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The story of Mr David Ntale, proprietor of Vadip Farmers Centre, in Kiwangala Township, Lwengo District, adds meaning to the wisdom of encouraging young people to go to vocational schools as a way of job creation and reducing unemployment. Background His father died when he was about 14 years old and it was his mother and a charity organisation, Compassion International that paid his school fees at St Bernard’s College Kiswera, where he did his Ordinary Level studies and at Mbuye Farm School from where he picked his farming skills. He is today a successful coffee and passion fruit farmer, a private animal husbandry services provider in the area, a supplier of agro-inputs, and the founder of Mastered Seed Primary and Nursery School where agriculture is strongly emphasised.Starting “We had a few cows at home but they all died and we had to depend on coffee for income,” Ntale told Seeds of Gold.“My mother often had to borrow money from coffee traders to pay our school fees. The traders would recover their money when the coffee was harvested. The big lesson I picked from that scenario was that coffee was a good source of money and that is why I made it my ambition to become a commercial coffee farmer after my studies.”At Mbuye Farm School he was in charge of the coffee nursery school as a student besides being elected chairman of the Scripture Union Club. “We were drilled in all forms of farming, soil management, crop and livestock husbandry, organic farming, book keeping, rainwater harvesting, and natural environment protection. During my vacations I would ride my bicycle to Ssembabule District headquarters to work as a volunteer under Dr Francis Katumba. I learned so much from him regarding animal diseases and how to handle clients.”
Robusta coffee nursery Upon leaving Mbuye Farm School David established his own Robusta coffee nursery at his home using coffee cuttings obtained from the school to make the ‘mother garden’. “My first objective was to plant cloned Robusta coffee to replace the low yielding coffee varieties that my parents had planted. I also wanted to persuade the coffee farmers in the area to appreciate the many advantages of growing cloned Robusta coffee which include higher yields and better quality coffee beans. I further expected them to buy from me the coffee clones for planting. In addition to setting up the coffee nursery I undertook to offer livestock health care services for farmers in the neighbourhood which turned out to be quite paying. I saved all the money I earned and bought my first piece of land at Nateete Village where I grew passion fruit and earned over Shs8m.”
David Ntale’s Mastard Seed Primary and Boarding School – one of the gains from farming. PHOTO/MICHEAL J SSALI.Farmers shop He used this money to purchase a plot of land in Kiwangala Township where he later set up Vadip Farmers Centre, a shop from which farmers in the neighbouring villages purchase most of their agro-inputs that include fertilisers, pesticides, herbicides, watering cans, among many other items .“I owe the success of Vadip Farmers Centre to my mentor Dr Francis Katumba, who introduced me to the best agro-inputs dealers in Masaka Town that get the items directly from the manufacturers. We are sure that the products are all genuine and we can sell them at relatively low prices. I was later to join their company, known as Gremada Company.”Breakthrough He now sells thousands of cloned Robusta coffee seedlings every rainy season to farmers and his coffee nursery is among those recognised and approved by the Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA). He has used the training he received from Mbuye Farm School to harvest plenty of rainwater at the nursery which is located in the backyard of his mother’s house at Lwaggulwe Village about or three kilometres from Kiwangala Township. All the run-off rainwater from the compound is trapped into a huge pit measuring tens of square metres and well fitted with tarpaulin. He is therefore never short of water for watering the seedlings in the nursery. He has also got another huge pit into which all the rainwater from the roof top is trapped. It is pumped to a raised tank from where it flows into the modern house he has built for his mother and into some taps outside the house.“The rooftop rainwater is for my mother’s cow to drink and for her to cook her food,” says Ntale. “It is that water that she uses for all her bathroom activities inside the house. I no longer want the old lady to use outside toilets.”With money earned from selling coffee seedlings, Ntale has been buying parcels of land since 2008 and planting coffee himself. He has bought the land in different neighbouring villages and he estimates it to be about 60 acres to date, mostly under coffee.
Ntale has also diversified into papaya farming. MICHEAL J SSALI.Agronomy He is of the view that coffee can be grown on land that might not be suitable for other crops as long as the farmer adopts the right agronomic practices.His coffee gardens at Nakateete and Kaserere each measuring five acres are sitting on gravel which so many people would regard as unsuitable for coffee. Yet the coffee trees are doing very well and he is quick to explain why. “As long as you supply what is missing any type of soil can be productive,” he says. “I had to dig large holes and to fill them halfway with soil mixed with organic manure before planting the clones. The reason I did not fill the holes completely is that I wanted the same hole to be the trap and store for runoff rainwater to support the coffee tree.” All the coffee trees were heavy laden with coffee berries and he is looking forward to a bumper harvest. Advice He further recommends that coffee farmers should trap rain water by digging trenches across the gardens and several shallow holes here and there. He goes ahead to advise fellow farmers to apply both organic and synthetic fertilisers. “I personally apply cow dung manure every two years and synthetic fertiliser every beginning of the rain season.”He derives satisfaction from the fact that a lot of farmers in the surrounding villages have come to appreciate the big advantages of growing cloned coffee. “They now realise that they harvest far more coffee than the others that don’t grow this variety. I am now beginning to call upon them to join me to start a farmers’ group so that we market our coffee together. The advantage here is that cloned Robusta coffee produces big beans — screen 17 and 18 — which coffee buyers and exporters prefer and for which they offer higher prices.” Benefits From the profits, David Ntale bought a car and he told Seeds of Gold.His decision to build Mastered Seed Primary and Nursery School in Kiwangala Township was inspired by a honeymoon promise he made to his wife, Faith, who is a primary school teacher and with whom he has five children. “I knew that she enjoyed teaching yet she had got married to a farmer,” he narrated. “So I promised her to build our own school which she would head.” The school is now in place, complete with a school garden where the children will get an opportunity to acquire farming skills. “I want the school to teach not only academic subjects but to also teach all the other skills that I personally acquired from Mbuye Farm School. Despite the ongoing closure of schools over the Covid-19 pandemic, construction of a new school dormitory was taking place. His dream is to give his children the best education that money can [email protected]
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