Making mixed farming work in a small space

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Miwanda props up a banana plant on his farm. Photo BY Michael J Ssali

Miwanda props up a banana plant on his farm. Photo BY Michael J Ssali

At 26 years of age, Mike Miwanda is just about to achieve one of his childhood dreams —to own a large house in his home village of Butale, Kabonera Sub-county in Masaka District.

When Seeds of Gold visited his home, he was busy supervising the construction of the house in which he would live with his wife, Pauline and three daughters in the next three or four months.

“It has always been our dream to own a large house,” he said. “We want our children to get the best education, and we want to have our own car.”

His father died before he was born and his mother died when he was seven-years-old and in Primary Two at Kikungwe Muslim Primary School.

Inspired by others
“I was raised by my uncle who failed to take me to secondary school due to financial constraints. I became a taxi conductor in Kampala at the age of 16 and got married at 18,” Miwanda narrates his life story.

“I would regularly visit my wife, Pauline, who lived by herself here in the village but I quickly discovered that most of the young men in the village with whom I had attended school were better off than I was as farmers. They grew their own food but I had to worry about providing enough money to my wife to buy food.”

About a year after his marriage, he resolved to give up his taxi conductor job and settle with his wife on the one-and-half-acre piece of land that his parents had left him.

Most of his friends in the village had received some agricultural training from Kitovu Mobile, an anti-HIV/Aids non-governmental organisation, which had taught them to practise gainful farming on the small pieces of land they owned.

“My friends taught me the skills they had acquired from Kitovu Mobile. Pauline and I would visit their farms to see whatever they were doing and they too visited us to see if we were doing things the right way,” he said.

With the savings I had made from Kampala I would buy one or two local cows, fatten them, and then sell them at some profit. They were a source of manure which I leant to apply on the crops that we grew. Soon we began selling vegetables which gave us regular income. And soon I discovered that I was saving more money than I was saving working as a taxi conductor in Kampala.”

Adding cattle to the mix
About two years ago, he bought a Friesian cow which he feeds on fodder grass grown on the edges of his farm and along the furrows.
The cowshed has a concrete floor built in such a way that all the cow’s urine flows into a 100-litre-tank.

He puts 50 litres of plain water into the tank before he lets in the cow’s urine. He uses the mixture to irrigate his crops.

There is also a hole he dug in the garden into which he alternately puts the cow’s droppings and weeds to make compost manure.
The manure is applied in the banana plantation, which he intercrops with Robusta coffee.

His grandparents were beekeepers and nearly all his relatives know how to make beehives and to look after bees.

Bees for pollination
Currently, he has more than 15 beehives scattered around his small farm of cloned Robusta coffee and bananas. “I keep a few in some of my neighbours’ gardens. They are aware of bees’ role in pollination and since they want high yields they allow me to place some of my beehives in their gardens,” Miwanda explains adding that he often harvests some of the honey and sells it.

He seems to be enjoying his job which he says keeps him busy.
“To gain more from small scale farming, it is important to ensure that the soil is well nourished all the time by the addition of organic manure,” he told Seeds of Gold.

“Since it is a small garden and I live near a natural source of water it is easy for me to practice irrigation of my vegetable gardens. I am aware that my parents died of AIDS and this job keeps me busy.”

Due to diversification the young family has got items to sell all the time, ranging from vegetables, to honey, milk, bananas, and coffee.

By Michael J Ssali

SOURCE: http://www.monitor.co.ug/Magazines/Farming/Making-mixed-farming-work-in-a-small-space/689860-3799662-g361hs/index.html