Providing Jobs, Boosting Culinary Business
NATURE by its very essence has endowed Nigeria with good climate, weather and soil, which accounts for the reason different people take to farming; planting diverse crops, including vegetables for home use, the market and, even, for export.
A visit to LASU-Iyana Iba Vegetable Farm shows that some people have taken small-scale urban farming as a means of livelihood. Apart from providing jobs for themselves, this group of independent farmers has taken small-scale urban farming to another level, managing their little space all year round with the help of fertilisers. They plant vegetables that market women, housewives and hoteliers throng to buy everyday.
Speaking on reason for growing vegetables instead of other crops, Edward Attah disclosed that vegetable farming is one aspect of farming that brings quick money to any farmer that knows the techniques.
“It’s lucrative growing any kind of edible vegetable because the demand is always very high. People can go to any length to pay extra for vegetables because of their health benefits.
“In a nutshell, we are driven by the demand and also the ability of the plants to grow quickly. Once they are planted on the right soil and weeded at the right time, then expect the money to start coming. They more or less sell themselves,” he disclosed.
At the rate customers are daily coming for these crops, one would think these farmers could never meet up with the demands, especially as they have to go through the routines of clearing the land, making vegetable beds, preparing the seedlings and weeding. But Attah revealed that the routines are what they could handle within a few days.
“We divide the farmlands into segments. We do it in such a way that if we are clearing a portion, we would be planting on another. With this, we plant different vegetables and apply fertilisers to help them grow well.
“ We also know that the vegetables have different life spans. For example the African spinach (Efo tete) has 21 days, Lagos spinach (shokoyokoto) 28, spring onions 56, long fruited vegetable (Ewedu) 28 and so on. With this knowledge we are able to bridge harvesting and sowing periods, so that we would not go out of fund. We plant in such a way that as a particular vegetable is harvested, another is replacing it,” he said.
While the LASU-Iyana Oba vegetable farmers are enjoying the luxury of almost free land, paying a stipend of N750 to N1,500 as general yearly contribution to authorities that oversee the large span of land, other farmers are not too fortunate; in fact, some have to pay landowners to use their land.
According to Madam Ngozika planting vegetables is not difficult, but getting the land is the problem. Though, there seems to be plenty of land, they do not come free, as one has to settle some people and atimes even lease land.
“The rate at which land is let out differ from one landowner to the other. While some go for N2,000 per year, some landowners rent theirs for as much as a N100,000 or more, depending on the size, soil type and the level of security provided. If the land is fenced round with a gate then expect to pay more,” she disclosed.
With the high rent would any farmer be able to recoup money invested?
“Yes, farming, especially in the city is very lucrative. We make good money; days are gone when farming is associated with poverty. No matter the money invested, you will surely recoup it; only one has to be hard working and know the vegetable to plant. Imagine, I make daily contribution of N3,000 with the exception of Sunday.
“I get the money from the produce I sell. I have been able to support my husband in his building project from farming. Apart from this, we eat fresh vegetables; we cultivate what we eat, which also saves us a lot of money,” she informed.
Corroborating what Ngozika said, Elder Ajuzie, who took to growing vegetables in 1987, when he lost his salaried job said, “I have trained two of my children through university, bought a car and built a house with the money realised from vegetable farming. Except when the rains are high, I make N40,000 to N50,000 a month, do my daily contribution of N2,000, pay my labourers and comfortably maintain my five children.”
On how he makes such money just on vegetables, Ajuzie revealed that he has 375 beds on each piece of land and that each bed takes 200 to 250 seedlings apart from the nursery they prepare and also sell to farmers, who do not have the privilege to do it.
“I have more than a plot of land and as you must have known the vegetables do not have the same harvesting periods, so it’s like I am almost always harvesting and selling to buyers. I have about eight people, not including my wife and I, working on my farm.
“On a good day each bed sells for N250 to N400 and when market is dry, it goes for N200 or N250. Despite, the N200 per bed we still make our money, pay the extra farm hands we engage when work is more,” he noted.
Explaining some of the challenges in the business, Ajuzie said, “heavy rainfall disturbs vegetables, because their roots are not deep in the soil, they are easily washed away. So, during the rains, we raise the beds higher and channel any floodwater out of the farm. And for those whose farmlands are located inwaterlogged areas, it means relocation until the rains are either done or lessened.
“Outside that, growing vegetables is a goldmine. One gets quick returns for his investments without need to depend on banks for fund, because there are ready buyers awaiting the produce,” he revealed.
While some are in the forefront growing vegetables, there some young people –– men and women –– leveraging on its economy, by providing the extra hands needed in weeding farmlands, preparing nursery for new crops, watering, harvesting and sowing. Though, they have no farmlands, they are providing essential services that make the work easier for the various farm owners.
For Ahmed Musa, “I do not own a farm, but I help out with the necessary work and get paid for it. When buyers are more, especially during weekends, I make up to N4,000 a day, but when activities are low I make between N1,500 and N2,000, aside the free vegetables and food I get.
“Though, the money is regular, I still look forward to owing a farm; there is nothing like it,” he stressed.
Things To Note When Going Into Vegetable Farming
• Study the vegetables to know the right manure or fertilisers for them.
• Know when to weed the farm, so it would not struggle for nutrient with other grasses.
• Guide your farm against farm theft.
• Know how to bargain for labourers and also how to sell the produce.
• Understudy land partitioning, irrigation system and how to rotate the crops to get the desired yield round the year
• Know how to make the beds and the number of seedlings to plant on it.
• Make sure you get permission from the landowner to avoid the destruction of crops.
• To get the best, always plant the best seed, no half-measures.
• Try to sell your crops while the temperature is tolerable with this the vegetables look fresh and you get better bargain.
• Do not harvest crops, you cannot store; in fact, it is better to harvest and sell off immediately.
• You can start of with as much as N20,000 or less, so far you have to hoe and cutlass.
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