Former cattle rustlers-turned crop farmers in Napak district are reaping big from cassava-growing in Karamoja, theCooperator has learned.
Cassava, a staple food for many communities in the rest of Uganda, was initially not a familiar crop in Karamoja, but was gradually adopted as a food crop as the traditionally pastoralist communities gradually began to lead settled lives.
John Lokut, one of the transformed farmers told theCooperator that many of his peers initially had very little knowledge about the crop, and only took to it after their cattle rustling expeditions were stopped by government.
“For sure we had no idea that cassava was being grown because those days when I was still a cattle(rustler), I could see cassava like it was a wild plant in the bush. I didn’t know that people grow it until one of my friends from Teso taught me on how to plant cassava stems, “he says.
Lokut has since emerged as one of the leading cassava growers in Napak, and recently teamed up with a host of other members to form a cooperative – Amedek cassava growers amongst whom they have jointly saved up shs.10million from selling cassava.
Joseph Mudong, the Chairman of the group told thecooperator that in 2018, he advised each member to grow at least one acre of cassava from which they jointly earned shs.4million. “That is when we saw that it (cassava growing) is profitable, and decided to invest the money in tilling more land,” he says.
He explained that with joint-farming proving profitable, they decided to form a formal group in 2009, which has since grown from 3 to now 20 members.
Grace Nachap, a member of the group and mother of eight told theCooperator that ever since she started Cassava growing two year ago, her family’ standard of living has improved. She said she can now pay fees for her three children in Moroto High School as well as for one waiting to join secondary when schools re-open. “I used to grow sorghum but it has never given me the money that I have got from Cassava growing,” She says.
Andrew Loucho, another member of the group says that market for cassava has also progressively grown and that now customers come to as far as their gardens to buy the cassava before it is even harvested. He said they pack three cassava tubers at shs. 3,000, and on daily basis receive between 10 to 40 customers from Moroto, Napak and Kotido wanting to buy cassava.
“What we are now pushing for is for government to give us at least one tractor. This would help us till much bigger land, and we would be supplying cassava to the whole of Karamoja region,” Loucho says.
Joseph Lomonyang, the district LCV chairperson called upon government to consider setting up irrigation projects in the area, noting that there’s increasingly vast farming potential in the area now that the communities have settled down.