Kaduru and his American wife find fortune in Uganda Passion Fruit Farming
He walks with confidence–after all he drives a Land Cruiser VX, certainly an above average car for a rural folk. In the car, he carries golf equipment, listens to rock n roll and drinks carbonated water! Too much for a typical rural Ugandan farmer. Eric Kaduru is 30 years old. The medium-height young man portrays the image of a new breed of Ugandan young farmers. With a hint of arrogance on his face, he seems to say, “Farming is not just for the old, wretched of the earth.
Even young men like me can do it and still maintain their swag.” His farm is called KadAfrica. With five acres of well-kept passion fruits, Eric Kaduru is earning a fortune. “The gross income from harvests is sh8m every week, 60% of which goes into costs of production, ” he says with an African-American accent. Quite good money for a 30 year old! Kaduru was born to a Ugandan father and Kenyan mother. He was born in Kenya, but has lived in the UK, Nigeria and South-Africa. He, however, came back to Uganda in 2008 and worked as an advertising agent, before settling for farming in 2011.
Four years ago, Kaduru and his American wife, Rebecca set foot on the undulating slopes of Mountain Rwenzori. He went to Kiburara village, 15km west of Fort Portal where he started practising agriculture on a full-time basis. The 25 acres of fertile land on which Kaduru is farming were bought by his father in the 1990s, but remained un-utilised until 2011 when Kaduru decided to go into farming.
He started by growing vegetables, like tomatoes, red pepper and cabbages, both in a greenhouse and outside. The harvest was good, but the challenge came with the market. “We were competing against smaller farmers so the market price was difficult to control,” he says. The other challenge was that vegetables have a short shelf life, which means that you cannot keep them for long in anticipation of better prices.
Other challenges included costly labour, unreliable workers and theft at the farm. “A lot of produce was stolen from the farm,” Kaduru says. And, with all these challenges, anybody would have thrown in the towel and run back to the city to do other things, but the Kadurus did not. Agriculture was still their calling and they had to fi nd a way of surviving in there. This is when he thought about growing passion fruit. “We picked it because it is high value, can be produced on a small area and has a longer shelf life,” Kaduru says.
Research into market
The passion fruits were planted in 2012, after a lot of research on the viability of the crop in Uganda. “When we carried out research about passion fruits, we realised that over 70% of the passion fruit in Uganda came from Kenya,” he says. And yet, a sample of the Ugandan soils showed us that they could be profitably grown in Uganda. With evidence that passion fruits are a better choice, they set out to organize the farm.
However, they had to look out for financiers. “We had made losses with the vegetables, so we needed a push,” he says. Visits to various banks did not yield any tangible results, although the idea was lauded. After several meetings, they got partial funding for the project from a programme called The Mango Fund.
These ones gave them sh45m to modernise the farm. Part of the money was used to set up an irrigation system.
Setting up the farm
The plants are planted in rows, supported by strong five feet poles and a maze of wires running along the poles. These help support the soft stems in addition to helping the plants to climb.
He decided to plant the KPF-4 and KPF-11, the Kenyan variety that is resistant to most of the diseases in Uganda. Although a dry spell has been sweeping through Fort Portal and most parts of the country, the fruits are green, thanks to an elaborative irrigation system, set up on the entire farm.
The system has drip pipes running across the farm and a 28,000-litre water tank. Kaduru says he spent $12,000 (sh30m) to set up the tank and the entire irrigation system. He also spent money to buy the water pump, putting the entire irrigation system at about sh45m. The plants are green and laden with healthy looking fruits.
The fruits started ripening in June last year. Kaduru employs about six staff to run the farm, including an expert agronomist from Kenya. “They are supposed to come in daily to harvest, prune where necessary and pack the fruits,” he says. But this has not been the case.
Kaduru explains that when they had just planted the fruits, they went for their wedding in the US, leaving the entire farm under the care of a Kenyan manager. “Of course we kept calling him and inquiring about the progress and he would update us. However, unknown to them, the manager had left the farm soon after they left for the wedding and in fact, there was nobody taking care of the plants.,” Kaduru says.
He adds that: “When we returned, we found an overgrown farm, with very weak plants. We had to start all over again, but then, we learnt a lesson never to leave the farm entirely in the hands of another person.”
Reaching out to market
He started harvesting passion fruits last year. “I started by supplying supermarkets in and around Fort Portal,” he says.
As the harvests grew, he reached out to supermarkets in Kampala and started supplying them and now, a big part of his harvest is exported to the UK. To succeed in farming, he says, you must look for a market and strive to sustain it. “That is what I am doing,” he says. According to Kaduru, the market is big, no doubt about it.
Expanding through the community
In order to sustain production, KadAfrica has expanded its activities throughout Kabarole. They now have out-growers all over Kabarole and the neighbouring district of Kyenjojo.
Last year, KadAfrica went into partnership with Catholic Relief Services and Caritas Fort Portal, under which an ambitious rural agricultural project, Girls Agro Investment was established. The project now boasts of over 600 farmers all around Toro region. These are now considered to be outgrowers for the farm. “We train members of the group in good farming practices and seedlings.
We also carry out supervision of the outgrowers farms,” he says. Kaduru says there is nothing as beautiful and has inspiring other people around you earning a living.
With increased production, Kaduru hopes to set up a juice processing factory to add value to the crop. “With produce from the out-growers, I am looking at setting up a fruit processing factory,” he says. A big plan by any standards, however Kaduru is determined to achieve it.
The New Vision Newspaper