Macadamia is one of the high value crops/ Business Focus photo/File
At least 4,200 farmers in Agago district have embraced the growing of high-value macadamia trees, six months after the project was launched by Chief Justice Alphonse Owiny Dollo.
The project was launched in May in Patongo Sub-County, Agago district, during which at least 525 pioneer beneficiaries got 10 macadamia seedlings each.
Simon Odoc Ojok, the Northern Region Macadamia Project Coordinator, said that 12 sub-counties have so far been covered since the start of the project and the farmers have collectively planted about 420 acres of macadamia in Agago district under Chief Justice Owiny Dollo Charity Foundation.
This December the foundation intends to roll out the project to the remaining eight sub-counties of Wol, Parabongo, Paimol, Omiya Pachwa, Paimol Town Council, Kuywee, Kalongo, and Wol Town Council, before extending the program to other districts.
In early November, the State Minister for Agriculture Fred Bwino Kyakulaga said the ministry decided to join the initiative by offering 30,000 seedlings every year to farmers in Agago and pledged to ensure that a budget is allocated towards the project.
Odoch said so far, 6000 seedlings promised by the minister have been delivered and distributed to the farmers in the sub-counties of Arum, Lamiyo, Agengo, Lira Kato and Lapono sub-counties. He said the remaining 24,000 seedlings will be distributed in March next year when the season begins.
Odoch believes that Macadamia will be a game changer for farmers in Acholi because of its attractive price per kilogram.
Odoch added that officials from the Ministry of Agriculture have promised farmers a warehouse to help them store their harvests, as they wait for buyers.
Christine Oryema Lalobo, the Administrator of Make Acholi Green Again, an organization spearheading macadamia growing in the Acholi sub-region said the idea to embrace macadamia growing was conceived to conserve biodiversity, mitigate climate change and enhance livelihood in northern Uganda.
Lalobo said one of the reasons for the craze for macadamia growing is the fact that there are no perennial crops in Acholi, which makes farmers keep using a lot of energy every year, with little returns.
Lalobo said the macadamia species that grows well in Acholi is Murang’a, because it can flower and fruit throughout the year. According to Lalobo, a farmer can earn up to one million Shillings per tree of macadamia, for more than ten decades, something she said will increase the household income of the population.
Lalobo said that since August last year MAGA has distributed 60,000 macadamia seedlings in Agago, Omoro and Lamwo districts, and is targeting at least 250,000 of the 380,000 households in Acholi sub-region, as there is vast idle land.
Lalobo, however, said there is a need to recruit the youth to join the project, as there are only old people embracing it. She revealed that the plan is to plant 2 million trees including macadamia, Hass avocado, and cashew nuts trees in seven years’ time.
Michael Komakech, one of the farmers of macadamia in Patongo sub-county in Agago district said he started growing macadamia in May and so far has five acres. Komakech said he was inspired by the story of Chief Justice Owiny Dollo, who quoted the UBOS statistics on the poverty level in Acholi, yet there are many options they have to get out of poverty.
He added that after going to Amafh Farm in Mityana district, which has over 700 acres of macadamia under production, he was encouraged to join the project to improve his life and give his children better education and health.
Macadamia starts bearing fruits at four years producing approximately between 7 and 10 kilograms per tree, but when it reaches the maturity stage of between 7-10 years, the tree yields approximately between 50 and 60 kilograms of quality nuts and it continues to bear fruits for over 100 years.