Back in 1996, former Kakuuto MP Mathias Kasamba was involved in a motor accident that took away his left arm. Since then, he has worked his way into politics but it is in farming that he feels his biggest success, writes SADAB KITATTA KAAYA.
Kasamba’s expansive 700-acre piece of land stands out in Ttome, Kakuuto, Kyotera district. On it is an assortment of subdivisions for coffee, matooke, sweet potatoes as well as a 70-acre tree plantation.
There are also large areas for livestock farming cattle, goats and pigs. There are also long stretches of jackfruit plants and he also grows garden eggs (entula) and bitter berries (katunkuma). To cap it all, Kasamba set up a plant for making wine from fruits.
This model farm has taken Kasamba 21 years to set up and was inspired by the misfortune of losing his hand.
“Many friends and relatives grieved over my loss of the hand but I would tell them not to worry about me for I was determined to work and be better than those with two hands,” Kasamba told The Observer during an educational tour of the farm with Kyotera district officials.
Out of hospital, he ventured into commercial tree farming, planting 70 acres of eucalyptus and pine trees.
“That plantation was in memory of my hand. It is monumental because I needed something that I would look at to remember how I lost my hand but to also encourage others to work harder,” he says.
Kasamba has no plan to cut it down and has turned down several offers from timber dealers and electricity transmission companies that wanted the trees for electric poles.
From the initial 100 acres that he bought from his father, Kasamba went on expanding, buying land from willing sellers neighbouring him.
By 2011, he already had 700 acres for the farm that he wants to transform into a regional agricultural learning centre.
“After 15 years in parliament, I felt that that was enough; I started laying ground for the East African Legislative Assembly [Eala] but had no guarantee that I would win; so, I started setting up this farm,” says Kasamba, the current chair of Eala’s committee on agriculture, natural resources and tourism. “By 2012, I had planted 30 acres of elite coffee which has now expanded to 50 acres,” he says.
The coffee is intercropped with matoke from which he makes a weekly harvest of 30 to 50 bunches. From the coffee, he sells an average of 200 bags annually which fetches him approximately Shs 108m.
“I process my coffee; I sell clean coffee which gives me better prices. If you harvest only ripe red cherries, you get better grade, better quality and of course higher prices,” he said.
He also recently planted five acres of citrus fruits (oranges and lemons) plus a separate four acres for passion fruits.
“I plant these short-period crops that you can harvest within three to six months to maintain a continuous income inflow for the maintenance of the farm; paying the workers and management of the long-term crops,” he said.
Another block of five acres has sweet potatoes - piloting a new potato type that he brought in from Tanzania.
“I am working with the National Crops Resources Research Institute [NaCRRI] to study the performance of this potato type. It is said to be high in nutritional value,” Kasamba said.
Along the pathways and the farm’s boundaries, he has planted nearly 2,000 jackfruit trees.
“With time, we may find that jackfruit is more profitable than coffee. Take an example, if you have 1,000 trees, each can give you an average of two bunches every week which translates into 104,000 bunches a year. If each bunch is sold at Shs 2,000, you will earn Shs 208m,” Kasamba says.
After a two-hour walk around the farm, there is no doubt Kasamba has proved one can ably plan for life after politics.