Florence Alal was a happy housewife some years ago. While her husband toiled to win the day’s bread, all she did was take care of their home and her little domestic garden. But when her husband passed away five years ago, things took a new turn. She was now the breadwinner.
The 68-year-old resident of Owor Village in Gulu District now had to widen her farm and in 2012, she embarked on mixed farming. Among the things on her farm are pigs, poultry, goats, fruits, food crops and vegetables from where she earns a livelihood and supports her family of 10 orphans and three extended members.
Alal says she started with jack fruits and mangoes before she expanded to add food crops. After raising some money from her sales, she bought two piglets; male and female at Shs100,000 each and also 50 chicks (broilers) at Shs2,000 each.
“The pig littered nine piglets and I waited for them to mature then sold all at Shs4m. That was enough capital to expand my farming,” she says.
Alal and her children clean where the animals stay daily and then pour rice husks and saw dust on the floor.
She also sprays her pigs with Acaricide to prevent external parasites such as ticks and other pig infections and diseases.
She includes OTC Plus, a soluble powder added to the chicken’s daily drinking water to prevent bird flu, cough and other bird diseases. The chicken feed on maize, rice bran mixed with small fish.
Alal also vaccinates the birds against Newcastle disease in the first and second months. She also prunes the fruit trees that and sprays them to avoid rotting of the fruits.
The pigs feed on maize bran, rice husks, sun flower cake and food leftovers: “The adult pigs eat about two kilogrammes while the piglets eat between one or half a kilogramme a day. And the goats, we just take them to the bush to eat grass,” she says.
On average, Alal spends Shs70,000 a week on feeds.
All the work on the farm is done by family members, except vaccination which require a specialist. The person who vaccinates is paid Shs30,000.
“But now that my son has completed an agricultural course, he will begin helping with such work so that I can only spend on buying the vaccine and other drugs,” Alal says.
“I usually sell my pigs at between Shs400,000 and Shs800,000 when they are mature and the chicken go for between Shs12,000 and Shs18,000 after keeping them for three or four months. The prices are determined by the size of the animal.”
Alal says her vegetables and fruits are purchased daily by local restaurants. She could bag more than Shs70,000 a day from mangoes alone and Shs40,000 from food crops.
The pigs and chicken are sold to restaurant owners, pork joints and chicken roasters around Gulu Town.
Among the things Alal has gained from farming is a two-bedroomed house for her family. She constructed the house in a period of four years and she also recently connected piped water.
She has paid school fees for her children and grandchildren. One of her sons, who completed a course in Education, is now a teacher while another just recently completed an agricultural course.
From the farming, her family has also had no problem balancing their diet since there is a variety of fruits, cassava, vegetables, beans, chicken and she can buy whatever else they need with the money she earns daily.
“My standard of living has improved and I am living a happy life as though my husband is still around. I miss him some times when I see the grave,” Alal says.
Alal’s major challenge is price fluctuation, where prices in the markets keep changing, so sometimes she is forced to sell her produce cheaply.
Natural calamities such as hail storms, strong wings and drought affect her activities on the farm and destroy her fruits. She also has to deal with thieves, who steal her chicken, fruits and goats. Some even go as far as harvesting her crops from the garden.
The other challenge is the expensive vaccines and drugs, which are also difficult to find in Gulu Town.
She plans to fence her fruits garden, the pig sty and the poultry shelter to avoid people from stealing her food and animals. Alal also hopes to construct a large and big shelter for her animals to increase on the number from 11 to 50 pigs and 100 to over 400 birds.
Together with her son, they plan to introduce IMO, (a system where the pigs can feed on their own waste) since her son has the knowledge.
Plans are also underway to buy oxen to increase production of crops in her farm since she has extended her land.
Alal urges women never to lose hope but continue to work hard and pray.
“Plant some fruit trees and buy some domestic animals because they will help you in paying your children’s fees and feeding them.”