Few kilometres into Masindi district from Hoima, lives 68-year-old Jacob Byemaro, a farmer, who does not regret joining bullet chili pepper growing to eke out a living as well as to fight non-communicable diseases that had rounded up his family.
Byemaro, a resident of Kisaalizi Village in Kahembe Parish, Bwijanga Sub-county in Masindi District, started pepper farming to get holistic treatment for his wife suffering from blood pressure and also get an herbal remedy for his domestic fowls.
In his first trial to expand the crop for commercial purposes, Byemaro planted a 20×40 metre garden of bullet chili pepper from which he harvested 30kgs of powdered chili whose market value was Shs3m.
It took little time for Byemaro to discover the secret that the crop needs limited labour, limited capital and limited land to get high and valuable yields compared with other crops like maize and cassava.
In the second harvest, Byemaro reaped 28kgs out of the same garden. This made his life easier to care about and fend for his orphaned grandchildren and himself.
“The major benefit is that my wife continued eating pepper and consequently had her blood pressure stabalise. I could not continue engaging in maize or rice growing because my age does not support that labour intensive farming. I just have to concentrate on poultry and bullet chili farming,” says Byemaro.
The two years Byemaro has spent in pepper farming have made him one of the renowned suppliers of pepper in Masindi municipality and Hoima city.
Byemaro hopes to start producing liquid pepper as he expands his clientele.
In application, many older persons are finding trouble in competing favourably with the majority young populace in labour intensive businesses that also need huge capital investment.
Ms Catherine Kaija, the Hoima District Agricultural Officer, notes minimal response to pepper farming in the region. She says that people still look at pepper as a vegetative plant with no financial value though it is now turning into a good source of income especially for those with limited land and capital.
According to her, the higher the number of farmers growing pepper, the higher the quantity which will ultimately attract high quantity buyers in and outside Uganda.
There are various types of pepper serving different functions but the most popular ones are being used as a spice and in many medicinal and beauty products world over.
Pepper is popular in India, China and the Arab world where it is a major source of diet supplement at most of the meals.
The difference between bullet chili embraced by Byemaro and local red pepper is that the latter tastes hotter and grows organically without demanding pesticides alongside being enjoyed by both wild and domestic birds including pigeons for diet.
A large new study of Italian adults found that eating chili pepper four times a week significantly reduces the risk of fatal diseases.
The pungent pepper reduced the overall risk of fatal illness by up to 23%, and cut the risk of stroke by nearly 50%.
Capsaicin, the active compound in hot peppers that creates the spicy sensation, has been found in previous research to have a myriad of health benefits, including boosting metabolism and lowering blood pressure.