Rwahi, where onions tickle the bank balance

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Rwahi, where onions tickle the bank balance
Women weed onion farms in Rwahi | Alex Mugasha

In the ragged terrain at the edge of Rwahi, a small town in Ntungamo's Katooma Parish in, Kayonza Sub-county, everyone loves tears associated with onions.

Where many itch in the tear glands from cutting onions, at Rwahi, the farmers itch in the palms and bank accounts.

Rwahi is a famous for onion growing and trading. From Rwentobo to the far end of Rwahi along Mbarara-Ntungamo -Kabale highway, the air is scented with aroma of onions and the scene is picturesque with the green leaves of the famous bulbs.

With about 87 percent of land use constituting onion gardens and the 13 percent used for other food crops, onion gardens are sighted from the Ntungamo Kabale highway far and wide, over and above.

The farmers are reaping big from the onion business and have done this for more than 50 years.

For the last five decades, the people in Rwahi have depended on onions for their income and livelihood.

Ronald Rukundo, 58, has been in onion farming for the last 34 years. “It’s a tradition here to grow onions," he said.

Many homes and families engage in it.

"I, too, followed what I found others doing and we have survived on it,” Rukundo adds, a tinge of pride flashing across his face.

Polly Byamukama, in his 60s, told the Nile Post that for the last 15 years, he has been dealing in growing and trading in onions.

"On good season, I am able to harvest 10 to 20 sacks of onions and sell each at Shs500,000,” he said.

The seemingly still able and energetic Byamukama is quick to decry the still low market for the onions with the available at Rwahi stage, Mbarara and Kampala still faced with challenges of middlemen.

“We have no fixed market for our onions, what many of us do is stage your onions at the Rwahi stage and wait for passersby to buy. These can be people travelling to or from Mbarara, Kampala among other areas,” Byamukama revealed.

Ms Mirian Nagasha, a trader, says between January and May, they buy onions from Kisoro at Shs5,000 a kilogramme and transport them to Rwahi.

She said that the Rwahi onions are often ready and in abundance in the months of June to October.

Like Byamukama, Moreen Koburungi says at Rwahi, they set a standard price for onions but she rues the slow pace in embracing irrigation farming because depending on rainfall sets them back often.

“Currently, seasons have changed and we still depend on rainfall so if the government can establish irrigation schemes for us then that would make us reap even much bigger than we earn currently," Koburungi said.

Byamukama quips in: “Another challenge is with poor onion seeds still on market as well as fake pesticides. If these can be dealt with then the better the future of onion farming and trade.”

Over 20 savings groups have mushroomed from onion farming. The farmer say President Museveni has made several promised to support them although none has been fulfilled.

The farmers revealed that Peace Rugambwa, the head of then Bona Bagaggawale government programme in the area, championed programmes and farmers benefitted.

"The time of Peace Rugambwa was our leader of Bona Bagaggawale, we used to get money, mattresses, onion seeds, pesticides from the government but mafias have disrupted her and we want her back," they said.

Currently, a sack of onions that cost Shs200,000 ten years ago now go for Shs500,000 and a basin at Shs80,000.

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