Try to farm some of what you eat
As I have said in the two articles preceding this, it is possible to participate in the contemporary agricultural revolution in Nigeria from your balcony, kitchen, or any little space in your compound.
I recall a tragicomedy that played out during General Olusegun Obasanjo’s presidency. He visited a town and addressed a crowd at a marketplace. An audacious market woman in the gathering said she needed to speak to him. It was said that she got an immediate hearing because she was a woman. Madam complained bitterly of inflation, which had razed her prosperous yam trading business.
She lamented that previously, she could travel, buy a lorry load of yams, which she sold for good profit with which to meet her family needs. The biting inflation at the time trivialised her working capital of N100, 000.00 as she could barely buy a quarter of what she was used to and when she included the cost of travel, it was no longer feasible to continue.
Unmoved by her emotional outburst, the former President’s response appeared almost callous but it was quite instructive. He said, “Madam, If you cannot sell yams, then farm them.” When it comes to food security, low capital/gestation ventures, agriculture tops the list of options. Like I said in the previous articles, “Don’t let space stop you.”
A few months ago, I spoke with a friend whose church decided, last year, to engage its members in agriculture. The mission leased about 150acres of land on the outskirts to engage the financially troubled in their midst in cassava and maize farming. The farm cooperative would thereafter collectively sell a portion of the produce while some of it would be shared to the members.
You can do some processing at home
Wise ones among them would choose to go a step further by trying to process some of their share of the produce, instead of selling all, for higher proceeds. They could process the cassava into starch, odourless fufu or garri. Corn can be processed into starch, corn flour and pap to save the family the cost of buying them in the market. Mini processing ventures can kick-start at home and then grow into bigger businesses if well managed.
Except when disturbed by natural challenges, agriculture is always a rewarding foray, no matter how small.
I recently came across a lady who used felled plantain and banana trunks to start a thriving vegetable garden in her small, paved compound. Plantain and Banana shrubs have very hardy but succulent stems that are difficult to dispose of after harvest time.
She bored trenches in the stems and topped them with fertile soil where she planted lettuce and other vegetables. A shrub-farm can sit on the balcony in a high-rise building, or placed in any space in the home grounds.
Farm fish using tubs
The world is my classroom. I visited a scientist’s workplace at the Federal Institute of Industrial Research, Lagos where Dr Abel Silas is researching, with outstanding success, the production of extruded fish feed and chicken feed using maggots as a raw material. Therefore, he had a few birdcages and bowls of fish in a room to test his formulations.
The turkey and chicken I saw within that limited space looked robust and I saw various sizes of fish at different stages of growth. When he opened one of the bowls, I was shocked to learn that the fish in that improvised tank were merely three months old. All these happening in one research room in FIIRO animal house!
It dawned on me that people need not wait until they can construct expensive tanks before they can grow fish. Discarded bathtubs can be just as useful, the farmer (householder) however would need to put a lid over the container.
This is not about commercial farming but about household efforts that can make families’ food and nutrition secure. An enterprising housewife can also use her oven to make dry fish which is now very expensive in the market.
Operating a mini-hatchery
These days, people love organic farming and would pay more for its products. So, those who have a little space in their compounds can raise free-range chicken which can mate naturally while they take some of the eggs to small-sized hatcheries either within their homes or belonging to their neighbours for brooding.
For example, all some people do in the ostrich value chain is to hatch the eggs and sell. Ostriches are big birds and require a large space for ranching. Smallholders can however invest in hatching equipment, which they can sit in a room within the house to serve potential farmers.
This is often practised in ostrich business because even where the grounds are available, it is not cheap to populate the farm and feed the birds.
So, some start-outs who wish to rear ostriches but have little capital can start with the eggs which they brood and after hatching, sell the chicks to another line of participants who have the space and capital to raise the birds to maturity.
I once met a farmer who keeps only two (male and female) ostrich breeders on his farm and hatches their eggs in season for sale.
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