Last Updated on: 1st May 2023, 03:08 pm
Adjumani, April 25, 2023: Dr Michael Ambaku, the principal medical officer and also the medical superintendent of Adjumani General Hospital has planned to retire as an organic farmer.
Ambaku has opened 15 acres of banana plantation and also has established agroforestry on the same land. Ambaku said by the time he will be retiring, he plans to have 50 acres of land for practising organic farming to feed the populace.
He graduated with a master’s of public health from International Health Science University and did a Post-graduate diploma in Public Administration and Management.
Ambaku also has a Bachelor of medicine and surgery from Mbarara University and currently, he’s a public health specialist managing the general hospital of Adjumani
The motivation to do organic farming
He said he grew up in a family of a farmer. “My father was an agriculture specialist and I took a lot of interest in agriculture alongside my profession.”
Dr Ambaku’s father inspired him so much. His Late father, Koma Francis Alimu was a soil scientist and he was a prominent farmer in the village while his Late wife, Sister Luck Alimu Koma Francis was a nurse by profession.
“My father introduced me very early at the age of 10 years when he took me to the gardens to dig. Although it looked like a punishment at that time to others right now it has helped me learn a lot,” Ambaku said.
As a general public health practitioner, he said there is a link between medicine and agriculture in terms of nutrition and right now, he says there is a lot of complaint that Uganda’s food has 10 times high level of aflatoxin which is liable to cause cancer.
“As a medic, I cannot leave agriculture alone, once I leave agriculture alone, the bad practice, on the other hand, will result in huge public health concerns, one of our targets as a public health specialist is to prevent disease occurrence to ensure safe foods for consumption and reduce food poisons,” Ambaku explained.
Ambaku plans to promote organic food production in the region, saying his ultimate goal is to ensure the food produced naturally is safe from chemical infection and inorganic materials to avoid aflatoxin.
Ambaku notes with great concern, “My area of interest is how do I protect the public from unsafe food, my general work as a manager of public health is to be useful in the food chain and I have decided to be a farmer to product organic food in large quantity to support the population in threatened food systems and food insecurity.”
Use of fertilizer and chemicals
Ambaku added the land in which he is practising agriculture is still virgin and thinks using chemical and synthetic fertilizers will destroy the soil fertility.
Dr said he has been guided by an agronomist on how to use locally made organic manure from animal dung and agriculture products to fertilize the soil
“I use cow dung which he mixes with other green leaves, cassava peels that ferments for some good days and apply them, and they are very effective and safe for the environment.”
For pest control, Ambku said, “I rear rabbits, and I have been guided that the urine of rabbits is effective when you mix it at a ratio of a one-to-one litre, I also use neem tree leave, boil them, mixed with tobacco and it works very excellently.”
The market for his bananas
Ambaku said as a high-ranking officer in the district, he can’t sit in the market to start selling matooke or bananas. He has ventured into the corporate market
“Whenever I go to the farm, I inform my fellow doctors, and other staff at the staff quarter and they make their order and when I come back, I delivery to them, and in one year, I managed to earn Shs5million yet I sell at the market gate price and I don’t regret selling at that price because I use my cost of production.”
Ambaku said his goal is to ensure there is plenty of food to fight malnutrition and improve the food systems by ensuring people eat safe food.
Cost of production.
The biggest challenge Ambaku is facing is labour and he notes that most people around do not want to offer their labour in farming due to negative perceptions. He noted that the community is rigid to perennial crops but rather prefers annual crops.
He shared with this publication, “I faced challenges of uncontrolled bush burning and stray animals which is rampant, people here burn bush and leave their animals to stray around, last year I established an agroforestry where I planted 2000 trees, but I lost 80% of this to bush fire.”
Ambaku said 90 per cent of his farm has fire lines, adding that he could not protect his farm from the bush fire, vowing that he has not given up but trying to ensure he does not lose his trees again.
Balancing his professional work with the farm
Dr Ambaku spends most of his free time on his farm especially after hectic work in his office and the theatre after managing acute conditions and operations. Ambaku also uses his weekends to monitor the farm and uses his weekend on the farm as a coping mechanism to relieve himself of the “mental work”.
Centre of excellence
He has a vision of making his farm become a centre of excellence and a learning centre for many smallholder farmers in the area and training young farmers especially women who are the majority of farmers.
In 2019, the government of Uganda approved the National Organic Agriculture Policy (NOAP) aimed at harnessing the Country’s Organic Agriculture Potential by ensuring a Regulated sub-sector that contributes to National Development.
The mission of the Organic policy is to support investments in the entire organic agriculture value chain for inclusiveness, enhanced livelihoods, production and environmental sustainability.
Recently, in Nairobi during the first Agroecology conference, the State Minister of Agriculture Animal Industry and Fisheries, Fred Bwino Kyakulaga Bwino said Uganda, like most of the African and EAC countries, Agriculture is still pivotal in spurring socio-economic transformation.
He said Agriculture contributes 24 per cent of Uganda’s GDP and employs 68 per cent of the population – largely smallholder farmers, 73 per cent of whom are women.
Coincidentally, these constitute the agricultural production communities that are outside the money economy and who are vulnerable to the consequences of climate change, environmental degradation as well as food insecurity.