23 July 2012

Uganda: Greenhouse - Option for Urban Farming

Kampala — 80% of the country's population is employed in the agriculture sector and most of them are small holder farmers and not sustainable. All the years, the government has been making efforts to restructure agriculture and various modern organic practices such as green house farming have been invented to increase production.

"We don't need a lot of space to practice sustainable agriculture. Green house farms are ideal since on a limited piece of land, one can plant different varieties of crops and keep harvesting all year irrespective of the season", said Abbey Kazibwe the director of Nsanja agro-chemicals limited a company that deals in agricultural pesticides, seeds and green houses during a green house farming demonstration held in Wakiso 17 kilometers west of Kampala.

Green house agriculture is Ideal for urban farming where there is water, little land and ready market for the fruits and vegetables that grow well under structures.

In a green house, tomatoes grow within a period of 72 days and the yields depend on the amount of spacing given to the crop during growth. The water melon grows in 100 days and a branch yields over 30 fruits.

Cucumber matures in 45 days and grows better in hot weather.

"A farmer can get 4m ($1633) every harvest if the product is of quality', explains David Ndungu a sales man at Deruiter seeds company and a green house farmer in Kenya.

He mainly grows tomatoes and cucumber.

There are different varieties of crops grown in the green house. They include tomatoes, pepper, onions, cucumber and fruits like watermelon.

What it takes

A well built green house can last three to four years depending on the way it's managed.

Kazibwe says it initially requires about 6m ($2448) to build a 19 by 8 meters green house.

The requirements for the structure are mainly polythene, timber (tall eucalyptus trees), water for irrigation, strings, nails and 4 to 5 wheel barrows of soil. Thermometers are also vital in a green house to keep temperatures in check.

Ms. Madina Nakirijja a farmer says that strings are important in a green house for staking since they give plants especially tomatoes an upright growth that enhances higher yields.

A small section of about 2 meters should be allocated for the nursery bed and composite manure should be used for fertilizing the soil.

In a nursery bed, the seeds should not be buried deeper than 1cm.

Kazibwe explains that irrigation of the soil should be done before planting to avoid erosion of the seeds.

Mulch (grass) should be used on top and a net may be used to prevent evaporation of the water then the mulch is removed after germination.

He adds that short green houses are fit for short crops such as the water melon and big spacing leads to high yields especially in tomatoes.

The recommended spacing is 60cm between the rows and 40cm between the plants.

Maintenance of a green house

"Crops are 80% safe in the green house than in an open garden since its accessibility is restricted said Kazibwe.

Accessibility of the green house is restricted to minimize pests and diseases.

William Kwezi a green house farmer advises that the structure should be managed by one person and should use protective gear and disinfectants in order not to pass on the diseases which could affect the crops.

He also encourages farmers to design a management chart in order to take note of the transplanting days, mulching and days of adding fertilizers to the soils.

The green house must also be thoroughly irrigated and this takes 45mls of dripping water per minute and this should be closely monitored to avoid over flooding and erosion especially at early stages of plant growth.

Kazibwe warns that when constructing, one has to consider the direction of the wind since green houses are normally weak structures that can be easily blown away by wind.

Market for the produce

Kazibwe who started green house farming two years ago mainly supplies super markets and in every harvest he earns more than Ush 5m ($2040).

The market for agricultural produce depends on the quality, season and the sustainability of the product on the market.

"If the farmer is able to supply his produce sustainably, then our supermarket is ready to buy his produce", said James Kabiru the country buyer, Uchumi super market.

The minimum supply of agricultural products by the local farmers to Uchumi super market is 200kgs per week.

At uchumi, a kilogram of green pepper is bought from farmers at Ush 10000($4) and in turn sold to consumers at 16000($6.2) whereas a kilogram of onions is bought at Ush 4500 (about$2) and is sold at 7000 (about$3).

Kabiru says fresh commodities are the most demanded at uchumi but the supply from local farmers is still minimal. Most of the products like the red and yellow pepper are imported from Kenya.

Government support

"The government should direct funds in agriculture modernization if they are to transform agriculture from small holder farmers to big farmer organizations", kazibwe advises.

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