Dennis Komakech graduated last September from Agrostudies and he has been busy fulfilling his dreams with hard work and ingenuity ever since. He comes from the Northern part of Uganda where they rely heavily on rainfall. However, farmers there face many challenges as a result of this reliance. They have two dry seasons a year during which they cannot grow their own crops and to make matters worse, climate changes have made the rainfall less reliable. This year, for example, they expected rain in late March but it didn’t rain all the way through April. This instability can lead to many disasters for agriculturalists who plan their crops expecting rain and end up finishing the season with empty fields. This is a serious problem throughout Africa that can only be resolved using technology and innovation, which is exactly what Mr. Komakech decided to do.
After seeing farmers in Israel grow crops in deserts that receive next to no rain at all he decided to act. He purchased a pump and a single sprinkler. His land is located near a river that leaves natural water reserves in crevices along the bank, so that is where he decided to use the pump. He realized that being the first to use this technology would give him an edge, and if he could harvest his first crop during the dry season, he would be the only one and it would give him an edge that would allow him to expand his enterprise.
At first he planted a popular crop in Uganda, a leafy vegetable they call “bo”. It grows fast and this first yield allowed him to return some of his investment. Alongside the “bo” he planted 3 acres of tomatoes. He expected it to rain, and when it didn’t he had to make do with a single sprinkler to water all three acres – not a simple task.
To resolve this he hired some help and every day they would come and move the sprinkler from one plot to another, ensuring each plant got its share.
It was a success and when he harvested his crops, buyers came all the way from Congo and South Sudan to buy his produce. This has inspired other farmers in the region, some of whom have also decided to invest in a pump and sprinkler.
Next he decided to expand and plant watermelons. He discovered there was an active and enthusiastic market for watermelons, but in order for factory buyers to come with their trucks and transport the crops he would need a greater yield than he could produce on his own.
With typical big picture thinking and creativity, he managed to convince farmers in his area to invest in this plan and together with 14 others they all planted watermelons, each on a single acre. Together they had 15 acres of watermelon, enough to draw the attention of buyers all across the region. This plan was also a success and now, even more of them are thinking of planting watermelons for the next season.
Dennis Komakech’s story shows that with creativity and more than a little courage, almost anything is possible.
Thinking ahead doesn’t stop there. The knowledge he acquired in Israel has made it possible for him to see a greater range of solutions to face upcoming challenges head on, inspiring and leading others by example.
The next step of course, is buying drip irrigation. Drip irrigation equipment is more expensive than a sprinkler, but in the long run it is a necessary solution. The natural river reserves are enough for now, but if all the farmers start using them with sprinklers, they won’t last very long. This necessitates even better solutions.
“I am thinking, maybe by the second season I will be able to install one drip irrigation system for the tomatoes” Komakech shares and we have no doubt that this is only the beginning for Dennis Komakech.