A chat with Joel Otim, a lead farmer in Pader district

Joel Otim in his rice produce store in Pader district. Next to him are bags of harvested rice.


Joel Otim is a reputable rice farmer in Barajwa village, Pader district. He owns 30 acres of land on which he practices commercial rice farming. Otim is one of the rice farmers feeding thousands of Ugandans. Part of the rice he produces is consumed by Ugandans and the rest is exported to other countries.

Together with others farmers, Otim has been supported by the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) with funds from Church of Sweden through the Kitgum and Pader Sustainable Livelihood Initiative project. The project beneficiaries were supported with cash grants to venture in agriculture related businesses with an aim of increasing production and productivity for food and nutrition security as well as improved livelihoods.

Shamim Nalubega recently interviewed Otim and below are his responses.


Tell me about yourself.

I am a husband, father and grandfather who loves and earns from rice farming. I have been a farmer since I was little and I have instilled the same culture in my children whom I have taught and engaged in the practice right from their childhood.

What inspires your love for agriculture?

The fact that it’s a decent way of earning income inspires me most. More so, it’s because plants play a huge role in conserving our environment. I am passionate about environmental protection for both today and the future generation. With a good environment and climate, I believe my children and great grandchildren will be able to carry on my agriculture legacy.

When did you venture into commercial farming and why rice in particular?

In 2008, I ventured into commercial rice farming because the soil texture in my area is most favourable for upland rice. Another reason is the fact that market is readily available not only in Pader but countrywide and globally. Rice doesn’t require a lot of attention and can also fetch the good money that I need to sustain my family.

Rice is a unique plant, where and how did you get the skills to venture into its farming?

I learned through observing a friend who is a rice farmer. He worked with Tilda Uganda Limited, a rice growing and processing company. He was trained and knew all the basics. I have also acquired formal trainings from LWF in improved agronomic practices like timely, appropriate land preparation and planting, weeding, pest control and management, harvesting and post-harvest handling, value chain development, marketing and selling; among several more skills.   

What does the rice farming process involve, from the beginning to the last step of selling the grain?

Rice production involves ploughing the land at least twice before preparing the seed beds, broadcasting rice seed in the prepared land, weeding at least twice, continuous warding off of birds and other pests, harvesting and threshing in the field. We then get to the stage of sun drying the rice, milling, bagging and then eventually selling it off.

A 30-acre farm seems too big for one person to cultivate; do you hire labour?

No, I don’t. I have a wife and four children with whom I cultivate the farm. We use our ox ploughs for opening the land and we do the planting, harvesting and packing ourselves because we want to minimise our expenditure. This helps us to maximise our profits.

What’s your average harvest from the 30-acre piece of land and how much do you earn from it?

For good seasons, we harvest about 300 bags each weighing 100 kilograms and 200 bags for the bad ones. The prices usually fluctuate but the highest I sell a kilogram is Ush 4,000 and the least is Ush 2,000. 

Joel Otim displays rice produce he harvested from his garden in Pader district.


Where do you sell your rice produce?

Market is never a problem. Bulk produce buyers from Gulu and Lira come and buy the rice from my stores. I am a well-known rice farmer and seller who they look out for whenever it’s harvesting time.   

How do you spend the profit from your rice garden?

First, we save up 50% of the profit. We then use 20% to plan for the next planting season (seeds and other inputs) and we share about 30% to meet our financial needs.

How do you put the 50% savings to use?

We save it in our family VSLA account where any of us can acquire a loan to establish a business, to set up other family businesses and to cater for the household emergencies like hospital bills; among others.  We have for instance diversified into livestock and poultry farming. We also have purchased tens of goats, sheep and chicken.

Tell me some of your biggest achievements from rice farming  

I have taught my children a life skill from which they can earn a living. My children are already earning big from agriculture. Patrick Otto, my oldest son has bought three acres and established his own farm. He has also so far built a house, bought livestock and a motorcycle from which he earns by providing transport services. I also have built a house from the proceeds from the rice and I meet my family’s needs; especially educating my three children.

What are the most serious challenges you have encountered in rice farming?

The biggest challenges are centred on limited access to improved rice varieties, pests especially Quelea birds and lack of drying facilities for the harvested grain hence compromising the quality.   

What sets you apart from other farmers in Pader district?

My persistence and enthusiasm for agriculture is what I believe sets me apart. I never give up even when some seasons don’t turn out like I expected. Besides, when I put my hands to my farm, I aim at giving my best to have a good harvest.  

Any recommendations to other farmers?

I recommend they move a step further from subsistence to commercial farming for better livelihoods. For commercial farmers, high quality produce should be your priority to attract and maintain more buyers.