Napak, Uganda | Julius Businge | John Baptist Angolere 48, abandoned cattle rustling after surviving death eight times during cattle raids. The father of seven has now settled down in Auriki Akinei village in Iriiri Sub County in Napak district where he has excelled as a fruit farmer. He is involved in growing mangoes, guavas and oranges after receiving farming skills from CARITAS, a catholic founded organization in Moroto.
“Let me tell you being a cattle rustler is not an easy activity because when you get out of your home to go and raid you either succeed and come back with cows or you die unlike growing fruits where you move without being on army wanted list,” he said.
Adding that “When I was trained by the team from CARITAs on how to start fruit growing, I had no hope that one day I will reap from it since it takes long to bear fruits yet raiding cattle takes only a few hours. I kept on attending to the tress with little hope because it’s an activity that I was just learning but slowly I see where I am heading,” he said while pointing at his one acre fruit garden.
Angolere, who started the project in 2015, earned Shillings 11 million in the first harvest of his fruits that he sold in various trading centers in Napak and Moroto districts. He says that before receiving training in fruit growing, he used to cut trees and burn charcoal, which he says was very difficult.
According to Angolere, he expects to make good sales this year should the rains return at a right time.
“Last year I could sale one crafted mango at Shillings 1,000. I have regretted a lot for the time I wasted raiding cattle and uprooting cassava from the Teso region. If I had put all that energy into farming I would be very rich,” he said. Angolere plans to open up more land for fruits growing so as to supply the Soroti fruits factory.
“Imagine I was so stupid those days when I go to raid animals, in Soroti, Pallisa, Sebei up to Agwara in Serere. I could see gardens of cassava and oranges and to me, I thought they grew alone. I didn’t know that someone has to sweat for that plant to grow,” he said.
Although Angolere never attended any class, he is now regarded as an expert on fruit farming. Many farmers now go to him for free consultations. “I receive to about 10 to 20 farmers coming to get knowledge on how someone can start fruit growing, “he said.
Angolere asks other Karimojong youth to invest their energy in productive farming instead of consuming alcohol, saying it shortens their years on earth. Angolere’s wife, Marry Nasike told URN on Monday that they are seeing a good future for their children through growing fruits compared to cattle rustling.
“Some of our children are studying in Moroto high school while others are in primary so these fruits are making us manage to pay their tuition and we are telling them as parents to study hard and get better jobs, “she said.
Simon Lokoruwa, a neighbour to Angolere says that when he was starting fruit growing, they thought that he was playing because they used to think it was only educated people who can grow fruits.
“I was one of those who used to think Angolere was just playing but got shocked when I saw a vehicle coming to his home to buy oranges,” he said. Joseph Lomonyang, the Napak District LC V Chairperson, says many youths in the Karamoja region can engage in serious farming but need support.
“They lack startup capital and skills otherwise we are encouraging them to get financial support from the government projects such as youth livelihood program, “he said.