Wednesday, 31 October 2012 00:00
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Agriculture: Fortune ignored by people’s crave for white collar jobs

Agriculture, is a very important sector of any  economy, because no matter how rich an individual or a nation is, it would not survive without food. Despite the importance of agriculture, places like Lagos state have little or no land for it and for places with land, the people found on the farm are mainly old people.

The youths seem to shy away from the tedious work of weeding, planting and harvesting, especially the educated youths.

Education is believed to make an individual better and one would have thought youths will come out of schools and still get involved in farming but in a better way than our fore fathers did.  Agriculture in Nigeria is a major branch of the economy in Nigeria, providing employment for 70 per cent of the population. The sector is being transformed by commercialization at the small, medium and large-scale enterprise levels.

In 1990, 82 million hectares out of Nigeria's total land area of about 91 million hectares were found to be arable, although only 42 percent of the cultivable area was farmed.

Much of this land was farmed under the bush fallow system, whereby land is left idle for a period of time to allow natural regeneration of soil fertility. 18 million hectares were classified as permanent pasture, but had the potential to support crops.

 Most of the 20 million hectares covered by forests and woodlands are believed to have agricultural potential.

Agricultural holdings are small and scattered, and farming is carried out with simple tools. Large-scale agriculture is not common. Agriculture contributed 32 per cent to GDP in 2001.

Following the recent release by the National Population Commission that Nigeria has over 167 million people to feed daily, with an expansive landmass covering 923.771 square kilometres, an estimated arable land mass of about 68 million hectares, abundance of natural forest and rangeland covering 37 million hectares, Nigeria is expected to be the food basket of sub-Saharan Africa.

In addition, Nigeria is blessed with an agriculture friendly climate, coastal and marine resources of over 960 kilometres of shoreline, expansive rivers and lakes covering 120,000 square kilometres and a large consumer market. Nigeria has the population, vast arable land and a friendly climate for agricultural activities to flourish, but lacks the zeal and capacity to utilise its natural potentials.

Despite the promise of  Agriculture, few educated youths are involved in it. For instance, Mr. Adefuye Adewale, the CEO Adewale Farms, located at 5, Ileta Street, Isire, Ijebu in Ogun state is a graduate of Agric/Economics Olabisi Onabanjo University (OOU), claimed to have been involved in farming for ten years.

He says he started farming since secondary school and immediately after his service year he went into it fully. Presently he is into planting of Plantain, Cassava and Pineapple, he plants other crops too, but this are the major ones.

Adewale claims to be involved in commercial farming because he plans to be part of those that will feed the nation. According to him “insufficient food is part of the nation’s problem”

Elaborating on this business he says, “Planting has a lot to do with the soil, weather and spacing. Crops like cassava and pineapple can be planted at any time. They need little water, too much water make them bend, while Plantains are planted at the onset of rain because it needs much water.

Similarly, plantains grow on clay soil while cassava grows well on loamy soil, pineapple will grow on any soil type. However, anything planted in a virgin forest, no matter the kind of soil there, will grow. In addition, wherever there are palm trees and the weed called ‘akintola’ , anything will grow on such land.

To be involved in this business on the commercial level like I am, you would need an acre of land; the price of land defers from one area to another. In my area , you could get a plot for N10,000. For the pineapple, you would need to get suckers, from my farm the sucker goes for N300 per dozen.

This price is not fixed, it varies from farm to farm and location to location. In planting, you have to space out your suckers. The spaces in between each plant should be 2metre by 2metre.

On a plot we have 30 by 40 metre, so you end up having 16x20 pieces per plot. Weeding have to be consistent, thank God for fertilizer, it makes the work of weeding easier and stress free. The unpopular notion that it affects the plant is not true.

In harvesting the same sucker that was bought for N300 per dozen produce pineapple fruit worth N200 per dozen within ten  months. It also keep producing for 25 to 30 years.

In planting plantain also the space of 2.5 by 2.5 metre is needed in between each plant in mono cropping. But the spaces in between when the farmer want to do inter cropping is different. When I want to plant melon in between my plantain, I leave 3 by 3 metre in between. To get accurate measurement, a measuring tape is needed.

Cassava on their own grow within a period of one year, presently we sell it after it has been processed.”

However, like every other business, farming have its own challenges too, Adewale says “one of the challenge of farming is getting big companies to buy directly from the farm. It saves a lot of stress and reduces your cost of transporting. The road is also another problem.

The soil might be outstanding for agriculture but if you don't have a paved road and the nearest place you can purchase a bag of fertiliser is 200km away then your cost is increased. When the road is bad, to also get your product to the market is more challenging.

Weeding is also a problem for farmers. Competition is high in the market, some have abundance of a product at their end and so the sell at ridiculous price in the market. Since they have more of the product, you either bring your own price to same level with theirs or you take your product back home.

Either way, you end up at a loss or close to it. But, that doesn’t happen often, farming is a very profitable business. Any fit individual can be involved in it.”