Life is sweet for Damulira

Client: Damulira Dithane

Business: Cultivation of organic vanilla

Location: Uganda

Gender: Man

Vanilla farming has transformed Damulira Dithane’s life over the past year. Damulira, who is part of the Magada Farmers' Group now has a new house, has bought two cows and some land and is sending his children to good schools.

Banks won’t lend him money, he says, because he lacks land titles as collateral.“ "Before I started vanilla farming, we used to live miserably in a small mud and wattle house with little hope of ever getting enough food,” he said. “I’ve now managed to buy two Friesian cows, which provide milk for my family. We sell the surplus. We have got 10 more acres of land and I send my children to reputable schools. I’m well connected with a new cell phone. And my greatest achievement has been to move to a newly built house.” Damulira, 64, and his wife Nanfuka, 48, have 10 children aged from 17 to 28.

Vanilla farming requires a big initial investment because you can’t start harvesting vanilla pods until the plants are three years old. What's more, curing the pods takes three months before they’re ready to sell. But once past the initial stage, farmers can boost their earnings to USD 40 a day – a good 20 times the typical earnings of a subsistence farmer in Uganda.

Damulira and 33 other members of the Magada Farmers' Group have received a loan of U Shs 3,300,000 (USD 1,750) from ECLOF Uganda to pay back over 12 months so that they can set up vanilla plantations.

ECLOF Uganda has also partnered with Coetzee Natural Products, a private company. Coetzee employs field staff who inspect farms to make sure they conform to European import standards. Coetzee’s Managing Director Gordon Jones says training farmers in the best ways to improve their vanilla yields also helps them get more out of their land generally. “We show them a tidy farm that looks good. We show them how to work at the right time, and get more yield from the farm, how to make good compost out of manure, and how to trail the plants from a small tree,” he says. “This can help them get up to 25 per cent more yield from their crop.”