Phoebe Ndikimwiza Mubiru, 48, started livestock farming with one indigenous cow in the mid-1990s, unaware that .she would by now having 26 lactating heifers and 8 calves on zero grazing.
She now milks 85 litres of milk daily, earning sh. Sh.75, 000 daily and sh2,440,000 per month.
The enterprises which Phoebe manages, including the 12 acre onions’ field, 2 acres of coffee, 1 acre of oranges the 2 acre banana plantation, speaks of one of the successful female farmers in Kamuli district.
Her success is evidenced by the mixed aroma of onions and milk, which sweeps through St. Gonzaga Mixed Farm ¬Namwendwa, Kamuli district.
The 12 acre onions field, with punched plastic pipes laid between the rows, is breath-taking.
The pipes irrigate water in the vast onions field whenever Phobe wishes it should rain.
From the field, over 250 bags of 100kg are harvested every three months.
The harvest is sold in Kampala City and the People’s Republic of China. The farm gate price per bag is sh240,000.
On open market, a kilo costs between sh 5,000/ and sh6,000.
Phoebe also has 2 acres of coffee, a 2 acre banana plantation, 1 acre of oranges, vegetable gardens in the backyard and makes yoghurt.
From coffee, she earns between sh.3.7m and sh.4m, while the banana plantation fetches between 4m and 4.4m per year.
From the orange orchard, she earns sh. 1.2m, and sh.450, 000 from urban (courtyard/backyard) vegetable growing.
From a humble beginning, Phoebe has prevailed through the years, managing the multi-million St. Gonzaga Mixed Farm .. Namwendwa , based in Bulyango zone, Namwendwa Sub County in Kamuli district.
Besides her commitment and hard work, she attributes the success to her husband, Stephen Mubiru, the Ugandan Ambassador to Turkey, whose continuous technical and financial support has enabled the farm to progress through the years.
The Mubirus farming journey started on the ancestral land in Bulyango zone, which had 10 acres, before buying the 12 acre chunk on which the onions enterprise is thriving.
Born 48 years ago to Mzee Ponsiyano Kazaana and Tapenensi Kutuusa in Kidera village, Buyende district, Phoebe initiated started livestock farming in her teen age.
She studied at Kidera Primary School, where she sat for her Primary Leaving Examinations.
She then joined Kidera SS, but dropped out in Senior Two due to financial challenges and sought training in tailoring.
Her parents bought her sewing machine and she operated from Kidera trading centre.
This is where she got engaged by Ambassador Mubiru, the then Agricultural Extension officer in Kidera Sub County.
“When I was still young, we reared local cows and goats. There were no dams, so we watered them in ponds and streams and fed them on matooke cassava and potato peels,” she said.
Luckily, she married Mubiru, a professional veterinary practitioner who would train her on the farming dynamics; thank God that she married the right spouse.
Election Victory Gifts Bought First Heifer
Phoebe’s farming dream started in 1998, when the couple started livestock rearing with local chicken and one indigenous cow.
In 2007, they bought the first heifer at sh.3.5m.
The money was got from the gifts and donations which Stephen Mubiru got at the victory party after winning Kamuli LC5 Chairperson seat.
Named “Joan,” the heifer had a male calf a few months later.
However, efforts for Joan to conceive failed even with the use of Artificial Insemination (AI) methods to fertilize it.
“We sold it and bought another one, then another “Guernsey” heifer we later bought from Jinja Catholic Diocese,” Phoebe recalls.
Thee two cows produced a calf each, increasing milk production and proceeds.
Using the proceeds from milk, coffee and matooke, the heifers were bought at a time, replacing the aged old younger ones.
As of now, the dairy enterprise has 26 milking heifers and 8 calves.
Each heifer yields between 12 and 18 litres per day..
Phoebe solely manages the multi million farm in the absence of her husband, Stephen Mubiru, the Ugandan Ambassador to Malaysia, who is always abroad on State Duties.
“We’re happy to be at this stage, having started from scratch two decades ago,” she said.
Backed by hired and permanent workers, Phoebe applies modern techniques in the dairy enterprise.
Permanent workers are paid sh150,000 and sh200,000 per month, while the casual labourers get sh20,000 and sh50,000 depending on the work done.
Ambassador Mubiru says that the mobilization of fodder and feeding are very tedious tasks.
“We make silage and provide the fodder/silage we mixed with molasses for sweetening,” Mubiru, the Agriculture & Veterinary specialist, said.
To ensure a consistent supply of feeds, Mubiru said they have two acres of elephant grass and other fodder species.
Mubiru explains that the grass types used include Rhodes Guyana, Muchuna, caliandra, bracharia (kiryama), lablab and lucerne. Others fodder include glacidia, semuye, beans, central sema, silver leaf etc, which accelerate milk production.
The enterprise is backed by two big silage and fodder stores to feed the heifers through long droughts.
An underground 12,000 litre tank, whose contents is harvested from the roofs, waters the heifers.
A borehole was sunk in the courtyard at sh15m.
Assisted by her husband, Phoebe uses the Artificial Insemination (AI) method to fertilize the heifers.
A rectangular hole (10x20ft wide and 4 ft deep) where chopped silage is fermented is located at the left side of the enterprise.
The silage is made from maize, soyabean and groundnuts stems, sweet potato vines, etc.
To ensure quality silage, Ambassador Mubiru empowers Phoebe how to grow maize, which is harvested when the cobs and seeds are still milky.
They are left to wither for a few days, before chopping them into pieces using the chopper to make silage.
After fermenting, the silage is packed in polythene bags and the heifers can eat them even after a year.
The Onions Enterprise
The enterprise was birthed in 2015, when Ambassador Mubiru saw the vast fields in The Netherlands where he went to study a master’s degree.
“Looking back at my committed wife and vast land, I decided to take the project home,” Mubiru said.
The project, which was set up in 2016 with 3 acres, went full blast in 2018.
Rev Fr. James Kabonge, the enterprise Supervisor, testified that with the experience and increasing proceeds every year, the 12 acres are still counting, having bought some additional acres last year.
Naming the onions varieties as “Red Creole, purple creole among others, Ambassador Mubiru says the onions enterprise is the most lucrative.
The onions investment, according to Ambassador Mubiru, is sh.150m.
“We spend on purchase of seeds and workers’ wages. The water for irrigation is sourced from valley dam,” Mubiru says.
Organic pesticides, which are made from fermented pepper and other smelly plants, are used for spraying the bulbs.
The solar powered water irrigates the field, when necessary.
In 2018, the component of Vocational Training for the youth to learn the Science of growing Onions and Livestock Farming was introduced to empower the youth on job creation and innovation.
“The students provide labour whilst learning. At the close of the training, they’re experts,” Ambassador Mubiru says, adding that since inception, 65 students have been passed out.
“We have the feedback that once at home, the graduates put what they learnt in practice,” Ambassador Mubiru says.
Banana And Coffee Shambas
Phoebe has a 2 acre banana plantation, having to the initial suckers through the then NAADS program.
She initially started with 50 suckers she got free of charge, but paid sh.50,000/ to the youth who dug the holes.
She applied the cow dung in the holes before plating the suckers.
Having started with 50 suckers, she expanded the plantation to one acre, to the current two acres she counts today.
From matooke and selling suckers to upcoming farmers, Phobe bags between sh 2.5m and 3m per year.
“I projected more cash this year, which may didn’t come to pass because matooke has floated,” Phoebe says.
The downstream valley dam which waters the onions field, 15,000 tilapia fish was recently deposited.
Between sh.7m…10m is projected from this project in December.
The technologies Phoebe uses include applying organic manure in the banana plantation and mulching between the lines using fresh grasses and sugarcane leaves.
The manure is chicken droppings, cow dung, goats dung and compost.
Gonza Walekaki, one of the sons says that for the bananas to grow healthier and longer, the manure is applied after every eight months.
Pruning is done to keep off snail, mites, aphids and other parasites.
“The pruning also helps in keeping off the banana wilt disease,” he says.
The banana varieties Phoebe grows include the indigenous and the improved, like Mpologoma, Kisansa, Mbwazirume, Katetema, Ndyabalangira etc.
Phoebe also introduced the biogas technology for cooking and lighting.
The biogas slury is applied to energize plant growth and health.
Kabonge says that before transplanting the onions seedlings, they treat the soil with cow dung and other organic manure.
Luke Balinaki, an Agricultural specialist says that heifer’s urine and other additives including the crops with smelly scent, make local pesticides and fertilisers.
They also add sugar molasses to the silage for sweeteninmg.
The sweetened silage excites appetite, which entails the mammals to take much water, accelerating milk production.
To quicken the milking process, the Mubirus bought two motorised milking machines.
Conservation the environment is undertaken on the Gonzaga Farm.
“We have trees including Musizi, mahogany, gravellia etc,” Ambassador Mubiru says, adding that contours are dug in the onions filed, banana and coffee shambas to drain rain water.
The valley dam is also another tool for soil and water conservation.
Phoebe also practices value addition on milk, by making yogurt.
The presence of Namwendwa Yoghurt in shops and Supermarkets in Kamuli town and Jinja City, testifies this.
The making of silage and the Artificial Insemination (AI) component being rolled out upcoming farmers are some of the available technologies.
The Farm has made a social impact, employing over 15 youth on permanent and temporary basis.
These include the drivers of the pickup and the tractor.
The farm also hosts individual and upcoming farmers, schools and institutions come to learn modern agricultural and livestock techniques.
Guests from neighbouring districts, the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAIIF), farmer Organizations are also hosted.
Of recent, the Kyabazinga of Busoga, William Gabula Nadiope 1V visited the farm during his annual Farming Tour in the Kingdom.
It is also a stop centre for produce (matooke, maize, beans, cassava etc), milk buyers etc.
Asked whether the Farm will prevail after her demise, Phoebe said that their children have embraced farming, undertaking different routine tasks.
“Our son, GonzaWalekaki, a professional agriculturalist and his siblings are obsessed to the farm,” Phoebe says.
Luke Balinaki, an S4 Candidate, is flexible and a workaholic who undertakes all farm tasks.
Access To Finance
Phoebe told Harvest Money that the farm has progressed through hard work and the saving culture, not loans from Banks or Financial Institutions.
The locals’ negative attitude towards embracing modern farming methods by calling them expensive and delaying is one of the challenges.
“People are scared of investing in farming, yet it is lucrative,” Ambassador Mubiru says.
The prolonged droughts, resulting into water shortages in the dairy sector, are a challenge.
The banana plantation where the irrigation system is yet to be applied, also suffers the droughts.
The Mubirus plan to expand dairy enterprise to 40 heifers to from 26, and also projects to expand the onions field from 12 to 20 acres, by the year 2022.
Other plans include empowering the community through building their capacity to embrace farming.