AgricultureEast Africa

Meet Jane Baganda, the HR boss who quit office job for livestock farming

Six years after Jane Baganda, a former Human Resource Officer, quit her desk job for life as a farmer, she says she has no regrets.

In her former life, Baganda, a resident of Rubindi-Ruhumba town council, was in the employ of Mbarara district.

“I was a Human Resource Officer for 20 years, and in 2014 retired at the level of Principal Human Resource Officer for Mbarara District Local Government,” she told theCooperator in an exclusive interview.

After more than two decades in the civil service, Baganda felt she was ready for a new challenge.

“I felt I had served in the public service for so long, and so I decided to join other people in the production line as yet another way to support the government.” 

Besides, she believed that farming would pay better than her formal job was doing.

“I was receiving net pay of Shs 900,000 per month but the expenses also were overwhelming because I had to rent a house and pay for transport and lunch in addition to looking after my family,” Baganda said.

A meticulous planner, Baganda thought hard and long about how she would spend her life out of formal employment before she took the plunge.

“I planned for retirement for about five years before I was ready to leave my job and embark on farming.”

Modern farmer

One of the first things the then-nascent farmer noticed was that she would have to adopt modern farming methods in order to make the most of her modest piece of farmland. 

 “Initially we were running an ordinary farm, but when I retired I approached SNV [an NGO] which gave me financial assistance to construct a modern milking panel and all the water systems you see around,” says Baganda, as she takes us on a tour of her farm.

In addition, Baganda maintains an acre banana plantation where she carries out intercropping to get feeds for the animals.

“We do intercropping because we have a small piece of land. For instance, we have 200 coffee trees and we also grow crops like maize for making silage, as well as beans for home consumption,” she explained.

Baganda’s efforts at resource optimisation seem to have paid off. Currently she keeps about 10 exotic cows on an 8-10 acre piece of land, a feat considered impossible by many local farmers accustomed to rearing livestock on huge chunks of land.

Over her six years in the agriculture business, Baganda says she has picked up a lot of valuable experience on how to manage a farm with an eye for what the market wants. Her dream is to expand her business into a demonstration farm where she can pass on some of these lessons to students and potential farmers.

“I want to attract young people who have got training from farm schools to do their internship from here and gain hands on skills. Most of our children from such institutions get the only the theoretical education, but there hasn’t been such a model farm where they can acquire the practical skills of running a farm,” she explains.

Among the benefits that Baganda counts from her farming experience is the exposure it has afforded her.

“Last August, I was offered a trip to Nairobi to attend a dairy international trade fair facilitated by ESADA [Eastern and Southern Africa Dairy Association], along with Chairpersons of diary cooperatives. I was the only female who represented as a model farmer,” she says.

Targeting cooperatives

On her trip, Baganda was inspired by the vibrant cooperative culture among Kenyan farmers which she cites as a model of what farmers can achieve through cooperatives.

“I love that in Kenya farmers work in cooperatives which have helped them to secure inputs and market for their products. I think we need to strengthen cooperatives in Uganda, especially the small ones, so as to include more people at the grassroots and that way their livelihood will improve.”

She challenged farmers to form cooperatives if they are to target bigger markets and increase their earnings. One example she has in mind is the schools market.

“If, for instance, my neighbours and I formed a small cooperative society, then started packaging our milk, we would have so many schools around here in Rubindi willing to buy our milk; it would not even be enough for them. But a single farmer would find it difficult to penetrate and reliably supply that market,” she says.

Baganda believes cooperatives would also be viable channels through which government assistance can help farmers resolve their challenges. One such challenge, she pointed out, is the issue of value addition in a bid to mitigate losses owing to the ever fluctuating milk prices.

“Through cooperatives, the government can assist us with milk processing and other machinery. We could form a small cooperative or use it under the existing Rukaka Dairy Cooperative society that serves the three sub counties of Rubindi, Kagongi and Kashare to start making yoghurt and UHT in order to reduce the flooding the market with milk, especially during the rainy season.”

Farmer training key

She encourages all farmers serious about embarking on modern dairy farming to first undergo the necessary training.

“Interested farmers should not fear to start if they have the basics like land and a few animals, even if they are the local Ankole local breeds; let them begin, but they should first seek training from the already established model farmers,” Baganda advises.

 She is optimistic that government’s ‘Emyooga’ programme, if its beneficiaries are properly trained, has potential to have a great impact on society.

“They should train people, and then allow them to acquire money through the group for investment, and then pay it back as individuals. Group investments are practically impossible unless the group becomes a strong cooperative that can work together to clear the revolving fund,” she says.

Besides her farming initiatives, Baganda is targeting the woman Member of Parliament seat for Mbarara district, and promises to address issues affecting farmers and cooperatives at the national level.

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