Sandra Nabasirye surprised her family and friends when she quit her teaching job just six months after completing her Bachelor’s degree in education from Makerere University in Uganda to pursue farming. Currently Nabasirye is one of the emerging and flourishing tomato farmers and the owner of Santexie Farm from Luwero district in Nabbingo.
Biggest step ever
Popularly known as ‘slay farmer’, Nabasirye says going into farming is a decision she does not regret one bit, adding it was a wisest decisions she has ever made. “The money I make out of my farm produce is way above the salary earned by a teacher”, she adds. She says the idea of going into farming and later founding a farm was the biggest step in her life but also challenging given lack of prior experience in farming let alone tomatoes.
She says the idea to farm in tomatoes hit her in 2018 but she implemented it the following year after she noticed there was shortage of vegetables in her neighbourhood. Not only was it a meaningful activity to occupy herself with but it also met a growing local need for vegetables. It also suited her at the time as she wanted enough time to look after her child who was born with a cleft pallet.
Learning from the old hands
Soon after she entered tomato farming as her new passion, Nabasirye made sure she interacted with experienced local tomato farmers to learn from them. Luckily, her landlady was generous enough and gave her permission to farm on a piece of land that has been lying fallow. Her first harvest yielded 30 boxes; unfortunately she lost seven of the 30 boxes after she was duped by an unscrupulous broker at the market. But she says the experience opened her eyes as from then on she started selling at a farm gate price.
Nabasirye says since she started farming she has already learned some lessons. One of these is that young women interested in farming should understand that “there is no quick money in farming”, she says, adding quick money could only be made in betting. “If you really want quick money, invest in high value vegetables like peppers, sukuma wiki and such crops. But still it takes about three months before you get the money,” she warns.
Training others farmers
Nabasirye says farming is a hands-on occupation and requires hard work and commitment. She has already started to train other farmers to share her skills and experience she has gained so far. “The people who were coming were the serious famers. I had to partner with other farmers. I also later decided that I needed to improve,” she says about her training. Nabasirye also taps into the latest technologies such as social media and DVDs to document her experiences and those of others farmers. She also uses social media to market her Santexie Farm.
“My mother was so disappointed that I was a graduate working in garden. I told her I was going to teach but in a different way. I started teaching people in my garden. We recorded DVDs which sold out in 2019. We intend to document more farmers so that we can have a comprehensive coverage,” says Nabasirye.
Advice to aspirant farmers
Sharing her wisdom with her followers and new entry level farmers, Nabasirye says they should visit farmers and learn from the field. “Do not call. Be there in person. Telephone farming has cost many people. You should aspire to be better than the farmers you visit,” says Nabasirye. She adds that farming is a hands-on experience and requires daily attention. As far as tomatoes are concerned, Nabasirye says a tomatoes farmer should know that they do not need swampy areas. She also calls on new generation of farmers to adopt the innovative and responsible farming practices that promote green and sustainable environment.
Credit: Greening Afrika