Dr. Emma Naluyima is Uganda’s queen of pigs and ponds. At a glance you might count her as an urbanite, an elite.
It is only when you visit her farm in Bwerenga, off Entebbe Road in Wakiso district, that you start to admire her prowess on the farm.
They call her Mama Pig in Uganda because of her passion for pigs. That she has become an overnight success – for a person who owns only less than two acres of land – is appreciated by the imposing residence and her farm enterprises.
Dr Naluyima runs a veterinary clinic, Animal Care Centre in Entebbe, but farming is her main source of income.
Born in 1979 in Entebbe, she attended Stella Maris Primary School, Nsuube, Mary Hill- Mbarara and Makerere University for a veterinary medicine degree and later graduated with a master’s degree in public health. She is married to Washington Mugerwa and the two have a set of twins.
Using very little space innovation
Naluyima and her husband have 30 breeding pigs that give birth to at least 720 piglets a year, several fish ponds done under ‘green house fish farming’ with a capacity to accommodate at least 6,000 fish, a well maintained banana plantation and two greenhouses of 15ft x 8ft in which they grow vegetables.
They also have a well looked after dairy cow and a hydroponic fodder making machine — all on one acre of land. From these, she earns a fortune! “We are doing everything intensively, rather than extensively. We have adopted significant levels of technology to maximise the gains from this small piece of land,” she says.
The farm has only one permanent worker. The rest of the work is done by Naluyima, who wakes up at 4:00am, and a few casual workers who come in as need arises.
How she started
Naluyima is practising what she learnt at school. “I graduated in 2004 and worked with the government animal genetics centre in Entebbe,” she says. It was while there that she realised the need for good quality animal breeds.
She thought of starting a piggery and fi sh farming project. Naluyima started saving for the dream. She soon raised money to acquire land in Bwerenga to start off the project. “I had acquired land near the lake for the fi sh project. However, I was told I could farm fish in a swamp. I then decided to do piggery there,” she says.
The piggery project
In 2010, Naluyima started with five pigs – four female and one male. All of them were of the Camborough breed. “I looked after them well because I realised that was the only way to get money out of them,” she says.
The pigs did not disappoint. The breed she rears delivers an average 12 piglets, twice a year. And soon, she had many piglets for sale. The number of female breeders multiplied to the current 30 and fi ve males. Since each of these sows delivers 24 piglets every year, Naluyima gets 720 piglets in a year. To maintain the quality, she is now importing the mother breeders from South Africa.
“It sounds expensive, but the quality of pigs makes it cheap. Remember, cheap is expensive and expensive is cheap,” Naluyima explains. “I sell a two-month-old piglet at Ksh5,500 and a three-month-old piglet at KSh7000,” she says. Asked whether this was not on the high end, she explained that the quality of the breeds she rears is high. “People who buy them come back for more. I do not think they would have returned if it was not value for money,” she says. Last year and early this year, she used to sell at least 40 piglets every month.
At an average Ksh5,500 each, she earned sh8m monthly from the pigs alone. Naluyima’s piggery has got a ‘modern’ labour ward for the sows to deliver the piglets. “Every piglet matters, that is why I have invested in this system,” she says. Each suite costs Ksh25,000. However, Naluyima says this is cheap compared to the benefits. “I sell a piglet at Sh7,000, so each of them matters a lot. Therefore, losing it at birth means losing Ksh7,000,” she says. The suites also prevent sows from cannibalising the piglets since the piglet is out of reach upon birth.
The ‘greenhouse’ fish
In addition to the pigs, Naluyima set up a highly innovative fish farming project. She farms fish in a greenhouse. She is one of few farmers in Uganda with such a system. She used Ksh97,000 to set up the greenhouse structure. She then used mainly local material to set up six 8ft x 8ft ponds. Each of these ponds cost Ksh11,000.
The ponds are lined with a special polythene sheet that retains the water. The liners are imported from Kenya. Each of these ponds can take at least 1,200 catfish or 1,000 tilapia, which adds up to 6,000 fish under the greenhouse. “It has many advantages compared to open fish farming,” she says. For example, the fish are not attacked by predators and harvesting can be done by just one person. “There is also controlled, but effective feeding, which is why the fish develop faster,” she says. In six months, fish from her greenhouse weigh a kilogramme.
On maturity, she sells each kilogramme at Ksh330, which means that with 6,000 fish grown in eight weeks, she collects Ksh2 million from the ponds a year.
Naluyima’s banana shamba sits on a quarter an acre and has over 100 stems. It has just started flowering. However, the innovation that she uses makes the banana shamba stand out. While most farmers mulch their shambas to retain moisture, she uses mulching bags, filled with compost manure. The bags are placed between the rows of bananas.“We pour water on these mulching bags, then the plants sip the nutrients from here,” she says.
The farm has also got two greenhouses in which Naluyima grows vegetables. She got the materials at about sh9m each. In one of the structures she grows tomatoes, while the other has got sweet pepper. “Every week, I harvest 200kg of tomatoes from the greenhouse,” she says. With each kilogramme going for Ksh55, that is sh12,000 every week from the tomatoes. The harvesting goes on for seven to eight months, which comes to about Ksh356,000 in eight months. “I was able to recoup the cost of the greenhouse from one harvest and even made a profit,” she says. And yet, the structure can be used for so many years. She says if one, for example, takes a loan to construct the greenhouse, the loan can be repaid in just a year
One of the technologies adapted by Naluyima involves growing fodder using hydroponic systems. Hydroponics is a method of growing plants without soil. Only moisture and nutrients are provided to the growing plants. There are many advantages to hydroponics. Hydroponic growing systems produce a greater yield over a shorter period of time in a smaller area than traditionally- grown crops.
The technology ensures a reduction or exclusion of pesticides and herbicides because the plants are in a protected environment. Hydroponics is a year-round growing system that produces a consistent quantity and quality of plant material, Fodder (livestock feed) can be grown hydroponically much the same as vegetables, flowers and other plants.
Hydroponic fodder systems are usually used to sprout cereal grains, such as barley, oats, wheat, sorghum, and corn, or legumes, such as alfalfa, clover or cow peas. Naluyima grows barley under this technology because it is the most commonly grown forage that usually gives the best yield of nutrients. A hydroponic fodder system usually consists of a framework of shelves on which metal or plastic trays are stacked. After soaking overnight, a layer of seeds is spread over the base of the trays.
During the growing period, the seeds are kept moist, but not water-logged. They are supplied with moisture and (sometimes) nutrients, usually via drip or spray irrigation. Holes in the trays facilitate drainage and the waste water is collected in a tank. The seeds will usually sprout within 24 hours and in 5 to eight days have produced a six to eight inch high grass mat. After the mat is removed from the tray, it can go into a feed mixer or be hand-fed to livestock. Livestock will eat the whole thing: seeds, roots, and grass. There is minimal waste. Livestock may not eat the fodder initially because it is novel, but should soon learn to eat it with relish.
A huge structure is coming up near her home. It is a primary school intended to promote agriculture. “I grew up in an agricultural family. Stella Maris P/S, Nsuube, also put emphasis on agriculture and that is the kind of primary school I want to set up,” she says. Naluyima says at the moment, many people have realised that agriculture is one thing that can get them money. “However, you realise that there is a dearth of farming knowledge. This is why I want to start training the next generation of farmers right from primary school,” she says. In addition, at least 10 people go to the farm every week to learn.
There are several ways through which Naluyima markets her products. For starters, she used the contacts she got while working at the genetics centre in Entebbe to market her pigs to customers. However, she also did a lot of advertising in the media, especially in Harvest Money. “Whenever I have pigs, I advertise them in the papers and people come for them. When one person buys and is happy with the quality, he connects me to other buyers,” she says
Just like other farmers, Naluyima’s main challenge is getting an even bigger market for the products. “The kind of market I need is in supermarkets, for example, however capturing it is not easy,” she says. Most supermarkets import their beef, pork and chicken. Naluyima points out that Ugandan farmers have failed to capture that lucrative market because they cannot manage the quality and quantity of their products. But she believes that as farmers adopt modern technology