A farmer is a person engaged in farming activities of growing of crops ,fish farming, keeping of poultry , livestock and bees among other things with the aim of selling the farm produce on the open market to earn some income. Majority of farmers offload their farm produce on the market at low prices because of lack of any value addition. Farmers spend a lot of time on the farm directing various farming activities in order to get quality farm produce. It is therefore extremely difficult to engage in farming as a part-time activity. Farming in Uganda and the rest of Africa is often faced with a lot of challenges that farmers have to overcome. These challenges have discouraged many would farmers from venturing into the sector. The key challenges include the following among others;
- Lack of capital
- Lack of proper seeds
- Lack of qualified and committed staff
- Lack of experienced and committed agricultural extension staff
- Relying only on rainfall with limited irrigation
- Disease control
- Limited market
The above challenges also create many opportunities for people wishing to venture into farming as their goal in life.
But is it possible to make money in farming with all the above challenges? Yes one can make money in farming if he or she has the qualifications and determination to be in farming. The following is a summary of what I consider to be the key qualification for a prospective farmer;
The farming journey starts in the mind of the prospective farmer before it is put into action. You cannot achieve a goal in farming if your mind is not focused on and positive about farming. Therefore you must have an interest in or liking for farming as a precondition before you venture into the sector. Interest in farming is a factor that drives farmers to work hard day and night in order to succeed in farming despite all the challenges facing the sector. A farmer must enjoy farming activities and should not be discouraged by temporarily failures that tend to occur quite regularly. You cannot therefore succeed in farming if you do not like farming. Your body and mind must be focused on farming in order to achieve your goals in farming.
Ability to plan
I do not remember any success that I have achieved in my life without planning. You cannot therefore venture into farming activities without planning of how to move from your current state with limited resources to your desired future state. Planning enables optimum use of resources that are always in short supply. You will therefore require resourceful people to support you in order to get maximum benefit out of farming. The challenges or risks in farming are also many hence the need to plan on how to manage them to the best of your advantage. Venturing into farming is not a matter of having land and money but the ability to use the resources available to you whether owned or leased better than the competition.
Practical knowledge in farming
You cannot for example become a professional footballer by just remaining a fun of football. You have to start playing football. It is hard practice under a professional coach that will transform into a professional footballer. This is also true for farming as you cannot become the best farmer without practicing farming. I have personally acquired the knowledge in farming because I grew up in farming community where I was taught the ABC of farming. I was able to go to school because of money generated from farming activities. I have therefore acquired my practical knowledge about farming overtime. This has enabled me to know what works and what does not work. You therefore require some practical knowledge about farming before you venture into it. You cannot rely on the farm workers in order to do the right things in farming. To a large extent, majority of farm workers are not knowledgeable about farming. Before you venture into farming you need to spend some time with farmers that will coach you in farming.
Determination and hardworking
Farming requires a lot of determination and hard work in order to succeed. You have to be prepared to put on farm overalls, farm gumboots and rain coat in order to direct farming activities. It is common for farmers to work under muddy and wet conditions. Working environment on the farm is quite challenging and is not as well organised as working in the office. You have to be prepared to work under challenging environment most of the time. The capacity and level of understanding of farm workers is often quite low and you will have to closely supervise them in order to get the farming activities carried out the right way.
Capacity to add value to farm produce
The majority of readily available consumers do not have a lot of disposable income to spend on consumption of farm produce. They are also not so much concerned with quality issues. They therefore prefer to buy at low prices from the farmers. As a consequence, the prices paid for unprocessed farm produce are always low when compared to the prices of processed farm produce. In a number of times, farmers selling unprocessed farm produce may fail to reach the break –even point that will enable the farmers to offset farming costs for a season. As a farmer you should be prepared to add value to your farm produce in order to get premium prices for the farm produce from high income customers who are prepared to pay for quality produce.
Innovation and creativity
The world we live in is quite competitive and the winners will always be those that are most innovative in the market. The resources used in farming like any other business are also in short supply hence the need for a resourceful person to use the limited resources in the most effective and efficient way. It is therefore resourceful farmers that will succeed in farming because they apply innovative ways in farming. They are able to save on costs and time without compromising both quality and quantity of farm produce.
Author: John Muhaise Bikalemesa
Director: Big Drum Advisory Services Limited