Jeremiah Kayemba quit engineering to grow green pepper

There may be more young and educated Ugandans taking up farming as a source of livelihood, but it still is unlikely that you will come across a young man who has an engineering degree but has instead opted to turn to farming. That, however, is Jeremiah Kayemba’s story.  

Kayemba, who hails from Kyetume in Mukono district is a structural engineer who earned his degree from Kyambogo University in 2012. He did not wear his engineering overall for long, though, as he was convinced by his farmer parents to invest in farming after struggling to find the ‘right’ kind of job.

“From my childhood farming was alike a nightmare and whenever one could talk about it, in my mind I would think of someone far down in a village living in a shack,” Kayemba told Matooke Republic. “I always perceived it as a punishment. This could have been because I always saw farmers especially my parents wake up very early every morning to go and dig, only  coming back home at sunset.”

“The fact that getting jobs [for my skill level] had [become] a tug of war my parents did not need to do much to convince me to join the field, and the advantage of free land was also a catalyst,” the young farmer added.  Kayemba decided to invest in green pepper which he was told required little in terms of labour. “I used only Shs250,000 to buy pepper seeds that covered an almost 1.5 acre piece of land,” he recalled.

According to Kayemba one does not need to be an experienced gardener to grow vibrant green pepper. All it takes is attention and a little knowledge of the right growing conditions. Green pepper, like most other nightshade plants (potatoes, tomatoes or egg plants), are thirsty plants which require a moderate supply of water from day one.

With this in mind, it is important to pay attention to where to cultivate green pepper seedlings, how frequently to water them and when the best time is to transplant them outside to grow on their own. Peppers normally mature in 60-90 days, but will take a longer time if you attempt to sow their seeds directly in the main garden. Like cucumber, peppers are usually harvested at an immature stage.

Even though peppers are considered to be problem-free by most farmers, Kayemba pointed out the risk of pests and diseases like cutworms that occasionally attack his pepper garden yet organic pesticides are expensive to buy. However this has not stopped the 29-year-old pepper farmer from soldiering on and he said with a few precautions he has managed to keep his peppers clean for his Nakasero buyers. Out of his green pepper venture Kayemba has since bought himself three boda bodas, two of which help him to transport his produce to different markets at a reduced cost.