Bushenyi Tea growing has turned into gold.

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I am Asaph Bamusiime Muhwezi  53 years from Rutookye village Nyakashojwa parish in Mitooma district and I grow tea as my main activity to earn a living. I have been growing tea since 1992 after having bout a two acre piece of land that had tea trees. To me growing tea has turned into a goldmine as am able to earn money on daily basis.

I first bought a piece of land with two acres of tea trees which had been abandoned by the original owner at about Shs 200,000 but my intention was to use the land for grazing. However I didn’t uproot the tea but used the land for my 6 crossbreed cattle for grazing.

Prior to buying this land I had tried to sell shoes in markets getting them from Congo and Kampala but it was not working out so I saved the Shs 200,000 and used it to buy the land.

Afterwards I left for Japan for Kyeyo in 1995 untill 1998 when I came back. I found that half of my animals had died. This killed the interest of keeping cattle and I resorted to tea growing by rehabilitating the existing shamba. I abandoned cattle keeping because the cost of keeping them was very high while the returns were poor considering the location of my village to the proximity of the market for the milk.

As luck would strike for tea farmers, the Uganda Tea Growers Corporation (UTGC) was divested and all the out growers factories of Mpanga and Mabare in Kabarole District, Igara tea factory in Bushenyi and Kayonza tea factory in Kanungu were sold to farmers in 1995 . The process was completed in 2001.

When management changed, farmers started benefitting as they became shareholders at the same time sell their tea leaves. Operations improved and this  motivated some of us who had had little interest to venture into tea growing.

These factories had been started by the Obote 1 government to eradicate poverty among peasant farmers in rural areas. Igara tea factory was commissioned in 1972 by the then president Iddi Amin.

Turning point

After rehabilitating the two acres, I started earning money every month which encouraged me to open up new fields. Currently I have 10 acres of tea and would wish to continue planting more.

In 2001 I went for massive planting. This was the time when the government embarked on massive tea planting to help farmers increase their incomes especially those that had been depending on coffee which had been hit by coffee wilt disease.

I put up a tea nursery under government Strategic intervention program and made a lot of money as I was selling each seedling at Shs 200 to farmers as I also expanded my own plantation.

Achievements

Currently I pluck Kg 4,000 of green which I sell to Igara Tea Growers factory of which I am a member and get Shs 380 per kg. initially, the second payment after three months is Shs 120 per kg. We also get bonuses and dividends at the end of the year. This makes tea growing very attractive and many farmers have benefitted like me. Initial direct payment I earn about Shs 2 million per month but subsequent earnings go beyond this depending on the vigilance of us farmers.

I have been able to put up a modern house, a commercial building in Rutookye Trading Centre, opened up shops in Ishaka Municipality and Rutookye respectively and own some cars. I have also educated my children two are at the university while others are still in good secondary schools. I have bought land and started agroforestry by planting 10 acres of eucalyptus trees and coffee in areas that are hard to reach because of transport.

I have also created employment for the locals who pluck the tea. I employ 7 permanent workers while during the peak season I employ 10 casual labourers.

Constraints

Tea growing is a labour intensive venture right from the word go. It needs constant plucking the green at the right time, weeding on the sides and middle, pruning and quick transportation to the factory. We do not have enough labourers especially during the pick periods of Sept-December and March-May.

Herbicides, fertilizers, pruning knives and spray pumps are very expensive for us small holder farmers. We need government intervention especially on fertilizers which are very expensive. We ask government to subsidize fertilizers to enable us break even as tea depends very much on this commodity.

After the government strategic intervention program which did not last long, farmers do not access easily good tea clones to open up new fields. I would want 43,000 plantlets for each new acre I open up.

Since green tea leaves production has gone high because of many small holder farmers embracing the venture, the factory is overwhelmed during the pick periods that a new factory is necessary. We sell tea on daily basis, when the factory is full we lose the quality of the leaves because they overgrow beyond the recommended time.

Future plans.

Since tea production has increased with farmers opening up new fields the potential to put up more factories cannot be over emphasized, I intend to add on more acres but also pattern with other farmers to open up a tea factory.

I would also like to acquire irrigation equipment to stem the low production of tea leaves during the dry periods since I have water next to my garden.

 

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4 thoughts on “Bushenyi Tea growing has turned into gold.

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