KABAROLE, January 31, 2024 – Kabarole farmers have resorted to growing lemon grass to increase their household incomes as well as fight malaria through value addition to the crop.
Lemon grass is one of the crops that is not so much grown but more than 200 farmers in Rwengaju and Busoro Sub-county in Kabarole district have found gold in growing it.
Introduced by Johnson Anthony, an Indian national, farmers are slowly embracing it and earning from it by intercropping it with other crops while others have grown around their houses.
Johnson Anthony the Chief Executive Officer, Rwengaju Agro-farmers Limited, an umbrella that brings together all these farmers, said he came up with the initiative to plant lemon grass after realising that in Kabarole and Uganda at large were grappling with malaria cases.
“In India, people rarely suffer from malaria, not because there are no mosquitoes but because we are using different methods of preventing it and growing lemon grass is one of the measures. Indians also add value to the crop by distilling it and making oils and mosquito repellants which help them keep away from those insects,” Anthony said, adding that leaders in Kabarole gave him the land to set up the lemon grass farm.
He added: “I got seedlings from India supplied them to interested farmers in Kabarole. I again buy from them when they harvest. You can intercropping without the crop killing other crops.”
The plant grows like weed and spreads within seven months and, after maturing, it is harvested every after 50 days.
Abdallah Agaba the chairperson LCIII for Rwengaju Sub-county in Kabarole district who is at the same time a farmer said Lemon grass is easy to grow as it doesn’t require spraying nor application of fertiliser.
“We didn’t know that you can actually earn from lemon grass because we knew it as a spice for tea [locally known as kalifuuha] and we could plant just like one piece but we are really benefiting from it by growing it on a large scale and selling it in large quantities,” Agaba added .
Agaba further revealed that with lemon grass planted around the house, poisonous insects and snakes cannot come near the home.
“I have four acres of lemon grass and every month, I harvest 10,000-15,000 kilogrammes whether it is a dry season or rainy season. It has helped me boost my household income,” he said.
John Nyamiha, a farmer from Kidubuli village said every month, he harvests between 300 kg to 500kg depending on the season. “Our people here are predominantly matoke growers but since the crop doesn’t require a lot of space, some farmers have intercropped them hence earning from both,” said Nyamiha.
In 2022 farmers under their umbrella Rwengaju Agro-farmers Limited started adding value to the crop by distilling it and getting oils and mosquito repellants.
According to Anthony, mosquito repellants are used to repel the mosquitoes from the house and bodies once applied directly.
He added that the spray can also work as an air freshener and has no allergic issues reported yet.
Anthony said he sells his products to hotels and schools around Fort Portal and Kampala and to some individuals as well as supplying to supermarkets around the city
He is optimistic that once people realise the importance of the crop and its by-product, the malaria burden will be reduced both within homes and the country at large.
Malaria continues to be the lead cause of death especially in children below five years.
Uganda is experiencing a worrying surge in malaria cases, according to the Ministry of Health, with figures showing there was an increase in the cases from 100,000 in 2021 to 199,695 in 2022. This is almost 100 percent increase.
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