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Farmers spice up incomes with garlic growing

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Golden bulb: Garlic farms in Kabarole District, Uganda. With proper training, oil can be extracted from the bulb and blended with honey to treat colds and coughs. Photo/MORGAN MBABAZI

Golden bulb: Garlic farms in Kabarole District, Uganda. With proper training, oil can be extracted from the bulb and blended with honey to treat colds and coughs. Photo/MORGAN MBABAZI 

By MICHAEL WAKABI

Posted  Monday, October 19  2009 at  00:00
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Like many farmers tilling the slopes of Mt Rwenzori, 300 kilometres west of Kampala, Charles Katusabe experimented with different crops after the collapse of the coffee economy at the turn of the millennium.

The vanilla and moringa crops that promised so much then didn’t do well. “We had lots of unsold stock,” he recalls.

Katusabe, who is now the chairperson of Mitandi United for Development, a farmers group formed in 2005 bringing together 25 members, was one of 800 farmers targeted by the Kabarole District Farmers Association (KDFA) to participate in a commercial garlic production project.

“Unlike five years ago, it is difficult to believe some of the dreams and hopes we nurse today. Garlic growing has not only brought money into households here but it has also revived our faith in commercial farming,” he says.

With technical and financial support from Farm-Africa’s Maendeleo Agricultural Technology Fund and Gatsby Charitable Foundation, the project has expanded beyond the original group.

Some 30 groups, with a total member-ship of nearly 900, are now growing garlic on a commercial scale.

In the first phase that ran from 2005 to 2007, the farmers’ association sought to popularise garlic growing as an alternative income generating crop.

In Phase II, which commenced in 2008, the project’s scope was narrowed down to three sub-counties — Katebwa, Bukuku and Mugusu — which form the Kabumu Co-operative.

The focus was on promotion of commercial garlic seed production and access to profitable markets.

Through Kabumu, KDFA is promoting value addition.

Processing of new garlic products for the market has begun.

So far, the co-operative has extracted garlic oil, which it blends with honey to form a medicinal product to treat common colds and coughs.

Other products are garlic powder; garlic bulbs neatly packed in nets; and peeled garlic bulbs preserved in vinegar.

The project is helping farmers adopt new production technologies and pool resources to access profitable markets.

Katusabe says the crop was not new to the area but it had not been considered a potential money spinner.

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