Starting a Pumpkin Farming Trend
By Moses Okello, a 42-year-old key farmer in the Pumpkins in Africa project.
KOLE DISTRICT, UGANDA – The food crops I used to cultivate did not always produce enough surplus harvest to sell, and they would also fetch low market prices.
Nevertheless, when I was approached by an East-West Seed Knowledge Transfer Foundation (EWS-KT) staff member to host a pumpkin demonstration field, I was a little hesitant because, in my community, we thought pumpkins cannot be planted.
However, in just 3 months, I was raising money from selling pumpkin leaves and fruits. Right now, I also have buyers who have approached me for seeds.
“I have discovered a secret in the pumpkin, as it is easy and cheap to manage, but rewarding.”
I have discovered a secret in the pumpkin, as it is easy and cheap to manage, but rewarding. I am still selling the fruits from my demo, with each pumpkin going at 3,000–4,000 Ugandan shillings (US$0.90–$1.15) at the farm gate.
My plan is to expand my garden, as well as to encourage other community members to grow so we are able to attract big markets. I have also been able to buy a piglet for 100,000 shillings (US$29)—the first step towards my dream of starting a pig farm.
Demonstration fields are an integral part of EWS-KT’s approach because they allow farmers to see first-hand new vegetable varieties and the results of different agronomic techniques. After witnessing Moses’s success with his pumpkins, Morrish Ogwang (read Morrish’s story here) and James Okallu (read James’s story here) became interested in growing pumpkins as well. While EWS-KT provides expert training and intensive on-farm guidance, it is through farmers like Moses that new techniques and crop varieties spread, increasing income for farmers and improving nutrition for community members.
Pumpkins in Africa: Catalysing Opportunity for Farmers and Consumers aims to accelerate the growth of the pumpkin sector in Africa by developing a hub of expertise and knowledge in Uganda, which can then drive growth in neighbouring markets. While the pumpkin is of high nutritional value, has a long shelf life, and is relatively easy to grow, there is little pumpkin production for markets in East Africa. The Pumpkins in Africa project is implemented by EWS-KT and is funded by East-West Seed founder Simon N. Groot from his 2019 World Food Prize award money.