They say when one door closes, another opens. And that is exactly what describes Ibrahim Mutenyo’s farming journey. When he lost his job in 2012, Mutenyo did not grieve but instead ventured into growing tomatoes and sukuma wiki (collard greens) to earn a living.
“I was fired after suffering a stroke .My ambitions were put on hold but I did not allow sorrow to swallow me. I started growing tomatoes and sukuma wiki in one of my plots of land,” he says.
Mutenyo, a resident of Malukhu Adra, Industrial Division in Mbale Town, says he started growing the vegetables in early 2013. “My plot was small so I divided it. On one part I planted tomatoes and the remaining piece I planted sukuma wiki as I was advised by my colleague,” he says.
Although Mutenyo’s left hand is paralysed, he works together with his family members to ensure that the plants grow stocky in order to yield good harvest.
Seven years down the road, Mutenyo has never regretted growing tomatoes and Sukuma wiki on small scale. He has even expanded the venture and now he plants on several plots of land, some of which he rents.
The father of six children, however, says growing such crops requires a lot of supervision and labour. “You need to stake, trellis, or cage most tomato and Sukuma wiki plants to keep them off the ground. You need to be in the garden all the time and this is what I have been doing since I started this business. At the end of the day it’s rewarding,” he says.
He says although he does not make a lot of money from the sales, the little he gets whenever he harvests has enabled him to cater for his family needs.
He sells a basin of tomatoes at Shs20,000. “Each harvest, I collect more than 20 basins,” he says.
For collard greens (sukuma wiki), he says the crop is quick to give results since it can last only for only one month. “sukuma wiki gives me my daily revenue and it’s on demand,” he says.
Mutenyo says unlike this year, the previous years he grew the leafy vegetables throughout the year without a hurdle.
“But now it has become a little difficult because the stream where I used to fetch water for irrigating has dried up. I am struggling growing the crops because it is the only source of income I have,” he says, adding that tomatoes and sukuma wiki are on high demand with a bundle of six leaves of the latter costing over Shs500.
He says in order to yield good harvests; he applies pesticides, compost manure and also ensures that the garden is well prepared, planted in standard spacing, among others.
Mutenyo says the demand for tomatoes and sukuma wiki is high. “I have ready market for my produce because I am near the town,” he says, adding that most of his buyers are local traders from Mbale Town.
From the proceeds, Mutenyo says he has managed to reinvest the proceeds into the growing sugarcane and other crops.
He says he has also managed to cater for his family needs, including school fees for his children.
The biggest problem, he says is lack of water. “I have to irrigate if I am to plant throughout the year but now it is becoming hard and soon it will be impossible since the stream where I used to get water has dried,” he says.
He says pests and diseases attack the crops.
Asked about his plans, Mutenyo says he wants to venture into growing of fruits and also to expand his sugarcane plantation.
He urges government to conduct training for farmers on irrigation farming so as to enable them to carry on with farming even in the dry season.
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Losing a job helped Mutenyo find livelihood in vegetable growing