Producing vegetables such as tomatoes, ugwu, watermelon, cucumber, pepper, okro, ewedu, etc, can guarantee you a bumper harvest and an amazing return on investment [every 60 days] that could reach 100 percent in profit. We take you into the world of successful vegetable farmers who not only reveal the above stated fact but guide you on the lucrative journey of successfully farming, this very important source of vitamins and minerals that forms an essential source of the human diet. This article has the potential to spark something in you that would ginger you to action and bring an end to such things as unemployment and lack in your life forever.
Vegetable Farming And Other Types Of Farming
Mr. Adesanya Abdulhakeem, Director, Shore-man Agro Farm Limited, Gbodo Village, Ijede, Ikorodu, Lagos, is an expert in vegetable farming. He says, “There is no much difference between vegetable farming and other types of farming. The only little difference is the duration of cultivation and maturity. Depending on the variety planted, vegetables take very short time to mature, compared to other crops. For instance, “Ewedu” – Corchorous Olitorius – takes less than three months to mature. Others like cucumber, pepper among others, may take more than three months to mature. Even at that, you cannot compare vegetables to a crop like cassava or yam which can take up to a year to mature. Another slight difference in cultivation is that you may need to make flat beds to plant vegetables while other crops may be planted on flat ground. However, there are some vegetables that are planted on flat ground like cucumber and water melon, among others”.
How Lucrative Is Vegetable Farming?
Abdulhakeem says, “It is a lucrative business in the sense that it takes shorter period to mature and also, there are demands for vegetables in the market. It is a lucrative agricultural business, compared with, for instance, cassava that stays a year or more in the ground – enough time and land for three planting seasons in case of vegetables”.
A very popular farmer, Mr. Africanfarmer Mogaji, says cucumber, as an example, provides a unique combination of nutrients and that as a result of its demand in Nigeria, trucks of cucumber come in from Benin Republic daily to our markets to try to meet up with the demand. He adds that this is a product that anyone can grow here in Nigeria and start earning cool cash three months later. Mogaji says whatever amount you invest in cucumber, it can be turned around in 60 days with 100 percent profit.
On Tomato farming, Mogaji says it is so lucrative that Ghanaians have been coming to Nigeria to tap into the tomato market. He says these Ghanaians and very few Nigerians bring tomatoes from Ghana into Nigeria and that they outsell the Hausa Tomato dealers. He says a box of these Ghana tomatoes is sold for between N20,000 and N30,000 [less than half of what it costs to grow them] and that it takes the traders three days to cross all the borders. “If you produce tomatoes in the south west of Nigeria [about six hours from Lagos] or the northern part of the country [12 hours maximum from Lagos] why can’t you outsell the Ghanaians right here in your own backyard?” Mogaji asks.
For those who consider Ghanaian tomatoes as special and would readily come up with all the reasons why tomato cultivation cannot enrich anybody, Mogaji says, “Let me inform you that I plant the same type of tomatoes in Nigeria and package it as if it is coming from Ghana. Anyone can pull this off”.
Concerning watemelon, Mogaji says very few products sell as much as watermelons in Nigeria. He adds that he makes over 100 percent turnover on his investment in watemelon alone every three months.
Vegetables That Sell Fast
Abdulhakeem says, “Pepper, the general one and the green one used in making salad and all sort of things, is one. Water melon and cucumber also sell fast. Pepper is planted and harvested within three months, attracting considerable profit in the market. Pepper is always selling in the market – because almost everybody eats pepper, but not everybody, for example, likes okro.
“Water Melon is also cultivated and harvested within three months and it also sells fast. This is because lots of people [especially the middle aged and the elderly] have the understanding that water melon is good for the body.
“Cucumber is of immense benefit to the male organ and some other aspects of the body system. It is, however, cultivated and harvested within two months – maturing even faster than water melon and it also sells fast in the market”.
Mr. Akintomi Jimoh, another vegetable farmer with high expertise in pepper/okro farming, says, “Okro sells fast and we have two times for planting it – March and September and it runs through three months. The September period, which is the late season is the best planting season, as it can raise farmers up, if done in a very large space”.
Mrs. Nwabueze grows and sells vegetables that she plants and harvests from her backyard in Otta, Ogun State. She says, “There are five major types of vegetables. Fluted pumpkin popularly known as ugwu, ewedu, tete, shoko and okro. As far as I am concerned, ugwu is the fastest selling vegetable and I think this is because it is used by both the Yoruba and the Igbo people compared to other kinds of vegetables. I also think the kind of vegetable you sell most will depend on the area you sell in. I say this because I have customers who come and buy vegetables from Ifo and Abeokuta and what they buy mostly is ewedu, tete and shoko and then few ugwu. So, I would say that if you are surrounded more by Igbo people, you would sell more of ugwu and if you sell where there are more of Yoruba people, you would sell more of tete and shoko. Apart from Igbos buying more of ugwu, I feel people buy ugwu also because of its nutritional value. Ugwu helps to build blood. Okro also sells fast and I think this is because it is used by the Yoruba and the Igbo people. The Yorubas use it to make soup and also eat it with stew while the Igbos use okro as a thickener”.
Seasons And Vegetable Farming
Absulhakeem says, “Of course, vegetable farming is seasonal and it is usually planted early or late in the year. Most vegetables do not like much rain because too much rain causes abortion of the fruits which are deflowered. To buttress further, there is a type of okro that takes seven months to mature. You plant it in early March, when the season begins, but it starts fruiting in September. Most farmers have moved away from that one because it takes much time and wastes money. They are now into improved ones that take just about two months to start fruiting. The only constraint is that it is not everybody that consumes okro”.
Jimoh says, “If I may tell you, pepper has ever been a best and ready market compared to okro. You start preparing to plant pepper in April and you do the planting around the fourth week in June. So, with this, you are going to be getting your harvest two months after planting. That is to say, from August/September, you are in the market. So, you cannot compare pepper to Okro”.
Nwabueze says, “You can grow and harvest vegetables throughout the year, be it rainy or dry season. The only disadvantage is that during the dry season, the vegetables don’t yield as much as they do at rainy season and they dry faster. Vegetables don’t grow fast during dry season as compared to during rainy season, so this makes vegetables more expensive during dry season. For example, ewedu that I would package to sell at N50 during rainy season, that same quantity can be shared into three during dry season. Another disadvantage of dry season is that the vegetable leaves fall off and dry up faster. For example, ewedu turns yellowish and ugwu and tete starts turning black. But if it is rainy, two days after harvesting, they’ll still look vey fresh”.
Locating Vegetable Buyers
Abdulhakeem says, “There are vegetable buyers wherever there are markets. You have markets like the regular Sabo Market in Ikorodu. The buyers are there or at Mile 12 or Ketu Markets, buyers are there everyday. But when there is a glut, you may then go out to restaurants and other places to look for buyers”.
Jimoh says, “Well, I will say it is like other vegetable farming, where there are different markets. For pepper, buyers are fond of coming directly to the farm to buy. So, I prefer those selling in large quantity to come to the farm directly to buy than going to the market – they will have more value for their money”.
Cultivation During The Dry Season
Abdulhakeem says, “Irrigation is the way out for vegetable farmers during the dry season. I know the government has started a sort of irrigation practice in the Northern area – that is the Niger River Basin and there is something of such in Ogun/Osun River Basin. As you can see, the Lagos State Government has started encouraging the use of the swampy area for vegetable farming in the dry season for the first time. You just have to dig few feet for your borehole. So, anybody who has land close to the swampy area may just venture into vegetable farming in the dry season.
It is actually in the dry season that you sell more. In the dry season, a bed of vegetable costs double of what it will cost in the raining season. This implies that vegetables are scarce in the dry season, so that is the area the government is looking at, with a view to encouraging its plantation – especially in the dry season”.
Jimoh says, “It is true it doesn’t need much water. Here, in this part of the world, in Lagos, we are not really experiencing dry season. Even, if that happens, there will be need for irrigation system, which is not so rampant here. So, it is the northern part of the country that needs irrigation system more”.
Minimum Start-Up Capital
Mogaji says, “To grow vegetables on I hectare to 2 ½ hectares of land, you would need between N50,000 to N60,000. This amount is due to climate change, insecticides, etc”.
Abdulhakeem says, “Well, it depends on an individual’s target. For instance, if you want to cultivate it at your back-yard, you can start with any amount. Maybe you have two plots of land and you don’t want it to lie fallow, you can decide to use part of the land for vegetable cultivation and the other for residential. But if you want to cultivate vegetables on commercial basis, I will advise that the minimum land you need is one acre. You just have to clear the land and the amount you will be using for clearing one acre might, at times, be much. All in all, I will say, with N25,000, you can start”.
Jimoh says, “When talking about pepper or okro cultivation, it depends on the soil and the size of the land you are planning to cultivate – one or two plots or you are doing on acres of land. Again, one most important thing, you have to make heaps for pepper. So, if you have one plot, you can start with N10,000 and you will still get results”.
Appropriate Farming Conditions
Mogaji says, “Contrary to popular belief, vegetables can be grown anywhere: it is the system that is used that would be different. A normal land that is not swampy; that you can grow vegetables during dry season. You make use of sandy-loamy soil. Sandy loamy soil is dark in colour. And this type of land requires less fertilizer because they are rich in organic matter. You can also grow vegetables on sandy soil. Sandy soil is the type of soil that when you put in your palm and squeeze your hands together, it would mould. And if you put a finger on it, the soil will just give way. Most sandy soil is best used for vegetables during the rainy season because it doesn’t hold water. It drains water easily. While you can’t use it during the dry season because you would need to be applying water everyday because of the fact that it drains water easily. So sandy soil is not good for vegetables during the rainy season. Another soil is the clay soil. You should avoid clay soil during the dry season because you would have to need a lot of water. Hence, during rainy season, you can grow on virtually any type of soil”.
Abdulhakeem says, “You can plant water melon, cucumber and other vegetables on any agricultural land. Vegetables require well drained loamy soil – they need fertile soil, but not much sun and definitely not too much water or a water lodged area. You also need additional nutrients, like farm yard manure. Also, if you observe any yellowish sign or an acidic sign, you can add lime to your soil”.
Jimoh says, “To maintain the fertility of any vegetable plantation, you must add farm yard manure”.
Maintaining The Fertility Of Vegetable Farmland
Mogaji says, “You make use of fertilizer and crop enhancers and boosters. I prefer to use liquid fertilizer because it is absorbed into the leaves compared to the normal fertilizer that can be washed away by rain. When the liquid fertilizer is absorbed into the leaves, it helps the leaves to grow faster. The crop enhancer and booster helps the crop to have more roots. It also looses the soil so that the roots can penetrate deeply into the soil. And when the roots penetrate into the soil, it can take more nutrients from the soil. It is in your second year that the soil is more conditioned. So, you have more yield in your second year than in your first year.
Crop enhancers and boosters also reduce the maturity of the vegetables by five days.
Shoko and tete take 3 weeks
Ewedu also takes 3 to 4 weeks
Okro takes 45 days to 3 months.
You plant okro like corn. You sprinkle the seed for vegetables while you plant okro seeds.
Okro that you don’t use fertilizer for or apply the fertilizer as at when necessary have a longer shelf life. You apply fertilizer to okro two weeks after planting and then four weeks later. Another advantage of liquid fertilizer, crop enhancer and booster is longevity of life of the vegetables. It also doesn’t allow the flower to abort, i.e., they do not fall of during the rainy or dry season.
Pest Control In Vegetable Farming
Jimoh says, “Before planting pepper, for instance, you need to first nurse it on the ground for four months before transplanting on the heap. It is on the heap you will be fumigating it for a period of two weeks interval to control pest and give you more yield. Meanwhile, the most common pest that affects pepper and tomatoes is nematodes and can be controlled by using pesticides. After planting, you need to spray and while bringing out fruit, you spray also”.
Abdulhakeem says, “There could be vegetable glut – a time when the harvest of farmers mature and are brought to the market at the same time. It is not peculiar to vegetable farmers alone. It could also affect poultry farmers – with regards to egg production, etc. Everybody plants when the rain sets and starts harvesting at the same time. Definitely, there will be glut.
“We need to do something as regards preservation – though, it is the duty of the government, but we, as individuals, can also do our own bit. When there is glut, you need to preserve produce to last throughout the year. We have scarcity because we are still battling with preservation idea. You know this is a perishable good that can only last for a short period of time. Through the Lagos State Ministry of Agriculture and Agricultural Development Authority, we have developed something, but it can only preserve the vegetables for a week”.
Jimoh says, “The major challenge is capital. If money is on ground, you just need to start your vegetable farming and it goes on smoothly. “Another one is the weather, as no body can predict it – it is in the hand of God.
“ About money, just source for your money and your farm will go on smoothly”.
Step By Step Guide For New Vegetable Farmers.
Abdulhakeem says, “You have to get a land of a minimum of one acre which is viable for vegetable farming if it is well drained loamy soil with the source of manure. You then source for vegetables to plant and from there, you will be expanding. Unlike other vegetables, you can get grains of pepper, ugwu, ewedu, okro and others to plant from the ones you planted year back. Having planted your vegetables, it does not mean that you cannot take care of other things. You can engage yourself in buying and selling. It is only the cucumber and water melon you need to buy. After this, just make sure you take care of them, harvest and market your produce”.
Jimoh says, “Before embarking on any farming practice, you need to first acquire land. So, government should have hand in the land issue in the country, as to curbing the palaver of “Omo-onile.” After you have gotten the land, what to plant is next on the agenda, which must be well taken care of, with a view to ensuring its drastic growth. After planting, it begins to grow to the harvest level and lastly; set for marketing”.
But there is no need to worry about getting land for your vegetable cultivation. Olufisayo Akinlolu, Initiator of Hulk Estates & Farms is giving an opportunity to own a home and a commercial farm in his hot new Green Agro Settlement Scheme located in Afuye, Ilase area of Ipokia Local Government Area, West of Ogun State – bordering Benin Republic. It costs N750,000 for one acre [six plots] – meaning, you are getting one plot for about N120,000.
In the same vein, Mogaji, who has been benefiting from government funded land which costs N2,500 per Hectare, says such opportunity is still available in River Basin Authorities across the nation.
Mogaji, advising new vegetable farmers and those who aspire to be one, says, “You need to be aware of the technicality and variety in marketing. Talking about growing for instance, we have the traditional and the improved varieties, that is local and agric. To differentiate between the two, the agric leaves are bigger but the local ones are smaller and they taste better. People prefer to go for the local ones.
“You also need to be aware of the timing of production. Dry season farming is more profitable. During rainy season, you can make 50% profit but during dry season, you can make 95% profit. Farmers that make use of Fadama irrigation farming can make 100%. It is advisable to plant during dry season than rainy season; this is because not all farmers would be able to plant, so there is more demand and low supply.
Another reason why dry season is more profitable is that there is inflow of foreigners which allows for more consumption. We have more people who are abroad coming home because they are running from the cold weather (snow). Also the nature of the weather during dry season allows people to consume more vegetables. Irrigation farming is the best method of farming. Another thing you need to be aware of when going into vegetable farming is climate change. It is not in all periods that you should grow vegetables, e.g., in August. Climate change will affect production.
Abdulhakeem says, “The younger generation should not only depend on white collar jobs, as government can only absorb a little percentage of the graduate population. They should start developing the idea they have learnt in school in the area of agriculture. You will see a graduate of agric planning to work in the bank or with the government. What you ought to do is to find somewhere and start farming – practicing what you have learnt in school. Fine, you may not get the real money you want at the start but you won’t be like people who are just roaming the street.
“You just have to start from somewhere – the mentality we have is that it is only the retirees that are going back to farming. No, it is not like that, as they have used the major energy they have to serve the government, so they will retire to rest. See most of them, when they get to the farm, they won’t be able to perform – it is the youth they will employ. So, why can’t the youth be developed to doing it, as they have still have the energy. They are better than the retirees. Farming is the only way to sustain the economy of this country and it is farming that can absorb different professionals. For instance, when you get to Obasanjo Farms, you will see mechanical engineer there and a lot of technicians there. It creates employment – it creates, at least, not less than 60 percent of the workforce of the country.”