A decision to quit teaching and concentrate on farming on health grounds for Mary Namaganda has turned into a promising pig business now housing over 80 pigs and giving her a tidy income of Sh 450, 000 a year.
A single mother of two, Namaganda was struggling to make ends meet with poor pay and a deteriorating health situation. She suffers from diabetes. "Money from teaching was meager and I had so many demands. My health was deteriorating and I needed time to rest yet I had to earn. I decided to slow down on my work and decided to start farming.
One time, I visited a friend in Kikuba Mutwe who encouraged me to start keeping pigs. Six years ago, having come to the conclusion that farming provided the best option to her problems, Namaganda started off with 3 female pigs and one male. Today she boasts of a piggery unit of 80 pigs and has expanded her back yard shelter to a quarter acre to cater for the expanding.
"I was excited when I earned a lot of money from my first two pigs. So I decided to specialize in just pigs. However, it was not until four years ago that I started earning high incomes from this enterprise,” Namaganda said. "Because I had the interest and was already engaged in farming, I was identified by the National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS) team in Njeru town council as a model farmer. They decided that while I needed more money, it was the technical advice on good practices that I needed most. This has made all the difference,” She said. Amongst other things, NAADS took Namaganda on various exchange programs for training.
"The important thing was expansion of my project. I was using a small area here where I could constantly check on the pigs and ensure their cleanliness,” she said. "But sometimes it would become too crowded. The pigs had problems with the swine fever and also the cost of the feeds was rising. NAADS intervened and gave me feeds and also offered to build me a shelter as long as I had the land.” But the support from NAADS also came with conditions. As a model farmer, Ms. Namaganda is required to share information and technical knowledge with other members of the community and also allow NAADS to use her farm as a learning centre.
"Initially we shared as a group but now, many community members come to learn from here and many have started the same projects in their homes.” she said. From the sale of her piglets, Namaganda raised money to buy land for the expanded shelter and a water catchment tank. She also ventured into other farming enterprises; a banana plantation, as well as a vegetable garden. These gardens are also purely organic utilizing only waste from the piggery as manure.
"I am happy. I have six mother pigs now that produce three times a year. They produce over 10 piglets each. From the six pigs alone, I make over Sh140, 000 every year,” she stated. She envisions that this income shall triple soon, as most of the 50 piglets she has retained are to be kept purely for breeding. Each piglet goes for Sh1, 500 and a mature pig Sh5000.
"I don’t regret leaving my teaching profession. I earn much more money and my health has greatly improved. I have managed to educate my children and my business is growing. When I start selling my bananas, my income will be even greater,” she added. "I have come to appreciate the government NAADS program for one thing, equipping the farmers with the technical knowledge. Many farmers fail because they don’t have enough knowledge on the enterprises they pursue.”