At 61 years, Peace Bampata Kahemba, a resident of Ruhandagazi cell, Central Division, Bushenyi Municipality, is still as passionate about farming as she was several years ago. The retired primary school teacher believes farming is a one way ticket out of poverty.
This is the reason she has other enterprises such as piggery, banana plantation, apiary and others. This was a big motivation for Bampata who relocated from abroad where she worked as a casual labourer for 17 years, to invest her savings.
As a teacher, Bampata used to plant some passion fruits in the staff quarters for her domestic use.
“I liked practicing farming with the little land I had at my disposal. I was approached by a friend. He told me a story of how someone he knew was earning about Shs1m from passion fruit growing. I was encouraged and just thought of how good it would be if I also had such a project,” she recounts.
Bampata says that was all the motivation she needed to get started. She began with a few plants in her one acre banana plantation which grew but was destroyed by neighbours who said the crop would attract children who would steal the fruits.
She says as painful as that was, she did not give up on growing passion fruits.
“I did not give up. I bought manure and applied it in the banana plantation and cast seeds. Many germinated and when the time for harvest came, I made Shs500,000,” she says.
Bampata’s garden was, however, attacked by a strange disease that destroyed most of her crop and she was forced to put the project on hold on the advice of a friend.
“I followed her advice and in 2015, I resumed on a large scale setting up a new garden of about 180 plants in a place I had for a long time used for grazing goats. I used about Shs2m in buying start up materials like thread, paying workers and transportation of logs,” Bampata recalls.
The first harvest gave her Shs6m. She added another Shs2m which she used to establish an additional two-acre garden.
In a period of one year, she earned profits of about Shs10m, producing four sacks of passion fruits per week selling each sack between Shs250,000 and Shs300,000. “Sometimes I get orders and just cannot satisfy them but I am moving on well,” she says.
Bampata has been able to buy land which she is planning to use as a recreation centre. The profits from the enterprise have helped her to establish other enterprises such as piggery where she has about 150 pigs. She also has Apiary, banana plantation which all sit on 10 acre land. “I am also a consultant because people from the region come here to learn about passion fruit growing. That’s also an achievement,” she adds.
She employs about four staff who are fully paid on a monthly basis.
The profits from the enterprise have helped Bampata to establish other enterprises like piggery where she has about 150 pigs, Apiary, Banana plantation which all sit on 10 acre land.
Every business or enterprise has its own challenges.
Finding committed human resource is a trick Bampata explains. She says there are few trained and technical people to work in passion fruit gardens.
“We have a challenge of people not willing to work yet they want good things. I employ people here to irrigate or prune but they leave because they are lazy. Most of them come here with problems and we train them but after getting skills, they are taken by other employers who entice them with money,” she laments.
She says some workers turn into thieves and end up taking much of the produce leaving her in a loss.
“You send someone to harvest fruits in a garden of about one acre but he shows up with only one basin meaning that he has sold the fruits,” she stresses.
Her project also faces lack of genuine pesticides and insecticides which have flocked the market. Sometimes, she sprays the crops and the pests don’t die. She has however managed the challenge by making more consultations on the genuine pesticides on the market.
Bampata also lacks a reliable irrigation system. Her garden is far from a water source making irrigation quite expensive especially during the dry season. She spends about Shs170,000 on ferrying water to her garden every week.
Bampata has learnt that someone can support themselves without being employed. She has learnt that passion fruit growing can be more profitable than coffee and brings money in a short period of time and you can keep harvesting as long as you maintain the standards.
Bampata has also learnt that starting small leads to bigger yields and that persistence is vital in any business after making losses.
Bampata plans on expanding her project which will see her produce passion fruits on a large scale.
She is also wooing some of her children help in transforming the project to a level of running a small scale industry of bottling passion fruit juice. She wants to have her project focus on value addition.