Charles Ndahagire’s home in Bwenkoma Cell, Ruti Ward Nyakayojo Division Mbarara Municipality is tucked in layers of tall trees and shrubs. The setting won the home recognition (certificate) from the district in 2013 as the best in maintaining the environment. The former administrator in different government departments in various parts of the country retired to his home in 2005 at 60.
He joined public service in 1965. During his work days Ndahagire invested part of his earnings in establishing forest plantations. This has been his major source of income for the last 13 years, supplemented by selling milk and cows from his livestock farm.
“I worked in the ministry of Agriculture and Forestry for 10 years. It is then that I learnt the value of trees and decided to invest in forestry as a future source of income and planted them around my home to give a relaxing atmosphere,” says Ndahagire.
He established his first plantation on land offered by his father. When Ndahagire got enough money he bought his own piece of land and planted trees on the biggest part of it. Though he doesn’t want to reveal how big his eucalyptus plantations are, one can clearly see that they cover tens of acres.
“Forest plantations have been handy since I retired. I do not sell one tree, I sell 50 trees and above. And I don’t receive cash I tell buyers to deposit the money in the bank and bring me the bank deposit slip,” says Ndahagire.
He sells trees to people setting up buildings, timber dealers and those who use trees as wood fuel. Ndahagire says the advantage with eucalyptus trees is that after harvest one does not incur costs of replanting. They grow again on their own.
Ndahagire gets up by 7.30am. He takes breakfast and heads to his plantations and farms to inspect workers and attend to customers. While he educated some of the children using his salary, since he retired school fees comes from his tree business. He has two wives Jane and Ann; and 17 children who each has at least a bachelor’s degree.
“I advise public servants to invest in trees. Trees do not need much attention. You can never go wrong with trees,” says Ndahagire.
Work life and planning
He worked under ministry of Agriculture, in Namarere- Wakiso, Fort Portal, Bundibugyo, Masindi, Entebbe, Kabale, Mbarara, Tororo, Jinja, Soroti and the President’s Office, among other places as an administrator.
He worked in finance, human resource, welfare and supervision, among other departments.
“When I got my first appointment letter from the permanent secretary ministry of Agriculture Justus Byagagaire, I knew time would come and I retire because the officer I replaced had retired. I started counting down days and months until I came to zero,” Ndahagire quips.
His initial salary was Shs366. Out of this Ndahagire would save 40 per cent in the bank until it was enough to buy land. He says most people in public service committed all their time to serving the public and did not think about doing private business.
“It was a commitment that you must serve people. You could not run after two things. All my life was in public service. I do not regret. We were not corrupt as we hear about the behaviours of some these days. Your money was yours,” he says.
Ndahagire was inspired to go to school by the neigbouring successful and wealthy family of Joseph Katatumba who had pilots and engineers.
He pursued Business Administration at Nakawa before joining public service. The exposure he got encouraged him to ensure that he educates all his children to at least degree level, which he has accomplished.
“I wanted my children to be very important officers in government like those I was seeing where I worked. Indeed I achieved that,” says Ndahagire. He however, says he has discovered that if he had acquired more land he would have more and bigger plantations.
After active service
During retirement he has served as LC5 councillor for Nyakayojo Sub-county. He is chairman of Parents and Teachers Association at Nyamiyaga Primary School and St Boniface Primary School, Bwenkoma. Ndahagire is also a member of Rotary Club of Rwampara at the rank of Paul Harris Fellow (PHF).
His two cents
He advises people still in service to be faithful so that they are not prosecuted over corruption when they are in retirement. This earns one respect and integrity in communities where they are going to retire.
“Don’t enrich yourselves at the expense of those you serve.
Serve faithfully and you must save for a rainy day; when you will no longer be earning that salary and allowance. Also, when you will not be living in that government house,” says Ndahagire.
He adds that in retirement one wears out fast because of old age and isolation. “You need to look after your health well; go for medical check-ups and make sure you eat well.”
Ndahagire went to St Lawrence Primary School in Nyamitanga, St John Fisher Secondary School in Ibanda, Nyamitanga Rural Commercial School and Uganda College of Commerce Nakawa. He is grateful to Abel Butamanya former agriculture office in Mbarara (now living in Isingiro) who ensured that he enrols in primary school. Charles Baryomunsi retired commissioner ministry of Agriculture welcomed him at Namarere, Jinja and he helped him to go for further studies.