KAMPALA — When Grace Omuron from Uganda first studied flight operations in 2015-2016, her dream was to pursue further studies and later have as many flight hours as possible.
Omuron in 2017 enrolled at the East African Civil Aviation Academy, a flying school, and by 2019, she was a Cadet Pilot.When Omuron finished her studies, she took off time when she became pregnant.
“Back home, my dreams completely changed. I looked at the idle land my father had and saw the opportunity to start growing mangoes, oranges and cashew nuts,” Omuron told Xinhua in a recent interview.
“I immediately hit the ground running, starting with nursery beds,” she said. This marked the start of her business dubbed Grace Citrus and Mango Orchard.She first planted two acres (about 0.81 hectares) of grafted mangoes, which gave her a bumper harvest.
With the introduction of cashew nuts and avocado, Omuron created an orchard, expanding into her father’s seven acres of land.The 30-year-old mother of two said she has forgotten about her cockpit dream now that she has found a completely new source of income.
“Of course flying is prestigious, but there is quick money in agriculture. With the COVID-19 pandemic still with us, agriculture is the way out,” she said, while on her farm in the eastern Uganda district of Soroti.
Despite receiving various offers in the aviation industry, Omuron has vowed not to get out of agriculture.
“This is now business where I am both an employer and employee. I need to supervise it closely if I am to get maximum profits,” she said.
Omuron has since found market for her produce both within Uganda and Kenya.
“I had a link with Teso Fruit Factory, Delight Factory and also connected with a few Kenyan industries. The point here is that there is ready market, so I’m not worried about producing excess fruit,” she said.
Within the two years of operation, Omuron said she has had six harvesting seasons and on average she earns about 5,000 U.S. dollars per harvest.
“Sometimes I can even earn much more from supplying seedlings. I supply the government as well as other commercial farmers from the region,” she said.
Omuron employs about 30 young people who include both technical and supportive staff.
“I like working with the youth. I have even created youth groups in the district and whenever I employ them, they learn new skills from my farm which they put into practice back home,” Omuron said.
She advised the youths never to fear starting small.
“You have to be vigorous. For instance, COVID-19 let us down but we have managed to get up again. You have to keep going despite the challenges,” Omuron said.
“I started with two acres but I have since spread to about 12 acres. I know there is going to be a wide market for Hass avocado and cashew nut. I will be a big supplier.”
Just like any other business, she has had some hard times, ranging from financial to bad harvest seasons. Omuron is optimistic that after the pandemic slows down, she will make some business connections in China to further the growth of her company.
“I was in China once and a friend had promised to take me to their farm then the pandemic started,” she said.
“There is a lot to learn from there and since I am still young I will learn.”
For now, Omuron said she continues to research farming skills and technologies in China, with hopes of transferring them to her farm.