By SUNDAY ANI
During the pre-colonial days and early colonial era in Nigeria and Africa in general, agriculture, particularly crop farming, was a way of life. It was a family tradition that was passed on from generation to generation. Although, most people then engaged in subsistence farming, they grew enough food to take care of themselves and even export to their neighbouring villages.
But, with colonialism deeply rooted in Nigeria, people embraced western education and thereafter secured white-colar jobs in government agencies, ministries and parastatals.
From that moment onward and with the discovery of crude oil and its attendant petro-dollar, attention began to shift gradually from farming to white-colar jobs and businesses among many other jobs outside agriculture.
And gradually, Nigeria got to a stage where farming is seen to be an exclusive preserve of old people in the village. No young man or woman wants to go into agriculture, particularly farming, any more. Any young man, who takes to farming, is seen by many as visionless.
In fact, in the 21st Century Nigeria, farming is no longer in the agenda of the young people.
This attitude of Nigerians has its attendant negative implications. First, Nigeria is no longer capable of feeding her teeming population. The country is now heavily dependent on food importation to feed her population.
So, when young people like the 23-year-old Animashaun Ibrahim, decide that farming is the way to go in the 21st century for the youth, it becomes cheery news.
An indigene of Lagos State but with a maternal root traced to Ogun State, Ibrahim, who has just finished his National Diploma (ND) in Business Studies from Kwara State Polytechnic; is proudly telling anybody who cares to know that he is a farmer. He has decided to remove the sword of Damocles hanging over the youth of the present generation in Nigeria, by breaking the ice.
Apart from the mad pursuit of white-colar jobs and the business of buying and selling or skill acquisition, which today’s young people are readily disposed to, very few of them have summoned the rare courage to even go into various forms of animal husbandry. None even comes anywhere near crop farming. At best, you find them in grass-cutter farming, snail farming, fish farming, piggery and poultry, among others.
Today, Ibrahim towers higher among his peers for this singular decision to go into crop farming.
Still doing his internship in preparation for his Higher National Diploma (HND) as from next year, Ibrahim decided to do what other young persons in urban cities like him detest. He plunged his energy into cassava and maize plantation. He started with three plots of land and about five labourers in faraway Ogun State, his maternal home.
At a time when more than 95 per cent of young urban dwellers in Nigerian loathe crop farming, one could hardly come to terms with what could have informed Ibrahim’s novel decision.
But, taming such wild imagination, Ibrahim simply attributed his love for cassava farming to his grandmother.
He said: “My grandma used to process garri in large quantities and we used to go to farm every Easter period because I used to celebrate Easter with them in Ogun. That was how I picked interest in crop farming. So, when an empty parcel of land became available at my grandmother’s place in Ogun State, one of my maternal uncles who had always known my passion for farming informed me about it. He promised that they would make the land available for me to use if I was actually serious about farming.
“Meanwhile, I have been involved in practical farming; that is, actual cultivation. I used to cultivate each time I visited my grandma from school. So, that was how I started.”
To demonstrate that he had been nursing the idea, he was even attending classes with those studying agricultural courses during his diploma days in school just to acquire more knowledge about farming activities because of his intention to go into it someday.
On why he chose cassava out of so many other crops, he said: “I plant cassava and maize for now. I chose cassava because the demand for garri in the country, especially in Lagos, is very high. I also see that most people are beginning to consume maize and so, I decided to plant maize alongside cassava for now.”
How did he raise the maize seedlings and cassava stems, with which he started? He said: “My grandma helped me with cassava stems although I gave her a token of N20,000 to procure them. But, for the maize seedlings, I actually bought it from the market with just about N1000.”
He also said that the land was not given to him free of charge; it was leased to him for one year but he can renew the lease agreement if he wishes to continue after the first year.
Speaking about the lease, his labourers and how he raised the money to pay for it, he said: “The land was leased to me for N50, 000 for one year. I hired five labourers and I joined them during the cultivation. I paid N50,000 for them to cultivate and plant the three plots.”
On how he could effectively run the farm from Lagos, where he resides, he said: “I have already paid N20,000 for weeding and I don’t think I will weed the farm again until the harvest time. The maize will be due for harvest as from next month (August). The cassava should be harvested around April next year because the cultivation was done in May this year. My workers are there working round the clock. I visit the farm every Saturday because I have another small job here in Lagos.”
Ibrahim, who said he had invested about N200,000 so far, is optimistic that as from the next planting season, he would expand the farm to include okra and other vegetables. He is also hopeful that at the end of the day, he would be able to make some profits.
The young Ibrahim is not involved in crop farming as a temporary measure; he has decided to go into full-time farming after his HND. “I intend to go into agriculture full scale after schooling. I am considering bringing on board other aspects of farming like cat-fish farming and snail farming. Already, I have been attending seminars on that,” he said.
Does he want to process the cassava into garri before selling them off as his grandma used to do? He said: “I intend to sell the cassava raw to those who would process them into garri. That is because I may not have what it takes to go into all that for now. As for the maize, I am still searching for buyers who would buy them wholesale.”
He also has a piece of advice for his fellow young people. To young people who are idling around waiting for the proverbial manna to fall from heaven, he said: “My advice to them is to look for anything productive to engage in. It may not be farming; it could be small businesses, like barbing, because there are no white collar jobs anywhere. I mean, government cannot employ everybody. So, they just have to find anything meaningful to engage their energies in instead of waiting for the white collar jobs that may never come. I repeat, it may not be farming. But, it will be nice if more young people in urban areas can do what I am doing right now. That way, people will be gainfully employed and there will be enough food for all.”