When Uganda’s former envoy to Egypt, Richard Laus Angualia left his ambassadorial job in 2016 to contest in the elections for Maracha constituency Member of Parliament, he didn’t know that he was treading into uncharted waters.
He was fully confident of pulling a win, having tried and come close to an electoral victory in 2011. He however lost the polls and did not get reappointed as a diplomat.
Mr Angualia, a father of four who spends sh4m on school fees every term had the immense challenge of finding something lucrative to do to keep the children at the same schools so that they did not feel the impact of their father’s loss of job.
He had a lot of time and yet there was nothing to occupy him. As Mr Angualia pondered his next move, he got advise from friends who were professionals in agriculture.
They motivated him to venture into commercial farming.
Uneasy start to farming
Mr Angualia spent sh26m of his savings to acquire a farmland but he instead landed on a conman who swindled the money and showed him land belonging to different people.
Eventually he secured ten acres of land in Oliba parish, Logiri sub county where he grows potatoes, cassava and soybeans.
He patched together the initial letters of his name to form RAL & family Uganda ltd, a company he uses to transact commercial farming business.
He acquired high quality vines from Namulonge national crops resources research institute to set up a nursery bed.
These were Naspot1, Naspot2, Naspot3, Naspot4, Naspot5, Naspot6, Naspot12 and Naspot13 varieties.
With such high yielding potato varieties, Mr Angualia has supplied the Arua prisons for the past two years.
This year he planted potato on four acres from which he is expecting to harvest 40,000kg of potato.
He says the jail facility has only placed orders for 20,000kg, meaning he has to find where to sell the remaining 20 tonnes of sweet potato.
He also acquired NASE14 cassava stems from the Abi zonal agricultural research institute and Maksoy3 variety of soybeans for planting.
Mr Angualia has blossoming five acres of cassava that is four months old and his soybean on two acres of rented land has just started germinating.
Mr Angualia hires tractors to plough his fields at a cost of sh120,000 per acre and thereafter, he gets casual labour from Maracha and Terego.
He pays the casuals sh80,000 for work done on an acre of garden in addition to feeding and transporting them.
He says he has created a good rapport with the local community who look after his fields and keep stray animals away.
The Arua prisons is one big customer for Mr Angualia, especially for his potatoes. They buy one kilo of sweet potato at sh1,000 meaning Mr Angualia would get sh20m from the 20,000kg of potato ordered, except that the money is not paid immediately.
He says he had expected to reap up to sh30m from sale of potato vines but he failed to get a market for these high quality vines.
The Soy beans are sold to Mukwano group of companies but there is still no reliable customer for the cassava.
He is now calling on the government to establish factories that can add value to produce from farmers.
“I am enjoying farming and I feel that I am being underutilised. I have capacity to produce a lot more but the government has no money. It should bring technology that creates market for farm produce and created more jobs in the process,” he says.
Commendation from officials
With his farming ambitions getting realised, Mr Angualia has received a lot of commendation from officials from Logiri sub county such as the production officer, Mr David Atiku who visited the farm on Monday.
He says research has done its part of solving the issue of resistance to diseases, tolerance to draught and yield increment that it is now the duty of farmers to transmit that knowhow to the gardens.
“If we have ten commercial farmers like this in every village, we shall go far in improving household income and food security,” Mr Atiku says.
He advises that farmers should embrace the new variety of sweet potatoes and cassava because they mature within three months and one year respectively.
What is important, he says, is for farmers to maintain field hygiene for root crops and plant trees such as gravellier around the fields to improve greenery and as a long term measure for income generation.