest. This allows for quick maturity and reduces flower shedding so more pods are formed. It takes about 150 days from flowering to the ripening or maturing of the pod. Lwanga prunes and weeds his cocoa trees for optimum cocoa production. Common pests for cocoa plants include capseeds, millibugs, scalespests, aphids, monkeys, and moss. Cocoa plants require continuous harvesting throughout the year, but some months have more production than others, so some farmers will sometimes employ others in the community to help them for a few weeks. My group did not get to see the pineapple and banana plantations because we were rained out, but the other group did.
Agriculture in Uganda is much different than in the United States. The average farmer in Uganda owns 2.5 acres. Anything bigger is considered an estate! I can’t imagine farming only two or three acres of land when field sizes that my parents operate can range from 80 to 400 acres. Ugandan farmers do everything by hand with the use of no machinery. Spraying, working the ground, and harvesting take so much longer for smaller fields than in the U.S. It’s shocking how behind Ugandan farming is. Unlike the city, it has not grown. Production levels were higher in the 1980s than they are now; I think this is a result of splitting up farms. Furthermore, Ugandan agriculture is not protected by crop insurance (if natural disasters strike, farmers are accountable for all they lose), there are no government subsidies (like CRP-growing/raising grasslands, trees, plants, etc. for profit), and technology is limited.
Ugandan agriculture does not seem sustainable to me. Too many people think that land is all that matters to them, not the profit from the land, or even the amount of produce the land yields. Until farmers have bigger farms and more acres, nothing will change. Communal land or fewer farmers would be beneficial. Programs that NAADS is trying to introduce need to provide better incentives to get farmers more interested in forming groups of 5 to make their land area bigger. Mindsets need to change; land should not be the pride of a farmer, but the amount of income he can achieve from working in his fields. True entrepreneurs in agriculture are needed. Until the farmer is willing to work for money and not survival, true business at its prime, Uganda won’t experience growth.
The main problem I notice is education. People need to understand that not everyone can be a farmer; it won’t work. More people need to become educated (University level) and enter the business world, or the private sector. Fewer blue collar workers are needed and more white collar positions are for countries to experience exponential growth. The U.S. does this; which shows education is key. Most children in rural and farming families can’t afford to send their children to school. An uneducated workforce causes even more problems and economic decay. Furthermore, splitting up farmland among families hinders production. Western culture has proven that bigger farms are linked to technological advancements and economic stability. Economies need stability, relying on one commodity for 90% of the GDP is detrimental. The change needed to happen yesterday.