Mr Michael Candia who hails from Maracha district always wanted to be a commercial farmer but land shortage kept holding him back.
The 37-year-old farmer says there was just a quarter of an acre piece of land available to him. However in 2013 he had no choice but to get started as the lack of job opportunities after school was tough to bear.
After tilling his quarter acre garden, Candia approached Abi zonal agricultural research and development institute and bought four bags of NASE14 cassava stalks. Each bag of cassava cuttings was sold at sh23,500.
The cassava specialists at the research facility advised him to plant the stem cuttings at a spacing of one metre from each other and look after them for a period of one year to one-and-a-half years before harvesting.
The yield was impressive and this launched Candia into serious cassava production. Fortunately he also got employed by the West Nile rural electrification company (WENRECO) as an electrician.
He used some of his earnings from WENRECO to rent four acres of land in Koboko district, four acres in Lazebu parish, Logiri sub county and another piece of land in Busia district in eastern Uganda.
This allowed Candia to increase his acreage of cassava during his second year of farming.
He bought 44 bags of cassava cuttings to add on to what was from his own garden to plant in the new fields.
He has been multiplying those cassava stalks since then though he stopped renting land to plant cassava in Koboko and Busia districts.
His progress was noticed by a colleague at work, Mr Ronny Amandu who had 100 acres of idle land in Omo village, Olevu parish in Ajia sub county, Arua district.
Amandu suggested to Candia to practice farming on his land as his own children were not interested in farming.
It was a golden chance that Candia graciously accepted although access to the farm is hampered by poor roads and lack of a bridge on the stream that cuts the farm off from the Ocoko-Pawor road.
Nonetheless in 2017 he opened eight acres to plant cassava while Amandu planted five acres alongside it.
However they realised that managing the fields separately was not easy. They decided to partner so as to pool together their resources to maintain the farm.
They hire about 60 casual workers to work on the farms while five people are permanently stationed on the farm.
These are paid sh120,000 for every acre cultivated, sh80,000 for the first weeding, sh70,00 for the second weeding and sh60,000 for the third weeding.
This year the duo jointly planted cassava on 12 acres thereby raising their total acreage of cassava plantation to 25.
They are set to start harvesting the plantation of last year. Candia says when looked after very well, a farmer can harvest 80 bags of cassava from a single acre and earn not less than sh5m.
He says that market for cassava flour is in abundance. He has a storage facility in Arua town that he uses for keeping the dry cassava.
He also has a grinding machine that allows him to process the cassava chips into flour before selling. Last year he sold 227 bags of 100kg of cassava earning about sh25m.
For this year the cassava that ready for harvesting could yield three times that number of bags but a big portion of it has been destroyed by baboons.
Candia says their hope to make more money from sale of cassava stalk also did not materialise as they could not find any buyers.
“We could have raised 600 bags of cassava cuttings. I used to supply Maracha district but since last year the district stopped purchase of NASE14,” laments Candia.
He says the district’s preference has shifted to NAROCAS1 and NASE19 which are the latest varieties said to be resistant to the cassava brown streak disease.
But for disease free gardens the NASE14 which Candia sells at sh20,000 a bag is still a valuable variety.
Since expanding his acreage of cassava farm, Candia has been able to help their family including paying school fees for his sister who is now pursuing her university education.
He is constructing a residential house in Mvara ward, Arua town which he is confident of completing when harvesting starts by the year end.