we shall be known by our fruits, grown from the seeds we normally throw away


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Photo by Simon Kaheru

Having finished a particularly juicy mango some time in December I dilly dallied with the seed even after using my teeth to scrape off all the flesh.

This wasn’t the usual type of string-filled mangoes that agitate me into bursting through my toothpick and dental floss budget.

The mango I had gormandised was the old-school type we used to find everywhere from Kampala through Kyaggwe to Hoima when I was a child. That big variety that didn’t become soft to tell you it was ripe, but when you bit through the tough skin your teeth found the flesh to be hard yet very pleasantly sweet.

The nostalgic feeling it brought me made me hang on to the seed for a few hours, on a saucer at my window sill as I worked the computer (hands all washed). I kept glancing at it thinking about how much I would happily eat one every hour were it not for the sweetness overkill.

This particular mango had come, with a few others, from a visit to a loved one in Ntinda right here in Kampala. During our afternoon chat we noticed that the tree, which had stood there many years, had finally offered up a respectable number of fruits with almost no effort besides patience.

My replenishment plan would involve a few more visits, but that wouldn’t keep me in the endless supply of said mangoes that I craved at that point. Mulling over the problem a little longer, I realised that the drying seed on the saucer next to me was the solution right there.

I have planted many mango trees over the last couple of years, planning to establish a constant supply for my domestic consumption as well as some light commerce in years to come.

Our family consumes so many mangoes, in our small set of homes, that if one of us became a supplier then we would have a cheaper source and also run a mini operation wealth creation.

All those trees came from seedlings purchased at a fair sum but topped off with transportation costs then made bigger by the bulk I have to purchase each time.

The internet, always useful for such purposes, told me quite clearly how to convert my drying seed into a seedling – which my seedling suppliers will not be excited to learn. The internet, being mostly written in climates that are not as friendly and blessed as tropical Uganda, included bits in their processes that made me realise how many more trees I would have grown by now if I had started thinking properly much earlier.

I immediately made a resolution to convert as many fruit seeds as I encounter this year into seedlings with as little fuss as possible. At some point last year I discovered the Butternut Squash, a relative of the ordinary pumpkin, and contrived some recipes so bewitching that I started thinking about the Squash in my spare time.

The problem was that each one cost about Ushs5,000 in regular supermarkets. One day I put the seeds aside, after cutting a Squash open, and planted them one by one in small cups of soil. A couple of weeks later they had germinated and I am now trying to grow my own butternut squash in various places instead of spending Ushs5,000 each in a supermarket.

With the fruit project, it has been three months of regularly consuming avocadoes, mangoes and fenne (jackfruit), allowing the seeds to dry out, then planting them in small cans and bottles. I have been largely successful – more with the fenne and avocado than the mangoes, but successful all the same, to a notable extent. Even the chillis, onions and tomatoes have sprouted something.

While I wait for the experts to tell me how fruitful the seedlings will be when they grow, I recall that six years ago I devised a scheme that should have led me to this point much earlier were it not for an insufficient infusion of lugezi gezi amongst my domestic staff.

At that time, I established a garbage separation system so we could collect our organic waste and use it to create compost, while disposing of the plastic, paper and other waste through the garbage collection companies. It worked for only a short while, after which the people tasked with implementation couldn’t be bothered and the Manager (myself) lost focus on the trees because of the forest.

I am returning my focus to the trees henceforth, and resuming garbage separation as part of my mini operation wealth creation project.

My success shall be shown by my fruits, as the Good Book says in Matthew.

#RainsAreHere – so wake up and go plant something in your tropical garden!


ONE morning last year I astonished @spartakussug, a marketing and creative design fellow, when I changed the location of our meeting appointment from a popular cafe to a sedate office location. The caveat, I told him, was that he would have to spend the equivalent of our coffee bills on buying mango tree seedlings.
He did, and I eventually planted five mango trees, after explaining to him that city people like us were spending too much time and money “living life” to stop and take the reality of our potential into account. He promised to secure land and start planting his own trees, vegetables and what not, and I will this week be following up on that.
I started on this journey a long time ago, thanks to an actively agricultural family background, so for more than a month now I have been anxious over when the rains will

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MY matooke. All MINE.

finally fall.

And when this week the skies opened up with more promise than the tickling it did a couple of weeks ago, I jumped out of bed with an enthusiasm I did not have when I was still in school.
I wasn’t surprised to read tweets and facebook posts about burrowing deeper into bed on account of the morning rains, because our city lifestyle is influenced by the movies, novels and internet posts – where most of the content is created and published by people who live in harsh climates that cannot grow crops left, right, centre, and all food comes from supermarkets.
Because we ‘live’ in a culture that is based in other countries that don’t have the climate, soils, seeds, and traditional agricultural knowledge that exists in tropical Africa, we tend to think like people who do. That’s why, for instance, I can spend one thousand shillings on one avocado fruit every day for years and years, even though one avocado seedling will cost me two thousand shillings and within one and a half years will serve up thousands of fruits. That same avocado, if converted into ebigenderako at a joint selling roast meat, will fetch a value of Ushs4,000!
See, over the weekend I had paid my parents a visit and returned with a sack of avocados collected quite casually within minutes from one of the trees in their garden (the real one – olusuku), and as usual I calculated very carefully how much money I had saved on my market shopping for the next couple of weeks, with adjustments to my diet plan.
My own avocado tree, where I live, is going to be serving up large numbers of the fruits again in a short while and I am adopting a new policy for the benefit of my children, based on what I told Collin last year: for every fruit we consume from that one tree in my front garden I will put aside one thousand shillings in cash.
All the money I collect in this way will be spent buying avocado tree seedlings for planting on a farm patch – and the possession of that land, of course, is a pre-requisite for this approach to work, though even that land could be acquired quite easily by many of these city people using their spare change or if they buy fewer buffet meals and less whisky.
So it was that on Monday, before some people had ordered for their office snacks using online and mobile apps, I had used the very same technology to place orders for a range of tree seedlings to add to my last planting – and I will do that every chance I get, till I have

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Ordered from @GreeningUganda

these fruits and vegetables pouring out in piles.

And let’s not worry that if you all join in and we all have piles and piles of fruits and vegetables that nobody will buy them – at the very least, all those people out there in that wide world who are snuggling in their beds in the bad weather will buy up our produce.  On another level, other people will start up business ventures to transport, refrigerate, package, process, brand and export our stuff.
Just make sure that when it rains in the mornings you aren’t the one holding the blanket tighter to your chin – lazima you should get up and call the guys at the farm to find out if it’s raining there and they are at work in the fields.