The norm in Uganda is that the university and students part ways on graduation day – and when they meet again for alumni parties, it is all about nyama choma, drinks and exchanging pleasantries. A group of six former Kyambogo University agriculture students have reversed the trend, teaming up with the institution to instantly reap big in poultry; three years after they graduated, writes Denis Bbosa.

Tucked inside the extreme end of the expansive Kyambogo University, the college farm was understandably formed to accommodate science practical lessons and also supposedly a domicile for shamba boys. 
Yet at the moment, six former students have unearthed a gold mine at the farm by making use of the two deserted buildings to rear more than 5,000 chicken. 
Godfrey Tembo, their leader, says they conceived the idea after completing their Bsc Agriculture (Vocation Studies) degree in 2016 and they have never regretted not working in air conditioned offices.
As many colleagues prowled the streets, depreciating their shoe soles looking for white collar jobs, Tembo, Barbara Nantambi, Dan Abomugisha, Gilbert Mawadri, Philemon Ogoli and Derrick Wabusa went for the menial yet lucrative poultry business that

has deservedly rewarded them.

Israel internship boost 
Their joint venture gained crescendo after they were awarded a one year agricultural training programme in Israel that opened their eyes to the yielding world of agribusiness.
“We all studied agriculture at Kyambogo and when we went to Israel, we undertook different enterprises (mushrooms, sheep, citrus and grapes). On coming back, we saw it fit to venture in poultry because it has instant yields,” Tembo reveals.
They forwarded their proposal to the university authorities to use the dilapidated structures at the farm to start a poultry venture whilst also sparing time to teach university students.
According to Tembo, Israel benefits a lot from poultry although they use expensive and automated feed and water systems.
He says the birds in Isreal have microchips and are closely monitored to give quality output, adding regrettably that they can’t afford the same back in Uganda.

Shs15m collective start-up capital
Driven by the motivational theme; if you want to move far, you have to move together and vice versa, the sextet solicited Shs15m amongst themselves and began with 800 layer birds in January 2017. 
After three phases, they now have more than 5,000 layer birds producing 50-60 trays of eggs per day. 
“We sell all the eggs and our customers have told us they are some of the best on the market,” Tembo says.
He traces their success story thus far to having disinfected their structures from the start, aerated the brooders and having a low temperature that doesn’t affect the chicks.
They also mix the feeds themselves and administer the medication because it is part of what they learned at university and at Israel farms.

Free poultry tips
“Prospective poultry farmers ought not to over store their feeds because it will be contaminated with aflatoxins. They need to clean the water troughs, collect the litter regularly and also avoid water leakage,” advises Owomugisha. Close supervision of the business, strict management and giving the ‘birds a chance to life like humans’ can only make the venture better, according to these young experts. 
Though more expensive to maintain, Tembo says layers are more profitable than broilers and can be productive for 18 months if under proper care. Now operating under their company – Agriville Enterprises Limited – the group offers periodic internship lessons to Kyambogo University students under their pre-agreed partnership and have extended it to other institutions plus helping ordinary individual farmers across the country.

Future plans
If all goes according to the script, they plan to start a bigger agribusiness learning centre at their newly acquired 15-acre piece of land and also venture into other agribusiness enterprises like sheep and cattle raring and piggery. 
They envisage having 10,000 birds which will see them export eggs to neighbouring countries including Kenya, Tanzania, Sudan and Rwanda.
Apparently, all their 60 – trays – a day output is consumed by the city supermarkets and Kyambogo University – and they can hardly satisfy the demand at the moment.

No government help
They are still supervised by Dr Robert Mulebeke, the head of Agriculture department at Kyambogo. Tembo and colleagues have fruitlessly tried to access any of the available government agricultural facilitation.
“To access sufficient finances as youth, a lot of collateral is needed which we may not have. We have tried to get youth livelihood funds to no success, we have tried Micro Finance Support Centre and Centenary Bank but we have been rejected,” Tembo says in a crestfallen voice.
They face another challenge of the increasing number of students and farmers yet they do not have the capacity to handle such influx.
Their business has celebrated its second birthday mainly because they overlooked their differences and focused on making a mark in agribusiness. It hurts Tembo deeply that when he goes for agricultural seminars, 80 per cent of the attendants are the elderly yet the youth that shun the educational retreats remain jobless. “We must embrace agriculture as a business. Negating it to the retirees is a very big mistake. Young people need to take a centre stage,” he says.

What to avoid 
• Don’t try to overstock, maintain the stock that you can manage.
• Lack of vaccination programme may lead to losses. 
• Don’t keep changing from one type of feed to another as this will affect productivity. 
• Don’t allow everybody to enter into the poultry unit since a person may carry germs that can infect the chicken with diseases. 
• Good starting point in poultry is with chicks, taking them through the vaccination process as they pass through the various stages of growth.

Original source: Daily Monitor