TIDE: Stories of transformation - taking up farming as a business

TIDE: Stories of transformation - taking up farming as a business

SNV presents a second story highlighting the transformation that the TIDE project is creating at farmer and private sector level: Bells Katongole who took up farming as a business.

The five year The Inclusive Dairy Enterprise (TIDE) project in Uganda (funded by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands) aims to improve incomes for 20,000 dairy farmers in the districts of Bushenyi, Isingiro, Kiruhura, Mbarara, Ntungamo and Sheema. Now in its third year, the project is creating tangible results, having developed a number of relevant products and services for dairy farmers, delivered by the private sector.

"The SNV TIDE project has inspired me to take up farming as a business"

My name is Bells Katongole. I am a dairy farmer and the chairman of the Abesigana Kashari Dairy Cooperative in Mbarara district. I have been a ‘telephone farmer’ for most of my life: I worked in the capital city Kampala as a public servant and managed my farm from a distance by phone. I was largely absent from my farm and I faced a lot of challenges. My focus was on breeding an improved stock through Artificial Insemination (AI) but we were not effective. We had a lot of failed inseminations and many calves died.

Two years ago I retired and I decided to focus on my farm. It was not easy and I struggled to maintain the fodder quality for my cattle. I got to know about the SNV dairy project and decided to attend one of their practical dairy trainings. The information I received during the training made a lot of sense to me. The owners of the practical dairy training farms I visited for the training, were successful, so I returned inspired and encouraged to carry out farming as a business.

Having witnessed successful dairy farmers at the model farm, I knew that we could achieve the same. I decided to build a milking parlour that can accommodate 14 cows, which SNV supported me to construct. To encourage the cows to be milked in the milking parlour, they advised us to provide supplemental fodder during milking time. We gave the cows hay and silage as well as minerals and our milk production increased significantly!

TIDE: Stories of transformation - taking up farming as a business

With milking parlours farmers can now milk before the sun comes out

At the model farm we also learnt about pastures management and paddocking. In 2016, we harvested 450 bales of hay and 300kgs of pasture seed which we sold to other members of my cooperative to stimulate them to grow their own pastures. For the first time in my life, I was able to feed my cattle throughout the year, even during the extended drought. As a result, we did not experience a significant reduction in our milk production. Before the training, we used to get 100 litres of milk in the rainy season and 50 litres in the dry period. Now our average is 250 litres in the rainy season and 150 in the dry season from our 35 milking cows.

A number of other farmers in my cooperative have started to grow their own pasture, now that they witnessed that we were able to feed our cattle throughout the dry season. Many farmers also constructed dams to save water for the dry season because they know that they can’t be an effective farmer without it. The quality of the animals amongst our members has improved significantly as a result.

SNV’s approach to support farmers directly has proven to be very effective. Farmers are now much more motivated than before to take care of their cattle because they know that it will increase their returns significantly. Admittedly, we still struggle to grow maize for silage because most of us still value maize more as food for humans and instead as fodder for animal, but we are slowly changing. This year we intend to use half of our maize for silage and the rest for our own consumption.