By Don Wanyama
As a follow-up to his lecture yesterday on social-economic transformation, President Museveni today invited six dairy farmers from the Kyankwanzi neighbourhood to share their experiences with the cabinet ministers, permanent secretaries and NRM CEC members who are currently on retreat at the National Leadership Institute.
Each one of them gave interesting testimonies of largely rags-to-riches stories. The common thread is that they were herders of local dairy breeds largely for cultural/traditional reasons. Cattle was for prestige but they earned little pecuniary returns them. Then President Museveni came knocking with his message; unless you have stock in thousands and large pasture fields, do away with local breeds. Look up Fresian/hybrid stocks. Feed them well, treat them and make a killing from products. These gentlemen took a leap of faith. Some overhauled entire stock, others opted to bring hybrid bulls and cross-breed with local stock.
The results have been magical.
I will summarize John Munyabwera’s account:
A primary school teacher by training, he made the decision to quit class in the 1990s and turn to farming. He says President Museveni has already begun preaching the message of commercial farming that he listened to. His long-horned Ankole cattle was not giving him much yield. He got Boran and several other hybrid bulls to cross-breed with his local types. The results were amazing. Anyway, from a daily collection of 20 litres then, he now gathers 500 litres daily of milk. And he actually has opted not to milk all his herd. He keeps a big section for beef, meaning he would have a bigger collection of milk if he wanted.
He’s diversified into goats, rearing over 1,000 cross-breed high quality goats. He’s also cultivating bananas on 10 acres and has gone into real estate, acquiring land as far as Hoima (I guess hoping to make a kill from oil).
Asked to list what he’s gained, Munyabwera, says: ‘I have educated my children with 14 being university graduates. I am a property mogul, constructed dips for my cows, I employ 20 people on permanent basis while over 60 do casual gigs for me.’
Guess what? His first born son is his farm manager, earning a salary, same with another son a veterinarian. He amused ministers and technocrats present when he said he cruises a car better than for most ministers, yet his is not taxpayers money.
The farmers have challenges like low milk and beef price, fake animal drugs on the market, not-so-good roads to the farms etc.
Despite these challenges, they, in unison, agreed that listening to the President on going commercial on dairy farming has paid off.
The youngest of the group, Benon Kabingire, 35, only began commercial dairy farming about two years ago after he bought a cross-breed bull from ex-IGG Augustine Ruzindana. From a paltry 20 litres a day, he does 320 litres a day now. At the current average price of Shs450 a litre for milk, Benon makes Shs144,000 a day or Shs4.2 million a month. He’s built a home and is educating his children.
Wrapping-up on this group, the President noted that achieving a middle-income status is possible. Leaders simply need to correctly diagnose their people’s problems and offer right solutions. These gentlemen are testimony that nothing is impossible once you put your mind to it.