Banana Farming Business gave me a New Lease of Life - Story of a Successful Banana Farmer

To maximise on profits, Luwalira sells his produce from the garden( @ the right).

As a retailer, Joseph Kizito Luwalira quickly realised that he was not going to make ends meet. 
He told Fred Muzaale how supplementing his income by growing banana changed his livelihood. 
My name is Joseph Kizito Luwalira
I am a resident of Nakaliro village in Kayunga Town Council, Kayunga District. I am a commercial farmer and I own six acres of banana, 70 acres of sugarcane and five acres of coffee

Altogether, I have 81 acres of land on which I carry out these projects.
But before I joined farming in 2000, I was a businessman and I owned a retail shop in Kayunga Town. Alongside the shop, I owned a coffee processing factory and a maize mill. Initially, these businesses brought in good money which enabled me to fend for my family. But the profits from the coffee factory and maize mill dropped significantly when power tariffs were raised. 
However, in 2005 when I went to Kabwohe in Mbarara District to buy coffee, I was amazed when I saw big and well –attended to banana plantations. I also saw many traders looking for bananas to buy. 
This forced me to inquire from the farmers what ‘magic’ they used to have such good banana plantations. 
I had earlier tried to grow bananas but my plantation was wiped out by banana weevils and banana wilt disease. So I had abandoned banana growing.

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I was surprised when they told me that they only used cow dung as fertiliser in their banana plantations and also ensure they mulch their gardens, which guarantees high moisture content in the soil all the time. The mulches also control weeds.
When I returned home, I decided to give it a try, given that I was no longer realising profits from the coffee factory and maize mill.
I decided to start growing bananas since they had a ready market, whereby buyers look for the produce. Secondly, bananas give income (money) to the farmer throughout the year unlike coffee, which has only two seasons a year.
Setting out
To start my banana plantation, I went to Kawanda Agricultural Research Institute, where I was given free banana suckers under the Naads programme. Because I wanted banana varieties that are drought and disease resistant yet with big bunches, I chose indigenous banana varieties such as Musakala, Kibuzi, Ssiira, Mbwa zirume and Nakitembe among others.

I also took few banana suckers for Mpologoma variety because despite having a big bunch and maturing fast, this variety is highly susceptible to drought, pests and diseases. Mpologoma variety also has very weak stems, which necessitates a farmer to buy supporting poles because if this is not done, the plants, especially those with banana can easily fall.
After clearing my garden, I dug holes of three and a half feet by three feet. I then got dry cow dung which was in powder form and poured it in the holes.
I left the holes open for three months as the cow dung decomposed before planting the suckers. 

This is because if you plant immediately, the cow dung burns the suckers, which results in withering.
I planted the suckers during light rains because heavy rains also make the suckers to rot.

One month after planting, I applied Dudu cyper, an insecticide. This insecticide is mixed with Urea or NPK, which are both fertilisers before it is applied on the lower part of banana plants. 

With this, a farmer kills pests yet at the same time boost the growth of crops. 
When my banana plants were about seven months old, I mulched the entire plantation using grasses I got from swamps and sugarcane leaves. 

Mulching has a number of benefits such as preserving water in the soil, controlling weeds, which reduces cost of labour. 

However, a farmer can also use dry banana leaves as mulches. 
While covering the plantation I made sure I left about three metres from the banana plant uncovered. I did so because if the mulches are placed on the plant they can lead to pests attack and withering of the plant.
Care for the plantation
To ensure that my banana plants are healthy, I make a herbal concoction which I apply on the banana plants to kill pests and also control diseases. I make the herbal medicine by mixing plants such as tobacco, lukandwa and luwoko leaves.

 I also add other ingredients such as wood ash to make the herbal, which has proved very helpful in controlling even the deadly banana wilt disease.
Before I discovered this herbal medicine, I was losing about six banana plants every week. Currently, I control banana wilt by applying this concoction on affected plants. I have also begun selling the herbal medicine to banana farmers at Shs50,000 for a five litre jerry can.

During the dry season, my banana plants are not affected by drought since I place cow dung around each banana plant. I place the dung about three metres from each plant and later cover it with mulches. Because of this, the plant gets the nutrients it requires all the time, even during long dry periods such as the one we are experiencing now.
When it is a long drought spell, I buy polythene bags, which I tie on a pole and place near each plant. In the polythene bags I pour water which trickles down to the plant through a small hole drilled underneath the bag.
This ensures that the plant has water. I use this because I have not installed an irrigation system yet. 
To ensure that the banana plants are healthy, I also ensure that in each hole there are not many plants because when they are many, the competition for soil nutrients is high, which makes them to become small and weak. As a result they produce small bunches of bananas.
Every week I harvest between 45 and 60 bunches of bananas. I sell to traders from Kampala, Kayunga, Jinja and Mukono areas.

 I charge a uniform price for all the banana bunches. On average, each bunch costs Shs12,000. I can earn about Shs2m a month from selling bananas.

I sell my produce from the garden so I don’t incur any transport costs. 

Besides selling bananas, I also sell suckers at Shs1,500 each. 

From this, I can earn about Shs3m a season. 
From farming, I have been able to construct a nice home for my family. The house is worth more than Shs40m. I have also been able to pay school fees for my children, most of whom have completed university. 

Thirdly, I have also bought more land using proceeds from farming. The garden is now my office and I teach my children to love farming because it is a well paying job.
Other projects
Since I have a lot of land, I also decided to join sugarcane growing.
Currently I have 70 acres of sugarcane which I supply to major sugar processing factories. I sell a tonne of sugar cane at Shs70,000.

When the sugar cane is mature I harvest it and take to the sugar companies. Sometimes I am paid instantly, other times I have to wait for about a week. 
From this enterprise, I earn about Shs40m a year. 
Sugarcane growing is profitable because it doesn’t require weeding after planting. 
But its only disadvantage is that for one to grow it they must have a lot of land which can be used to grow sugar cane and food crops.

I also grow maize every season from which I earn about Shs50m.

Piggery project
To diversify my income, I run a piggery with 14 pigs. The pigs are of Cambra and Large white breed.
The large white is good since it has many breasts that can be used to feed the piglets while the Cambra is big and long hence it fetches a high price.

To properly run these projects, I have employed two workers who do work such as weeding and applying fertilisers in the garden. 

But when I am not busy I also help out together with my wife and children.

Writers Note:  I hope someone reading this will be encouraged and motivated to start something new in the agriculture industry and have a new story to share at the end of the year...,
If you enjoy this and you found it moticational and inspiring kindly share it with your friends. 

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