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Last Updated: Thursday, 12 April 2007, 21:35 GMT 22:35 UK
Fruit could curb Ugandan poverty
By Sarah Grainger
BBC News, Kabale, Uganda

Technician looks at growing pears
Two crops a year make Uganda's orchards viable

Keith Rwamahe is one of about 100 farmers in his sub-county on the outskirts of Kabale who have begun to grow temperate fruits.

He used to grow tomatoes and passion fruit, but has found that apples are much more lucrative.

The fruit from one mature apple tree can sell for about $150 (£76), five times as much as an acre of sorghum.

Add to this that a one-acre apple orchard could contain as many as 200 trees and Kabale's infant apple industry starts to make sense.

"Last season, I harvested around 500 apples," Keith says.

"I sold 300, the family ate 100 and 100 were eaten by birds.

"But even so, I make enough money to send my eldest daughter to university and my other three children to school."

Two crops

Growing apples, plums and pears is possible in Kabale because of the area's cool climate.

apples
"I would encourage other farmers to start planting these crops. It's a great way to reduce poverty."
Keith Rwamahe, farmer

Known as the Switzerland of Africa, the highlands of south western Uganda are much more temperate than the rest of the country.

At an altitude of 2100 metres above sea level, Kabale is usually shrouded in morning mist when lowland areas, like the capital Kampala, enjoy brilliant sunshine.

Local farmers may struggle to grow tropical fruits like pineapples and bananas, which are found in abundance elsewhere in Uganda.

But they can turn the climate to their advantage, producing fruits that are usually imported from South Africa and command a much higher price than their tropical counterparts.

There is a further advantage to such a temperate climate so close to the equator.

Unlike European or South African fruit trees, the orchards in Kabale produce two crops per year in June and December.

Export hopes

Temperate fruit farming has been introduced to the region by Uganda's Agricultural Research and Development Institute.

Mountains in Uganda
The cool climate makes "Africa's Switzerland" good for apples

Seeds were imported from Germany and South Africa and kept in the fridge at 0.2 degrees Celsius until they were ready for planting.

The project, which began with the first experimental plantings in 1999, is now beginning to bear fruit, as the trees mature and start to produce a significant crop.

"These fruits are selling like hot cakes in Kabale," says Imelda Kashaija, the research institute's local director.

"Eventually we hope to supply supermarkets in Kampala and even to export to neighbouring countries."

Growing wealth

Mr Rwamahe certainly has high hopes for his crop.

"They are the tastiest apples around," he says.

"I would encourage other farmers to start planting these crops.

"It's a great way to reduce poverty."


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