SMALLHOLDER farmers in Kabale will start producing vegetables throughout the year, following the introduction of green house farming in the district.
The technology, being promoted by a local company, the Nile Fresh Produce (NFP) in partnership with Israeli and South Korean firms, aims at promoting quality vegetable production for export.
"The Israelites are by far the leading producers of quality vegetables for the European market and the US. We want to bring their technology here," said the NFP director of operations, Pius Kwesiga.
Kwesiga was addressing beneficiaries during the launch of the technology by the agriculture minister, Hope Mwesigye, last week.
He said the consortium plans to invest about 10 million euros to enable the district develop an agricultural infrastructure that will empower the local farmers.
The investment will also lead to the transfer of technology and skills for local farmers to become self-sustaining.
Kwesiga said the consortium was working closely with the agriculture ministry through National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS) programme to promote the technology.
Their plans includes putting up a sorting and grading facility, cold storage and a processing unit, which will handle 1,500 tonnes of vegetables and herbs annually.
The nucleus farm and factory will directly employ 600 people and 40,000 outgrowers will be targeted to supply the facility with vegetables and herbs.
Kwesiga says 90% of the vegetables consumed in Uganda are bought from Kenya.
"Ugandan farmers do not have the capacity to pick, clean and package vegetables in a manner to enable them access markets from hotels and supermarkets," he says.
Addressing farmers, Mwesigye assured the investors that the Kabale district local government would allocate them 100 acres to set up the factory.
"I will ensure that the district council sits and deliberates on the matter of land allocation to the investors," she said.
Mwesigye said if the project is successful in Kabale, it will be rolled out to Kanungu, Rukungiri and Kisoro districts.
Kwesiga noted that they had developed a five-year development plan, which aims at transforming subsistence vegetable farming into a commercial business in the country.
He said in Israel, farmers earn about 125,000 euros annually from vegetables, but added that 50% of the income is spent on labour costs.
Kwesiga, however, said in Uganda, labour is cheap and the soils are fertile.
"The partners in Israel are eager to come and work with us. Uganda has a good climate, which will allow vegetable production throughout the year," he said.
Kwesiga said the district will focus on the production of egg plants, tomatoes, garlic, chives and mint.
"We shall also encourage farmers to engage in the cultivation of cabbages, carrots and cucumber for the local market," he said.
Why greenhouse technology
Kwesiga said greenhouse gardening had become one of the fastest growing way of growing vegetables because of its ability to lengthen and extend the growing cycle of vegetables.
"When farmers own greenhouses, they will no longer be held hostage by the ongoing climatic changes. The seasons will no longer dictate when farmers will begin and end vegetable cultivation," Kwesiga said.
He said AdaFresh, the Israel company that will work with Kabale, exports fresh agricultural produce from Israel, meeting the urgent need for a dynamic and mutually supportive link between quality Israeli growers and the continuously changing global markets.
"We have agreed to use their platform to export vegetables and herbs from Uganda to the already existing market," Kwesiga said.
The company works with the finest growers, who uphold standards, and involves them in development decisions.
"As part of its commitment to developing agriculture and offering new produce to global markets, AdaFresh will work closely with Ugandan farmers in promoting quality vegetable cultivation," Kwesiga says.
By supporting this vital aspect of agriculture, the company will assist farmers in reaching new markets for potential produce, while helping buyers obtain new varieties. AdaFresh considers this to be an important aspect of its activities, he said.
"This will ensure that there is value-addition to vegetables and herbs produced in Uganda and availability of the required vegetables," he says.
Location of the factory.
Once the 100 acres of land have been identified, the consortium will start construction of the greenhouses within three months.
In the first 18 months, they will train 3,000 farmers, expose them to the technology, after which, they will give them seeds and fertilisers as a loan facility.