I vowed to live my life organically after realising that it was the best kind of life,” says Timothy Njakasi, a farmer in Mukono district. Njakasi does not only live his life organically, he set up a school to train farmers in organic farming practices. Kasenge Riverford Organic Centre, located near Mbalala Trading Centre, 18 miles on the Kampala-Jinja highway, is fully-equipped, with good boarding facilities.
Organic farming is a practice where crops are grown without the use of chemicals like pesticides. Farmers use manure like rotting crop matter, animal dung, urine, ash, etc. The world organic market has grown by 20% in the last 10 years. In 1998, it stood at around $13b (sh22.5t), but grew to around $25b (43.2t) in 2005. At the moment, it is growing at around 10% annually.
In Uganda, there are 50,000 registered organic farmers. Since the country has about 3.5m farmers, 50,000 is very low.
Njakasi trained his wife Joyce Namakula, children and other workers to take charge of the farm in his absence.
Organic farming is more challenging than conventional farming. However, Njakasi says organic farming brings more returns, while keeping the environment natural.
“It requires patience. That is why few farmers practice it. It does not produce quick yields, but when one starts harvesting, it pays,” he says. For example, while an ordinary pineapple cost sh300, an organic one goes for twice as much.
Kasenge Riverford Organic Centre attracts residents and learners from the UK and Germany. The centre has boarding facilities that can accommodate at least 30 students. The learners pay a fee for training.
“I keep in touch with non-governmental organisations and individuals who want to learn organic farming. They send their people here for short courses,” he says. Students from Makerere University, Boku University in Austria and Students Partnership Worldwide regularly visit the centre.
“I earn about sh40m a year. But I hope that will rise with time,” Njakasi, who currently works with Send a Cow, says.
Located on four acres, the centre has almost every crop one can think of, on its farm. There are beans, maize, onions, greens, cabbages, bananas, cassava, etc.
Njakasi also keeps animals and birds organically. “The new poultry-keeping method is environmentally-friendly, reduces the workload and produces natural chicken,” says Joyce Njakasi.
With this method, birds are kept in a mobile structure, which is moved within a fence after every month, depending on the availability of grass. The structure should be at least three by three metres. Birds kept organically produce eggs with a nutritious yellow york.
Njakasi is a professional farmer. He acquired a certificate in agriculture in 1979, before enrolling for a diploma in General Agriculture. After this, he worked as an extension officer in Mukono district.
In 2000, he was sponsored by Kulika Charitable Trust for a diploma in Sustainable Agriculture at the Reading University in the UK. The course became his eye-opener about the importance of organic farming. Currently, he has just graduated with a Bachelor of Sciences degree in Agriculture.
At the centre, nothing is wasted. “Urine is one of the major pesticides in organic agriculture,” Njakasi says, while pointing at his uniquely constructed toilet. The toilet has a provision for storing urine.