During the last planting season for 2016, through a highly participatory process that was endorsed by elders of Loro Sub-County in Oyam District, CPAR Uganda Ltd donated start-up Hibiscus Sabdarrifa (hibiscus) seeds to 43 pioneer smallholder farmers.
Despite adverse weather conditions, 11 of our pioneer farmers took the risk and planted. They included:
- Olobo Edward
- Akot Christine
- Rose Obuga
- Jasinta Acen
- Molly Adoko David
- Jenifer Odongo
- Betty Dibuni
- Hellen Apio
- Grace Obua
- Rose Aceng
- Adoko Sam
Hibiscus is a good commercial crop, it is in fact a major cash crop in China, Sudan, and Thailand. No wonder, our pioneer farmers reported that from their harvest they sold a total of 140 kilograms of dried calyces of hibiscus fruit at Ushs. 4,000 (four thousand shillings) per kilogram and so together they made a total of Ushs. 560,000 (five hundred and sixty thousand shillings). Considering that they got this unexpected income in February 2017, during the time when school fees for the first school term was needed, the farmers were very happy.
Our pioneer farmers were also able to reserve some of their harvest for their own domestic consumption, they testified. Even some of the risk averse benefiting farmers reportedly planted around their homesteads a few of the seeds that CPAR Uganda donated to them; and they were able to harvest small quantities of fruit which they dried for home consumption.
Hibiscus is a highly nutritious and therapeutic plant that is believed native to Africa. Its seeds, leaves, fruits and roots can be eaten in form of fresh salads and taken as tea or juice. Its stems burn into potent ash-salt that is popular within the cuisine of the Nilotic peoples of Uganda.
It is a rich source of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, among others; making it a good health crop. Among the health benefits associated with hibiscus, for example, are healthy pregnancies, because it is iron rich. Case in point, an empirical study conducted in Northern Ghana, found that:
“Indigenous Hibiscus sabdariffa meal improves iron status of women of child-bearing age with time and could be protective of stunting among toddlers during the dry/lean season.”Clement Kubreziga Kubuga, Hyokyoung Grace Hong and Won O. Song
Our pioneer farmers not only harvested the fruit, but as we had taught them how to do seed selection and preservation, they also harvested and preserved seed for the next season. Hibiscus has a very high seed multiplication rate. Our pioneer farmers reported having enough seed for them to replant and also to distribute to others – sell or donate freely. The local market price for a kilogram of hibiscus seed in Oyam was reported to be Ushs. 5,000 (five thousand shillings).
Although the harvest was lower than it would have been, if favourable weather conditions had prevailed, our pioneer farmers, overall, rated their first attempt a success. Following our pioneer’s success, other benefiting farmers promised that they too will take the risk in 2017 and plant the seeds that they received as a donation from CPAR Uganda.
We freely and successfully shared with participating smallholder farmers the best agronomic practices for hibiscus and CPAR Uganda is confident that the benefiting farmers should be able to continue developing and sustaining the hibiscus value chain for their benefit – for nutrition and income generation.
It is important to note that hibiscus grows well without the need of artificial chemical fertilizers and pesticides. In which case, it is an environmentally friendly crop.
Photo Credit: Alinga Farms - Dried calyces, freshly harvested calyces and juice of hibiscus sabdariffa.