On April 28, 2020, a Stabo Air cargo flight number 4E5300 touched down at Entebbe International Airport. On it were 40 Boer goats, brought in by Grace Bwogi, the proprietor of Bwogi Farms.
Bwogi could not hide her excitement seeing the plane touch down with her live cargo, but that was before she ran into a stressful encounter with clearing agents at the airport before she finally transferred the goats to her farm in Kibanda sub-county, Rakai district.
The 40-year-old farmer was inspired by Paul Ssembeguya, the proprietor of Ssembeguya Estate Uganda Limited, who is one of the prominent livestock farms in the country.
“I started knowledge searching about how I can bring in the Boers from South Africa. I visited my mentor Paul Sembeguya for a one on one meeting about importation,” Bwogi said.
Bwogi’s goat farming journey began in 2015. She started with purely local goats and later bought cross-breed male Boer goats from farmers in Sembabule district to improve the quality of her stock.
“I realized that the offsprings were so beautiful that I started searching for pure males all over Uganda for our farm but very few farmers had them and weren’t in a position to sell,” says Bwogi.
In July 2019, Bwogi took a trip to Jansenville, South Africa, to learn more about Boer goat farming. The trip was partly facilitated by a group of farmers she does not name.
“My host was excellent. I booked my stock of 50 Boer goats. When I came back, I started a campaign through my social media platforms, asking individuals to join me so that we pool resources and import the goats because I couldn’t pull it off single-handedly,” she said.
“Many laughed at the thought because it was going to be a costly venture given that one male goat cost $1300 [Shs 4.5 million] and female $900 [Shs 3.4 million],” she added.
Her call attracted nine people with whom they started to save for the goats in August 2019. In total, they pooled together what was enough to import 16 goats. Bwogi raised more funds that enabled her to bring in a total of 40 goats of which 19 were males and 21 females.
“In South Africa, the goats are not so costly but freight and other hidden costs in chasing for paperwork make the whole exercise damn expensive,” Bwogi says.
And once the goats arrived, Bwogi realized that the demand was higher than she expected.
“I received very many phone calls and text messages of potential buyers from all over East Africa,” says the former university lecturer.
Given Uganda’s growing population, Bwogi says, the demand for goats meat (chevon)is also rising, but, we don’t have a big goat population to satisfy our market.
“We have turned down proposals to export meat to Arab countries because we fear we may disappoint on quality and quantity. Imagine our local breeds can be kept for a year without gaining a weight of 25kgs whereas if you crossed the Boer goats with local breeds like Mubende, the offsprings can reach market weight at six to seven months, and can reach a weight of 30kgs and above at six months, Boers reach market weight fast,” Bwogi said.
“Somebody out there will argue that the taste of hybrid meat tastes yuck. The magic is, feed those goats on locally available feeds and the meat will not taste any different from that of our local goats,” she added.