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SOMETIMES in life there is nothing quite as exciting as the first time you meet an innovative farmer.
John Patrick Byaruhanga is exactly that kind of a person who through goat breeding has decided to establish an agricultural training centre in Mbarara district.
“Homes of strong farmers in developed countries such as Germany act as farmer training centres. We are constructing a training centre where farmers would be staying to learn about farming here and we intend to employ extension workers to train them,” he says, pointing at the building under construction.
Byaruhanga says his love for farming as a business dates way back to 1983 after marrying his dear wife.
“My friends gave me 17 heifers as presents at my wedding and when I added them to the six which were already at my farm, I had a good number of livestock animals to start a farm,” he says.
Although Byaruhanga had quite a good number of animals as a startup capital, he decided to continue serving government as an executive secretary with the Judiciary in Kampala. In 1988, he quit his job but later decided to take on the same assignment as an executive officer at Mbarara Magistrate’s Court.
He served for two years as the executive secretary at the Judiciary and in 1990 then hang up his boots to go to serious farming.
“After retiring from the Judiciary in Mbarara district, I wanted to establish myself as a successful goat breeder,” he says.
Byaruhanga, who began his business with three goats, now has 300 breeding goats, which are sold to other farmers at sh200,000 and 250,000 each.
“Individual farmers and organizations have been sourcing the goats from my farm,” explained Byaruhanga who is also one of the directors of Kamugasha Mixed Farm. The farm consists of 100 dairy cattle, a banana plantation, piggery unit, Boer goats and several fruit trees.
After visiting his farm, I concluded Byaruhanga is ‘a self-taught specialist in goat breeding. His farm is located in Nyakisharara airstrip, eight kilometers from Mbarara town. From the original pure breeds of Boer (meat), Byaruhanga has bred different goats, which he says have made a substantial impact on the earnings of goat farmers countrywide.
Byaruhanga breeds both male goats (bucks) and female ones (does) although bucks are more popular in Uganda because of their multiplier effect.
He believes that much as there are four key traits that should be considered in a goat meat enterprise, such as adaptability, reproduction, growth rate and carcass characteristics, it is also important for goat farmers to have determination in the business and love for the animals.
“Goats, especially their kids, are very susceptible to disease. They need close attention of the farmer,” he says.
As far as adaptability is concerned, Byaruhanga believes goats can be reared anywhere in Uganda. If an animal’s ability to survive and reproduce is impaired by the environment, then the profitability of that enterprise may be greatly diminished.
Byaruhanga encourages many people to turn to goat farming, because it does not require a lot of land.
However, Byaruhanga appeals to the Government to help farmers secure capital for their business.
“Farming is a very profitable business, but government must make a deliberate policy to identify funding for farmers, not through commercial banks which charge high interest rates,” says Byaruhanga.
He says since farming is a seasonal enterprise, the government should identify funds for farmers, which should have a long-term repayment period.
Byaruhanga reaps big daily through milk sales. “The least I can get from milk sales is sh2.4m monthly,” he says.
Byaruhanga also noted that he records everything that he does at the farm and through this he has been able to minimise on the losses.
Farmers’ training centre.
It is designed to accommodate 50 people with self-contained facilities, a conference hall and leisure facilities.
Recently, Byaruhanga sold off 100 goats to raise money to roof the house. “That is how I have managed to construct my house; I have kept on selling off my produce to raise money to buy bricks and cement. But I think I am about to achieve my dream,” he says.
The idea, he says, was mooted about 10 years ago when his home increasingly became a destination for adventurous farmers seeking exposure for best practices in farming, as well as government officials in restocking and the NAADS programme.
Also internship students from agriculture institutions come to his farm to get practical farming experience.
“Farmers from Mbarara and outside come here for learning and exposure. But they don’t stay,” he says. “I got the vision of building a farmers learning centre because people go to other hotels to learn farming. They need a hands-on approach and I am giving this opportunity,” says Byaruhanga. “I hope the centre will be complete by mid 2011,” he says.
Byaruhanga is currently the district NAADS chairman. He has served at Mbarara District Farmers’ Association (MBADIFA) for five years as publicity secretary and as vice chairman for eight years.
Until 2005 when Mbarara district was split, MBADIFA had 10,000 members drawn from former counties-now districts; Isingiro, Ibanda and Kiruhura as well as Mbarara, focusing on farming improvement and product marketing.
Byaruhanga has represented farmers at international conferences like Netherlands and Germany.
It was his involvement in the different agricultural practices that in the recently concluded elections, he didn’t find problems in canvassing for votes from his fellow farmers. He was elected an LC5 counsellor.
By Ronald Kalyango: The New Vision Newspaper
Thursday June 16, 2011
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