UCU student reaps big from agroforestry

By Agatha N. Biira
In 2017, after sitting for his A’level examinations, Joshua Genrwot had eight months before embarking on his university education. What was he going to do with all that time? Grow trees.

That tree farm business has, in 2022, bestowed on him a new virtue – being aggressive. In addition, Genrwot says he has also learned to do most of the things in his farm by himself, so he can apply the skill on days a worker drags his feet.

“I have also now learned to be patient because, at the start, agriculture will not give you quick money, but a slow profit,” said the third-year student in the Bachelor of Science in Civil and Environmental Engineering program at Uganda Christian University (UCU). 

Mango trees on Genrwot’s farm
Mango trees on Genrwot’s farm

His path was not one many youths his age would take, but maybe they should. He had witnessed many successful tree farmers.  Since he is a student, he knew he would not need to devote a considerable amount of time in running the venture, knowing that trees need minimal care.

Genrwot started with five acres of land. The farm, which has eucalyptus, mango and avocado trees, is located in the northern Uganda district of Gulu. 

Three years later, in 2020, Genrwot was already reaping rewards from his toil. 

“For the eucalyptus, we were reducing the number of trees and branches so as to leave enough space for them to expand and grow,” he said. “The excess trees were cut and sold off as poles.”

He says he harvested about 800 poles, which he sold at sh15,000 (about $3) each. He also harvested 300kg (661 pounds) of avocado sold at sh6,000 (about $1.6) per kilogram and 200kg (441 pounds) of mangoes that he sold at sh5,000 (about $1.4) each kilogram. 

Since fruit trees are harvested seasonally, Genrwot says he harvests about 500 mangoes and between 700 and 800 avocadoes per season. He uses the proceeds from the sale for his upkeep at the university.

The benefits Genrwot has reaped from his farm drove him into expanding it more than four times, from the initial five acres to now 22 acres of land. The eucalyptus trees now sit on 15 acres while the fruit trees occupy five acres. The remaining two acres are occupied by the people who maintain the farm. 

Eucalyptus trees on Genrwot’s farm
Eucalyptus trees on Genrwot’s farm

“We have also started rearing some animals, mainly goats and sheep, under the trees, to help eat away the undergrowth in the tree farm,” Genrwot says. 

The demand for timber in the civil engineering field, especially construction, gave Genrwot the hope that he was starting a beneficial venture. He says he now networks with colleagues who are already in the profession, as he tries to get market for the timber when his trees eventually mature. The maturity period for eucalyptus is seven years.

He has long-term plans for the farm. 

“I’m considering planting more long-term trees, such as the teak and pine trees and also adding more fruit trees,” Genrwot reveals.

Before he achieves his plan, Genrwot has to overcome the challenges he faces on the farm – pests and diseases that attack the fruit trees – and finding ways of ensuring that the farm workers are productive, even when he is away, concentrating on his studies at the university.