Transforming communities through agriculture, Kasamba’s story.
In 1997, Mathias Kasamba, then a community worker with an NGO, International Care and Relief (ICR) got involved in a motor accident that took his left hand.
With this permanent disability, many friends and relatives wrote him off. To them, the amputation of his hand meant an end to his promising career as a hardworking young man, with an ambition to change the lives of the people in his native Kakuuto Sub County in present day Kyotera district.
To him, the accident offered a new challenge and an opportunity for him to disprove the notion that a physical disability means inability to work.
“I started by planting a commercial tree forest which is not just a forest but a monument because instead of mourning for my lost hand, I wanted to have something I can look at to remember the day I lost my hand,” says Kasamba.
The forest at his expansive farm at Ttome in Kakuuto Sub County about 197Kms south of Kampala is now 20 years old.
It measures about 20 acres with eucalyptus and pine trees as the main species.
Kasamba doesn’t see himself as a disabled man – that is why in his entire political journey that started as an LC-V councillor at Rakai district, to Parliament as Kakuuto County MP and now to the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA), he has never used the affirmative action card for people with disabilities.
From a peasant farmer family, Kasamba used his leadership position to promote sustainable agriculture in his constituency, focusing on food security and income generation.
He joined Parliament in 2001 and for the next three terms he represented Kakuuto County, he distributed more than 300,000 coffee seedlings which turned around the economic fortunes of many households.
After the 2011 elections, he decided that he would not seek another term as Kakuuto MP and put his focus on his farm at Ttome that he wants to be the regional centre for agricultural excellence where farmers from within the East African Community can come to learn the best agricultural practices.
Kasamba farms on a 700-acre piece of land which he expanded from the initial 100 acres that he bought from his father.
The farm has food and cash crops like coffee, potatoes, passion fruits, and egg plants among others. He also rears Cattle, goats and pigs.
Promoting farming in his community, he says, is part of his campaign to transform residents and get them out of poverty.
From coffee, bananas and sweet potatoes – mostly his flagship potato type that has been christined “the Kasamba potato,” the EALA representative is currently promoting passion fruit farming.
”I established an Agricultural resource Centre at Ssanje and we started training farmers on how to earn a living from Passion fruit growing” Kasamba said.
He has named his farm “the Agro-transformation Resource Centre” and has already set up training facilities and is working to develop a skilling curriculum which he hopes can also be adopted by the Ministry of Education and Sports.
“Our centre challenges what we see as government agricultural colleges, regional and zonal agricultural Tmtransformation centres, and we hope that we can do partnership with the Ministry of Education to skill students,” Kasamba said.
Kasamba is also working towards embracing permaculture.
Premaculture is a farming culture from Australia which promotes use of organic methods and is built on three basic principles; care for earth, care for people and fresh air.
He uses organic manure as a way to reduce the use of chemical usage on the farm.
“Premaculture defends the ecology of the bio-diversity of the living organisms of a particular area which is not with conventional system,” says Kasamba.
He uses the cropping system of premaculture.
For instance, he intercrops coffee with bananas, ovacados and jack fruits.
He is hopeful that in future, his centre will expand in premaculture and become a model centre for transformative farming in Uganda.
Robert Waliggo Kiwanuka, a youthful farmer at Kiluuli village in Kifamba Sub County, Rakai district is one of the upcoming large scale passion fruit farmers.
Waliggo was one of Kasamba’s political mobilisers who is now immensely involved in agriculture.
He traces his three-year-journey as a successful farmer from the time Kasamba introduced training sessions at his farm in coffee and passion fruit growing.
Waligo started with only 10 plants of Passion fruits that he spread in his matooke and coffee gardens.
The sales from his plants encouraged him to take on the enterprise given the high demand for passion fruits yet there are not too many growers.
Soon, other community members were attracted and took up passion fruit growing, offering Waliggo another opportunity; starting a nursery bed and sell seedlings to willing farmers.