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South Africa

Uganda: Statistician Counts Money in Garden

He is young, determined and passionate about farming. The youthful farmer is popular on social media due to his inspiring posts accompanied by photos about the various farming enterprises he is engaged in.

Brian Babeyo, 24, wants to change the face of farming in Uganda.

He does not have a professional background in farming, but is passionate at and goes out of his way to learn.

Who is Babeyo?

A graduate from Makerere University with a Bachelor's degree in Science in Quantitative Economics, Babeyo is the founder and the chief executive officer (CEO) of Seed Africa. Ent. Ltd, a company he started in 2014.

Enterprises

His company is currently dealing in five agribusiness ventures including passion fruits, vanilla, tomatoes, green paper and watermelon.

These are grown in different locations across the country including Mukono (Katosi, Kisowera), Jinja, Buyende and Mayuge districts. These projects are on rented land.

Determination

Born in Jinja District, Babeyo says he was raised in a middle income family, with both parents earning a living from farming.

However, Babeyo did not want to follow in his parents' footsteps. During his Senior Six vacation, he went to the streets of Kampala, trying to find what to do for survival. He did not succeed in finding something worthwhile.

Starting out

He says he started with initial capital of Shs600,000, which he raised from his friends and an uncle. In about four years, his company has grown and Babeyo places its networth at Shs50m.

He adds: "I always make surprise visits to my farms to find out the weaknesses of managers and workers. I do this once in a week, but I carry some goodies for them in order to inspire them."

He explains that he incurs a monthly expenditure of not less than Shs3.5m on chemicals, fuel, feeding and salaries for the workers.

Why organic

The farmer says he choose organic farming because his research showed it would give him an edge in the market.

"I use natural ways to rget rid of insects on the farm, pests and weeds, instead of commercial pesticides. For rodents, I make sure that my farm is clean, while I ensure there's timely weeding," he says.

"Mulching helps suppress the weeds and I mix Mexican marigold with hot pepper and water to kill aphids," he adds.

To make the organic pesticide, he cuts the marigold at flowering stage, chops two kilogrammes of it and mixes with hot pepper in a drum, adds 20 litres of water and then covers it.

"I allow the mixture to sit for three to five days, stirring it every two days to hasten the decomposition rate. To use, I remove the content and sieve the mixture, dilute with 10 litres of soapy water and spray," Babeyo explains.

Achievements

Babeyo says apart from growing his company from scratch, he is happy to employ fellow youth and play a part in changing people's mindset towards farming.

"I employ more than 20 people with about five managers in the different fields or stages of production," Babeyo says, adding: "My workers and I are like brothers because we do the planning together."

He adds that he has also bought a motor vehicle to ease transportation and other farm activities. "I have managed to start other businesses around Kampala (dealing in clothes). I have also started a dairy farm which is progressing well," he says.

Although Babeyo is guarded about his earnings, he is no doubt earning big enough to sustain himself and the business.

"My earnings vary with seasons because my ventures are seasonal," he says.

He adds that his company has all the inputs from all the projects they have ventured into right from seeds, seedlings and well trained labour.

"Our passion fruit seedlings are document oriented with proven productivity, life span, germination efficiency and disease resistance," he says, adding that they also offer consultancy services in agribusiness.

Challenges

Like any other farmer, Babeyo isn't immune to challenges. Currently, he still rents land in various areas which is quite expensive.

"Sometimes people that rent us the land, reach a time and get jealous of our harvests," he says.

He adds that dry seasons are still a challenge, but he tries to go through it by applying fertilisers and watering/irrigation where necessary.

He adds that price fluctuation is yet another challenge.

"However, I have a way I handle it though it is bit challenging," he says

"I have a network of brokers in St Balikudembe Market, who always inform me about market prices. For tomatoes, I always approach the market with a maximum of 20 boxes," he says.

Future plans

Asked about his future plans, Babeyo said: "My plan is to have at least not less than four acres of land on which to carry out these projects in every district of Uganda whether rented (leased) or owned."

Advice to the youth

Babeyo advises his fellow youth to be go-getters. "Everyone can be successful in any field he or she chooses to specialise in. I think agriculture is the only way to go and anyone can start from wherever they are," he says.

To succeed in agribusiness, he says, requires determination, self-belief and sacrifice. He insists it is not about capital.

Turning point

As he was planning to go back to Jinja, a friend tipped him about a farming seminar that was happening at Nsambya Sharing Hall. He decided to attend the seminar that would later turn to be his turning point in life.

"I attended more seminars. These [seminars] really changed my thoughts and perceptions about agriculture as a business," said Babeyo.

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