I Make About Fifteen Million Naira Yearly
3 February 2017 Blog
Nigeria has very large expanses of fertile farmlands laying fallow , and compared to other African countries, Nigeria has one of the biggest expanses of land which 70 percent are available for farming.
Most Nigerians especially the youths shy away from farming giving preference to white collar jobs. However, farming in Nigeria has a taken a dramatic turn for the better in Nigeria as the Nigerian government is seriously turning its attention to promoting farming in Nigeria to help boost farm productions in the country and minimize food importation.
In an Interview with Barr. Aondona Akpehe a practicing lawyer and also a farmer revealed that local farm products now have higher value and there is a higher demand for local farm products than in the past years.
Question: It’s so nice to have you talk to us.
Barr. Akpehe: Thank you
Question: Briefly tell us about yourself
Barr. Akpehe: I’m Barr. Stephen Aondonam Akpehe, a Tiv man from Benue State of Nigeria. I practice law with the law firm of VT UJI & Co (Freedom) Chambers, Makurdi in Benue State and I’m also a farmer.
Question: The interesting part for me is the fact that you are a practicing lawyer, a young man and you are also into farming why most Nigerian youths shy away from farming especially the educated ones. So why did you venture into farming?
Barr. Akpehe: Well as a lawyer, the constitution does not allow you to do any other business but if you want to do farming business or go into printing of legal books, you are allowed. Also I was trained as a farmer by my parents and I love farming and I think it’s a business every young man should venture into, it’s better than thuggery. I also want to promote the agenda of the Buhari Administration, though I started farming long ago. I use to harvest rice like eight hundred bags and up till now I harvest about four thousand tubers of yam every year.
Questtion: So you farm rice too?
Barr. Akpehe: Yes, I used to farm rice but not any more due to the attacks from herdsmen in the area where I used to do my rice farm, because after planting, the herdsmen will come and destroy everything so I have put a halt to the rice farming for now.
Questions: Wao! That’s a big challenge I guess but we’ll talk about it later. How long have you been into the farming business?
Barr. Akpehe: I started farming immediately after secondary in 1998 but after a while i left for my tertiary education then I went back to farming again after my Law school and since then I have been farming. I can say I have been farming for about 18years now. I love my law profession more than anything but hence the legal profession allows farming and I also love farming I’m enjoying it.
Question: How large is your yam farm?
Barr. Akpehe: My farm is about three hundred thousand hectares of land.
Question: How lucrative is the yam farming
Barr. Akpehe: The yam farming is very lucrative because when you are into yam farming you can be using it to feed your family and loved ones and still make money out it.
Question: On average, how much do you make in a year?
Barr. Akpehe: I make about 15,000,000 (Fifteen Million Naira) yearly
Question: Wao! So how do you go about your sales, do you deal directly with the consumer?
Barr. Akpehe: I really can’t say if they are sold directly to the consumers, I have managers that take care of that. After harvest, they take the yams to Port Harcourt and Lagos and for the sales, I have trucks. I can’t say if they are sold directly to the consumers because I don’t go with them.
Question: You have been into rice farming too, so I guess you must have knowledge about grains. Would you say the yam farming is more profitable compared to farming grains?
Barr. Akpehe: Yes, I was into rice farming very well but because of this issue of herdsmen I had to limit myself to yam farming so that I can do it only in my state, Benue state. I used to go to Taraba, farm rice, farm maize but now there is no way I can do that.
Question: why is that?
Barr. Akpehe: That is because the cost of labour in farming rice is very cheap why that of farming yam is very high. For example, it takes you only three months to farm rice but it takes you more than a year to farm and harvest yam. Sincerely speaking, grains farming is very profitable and is very cheap compared to yam farming.
Question: Take us through the process
Barr. Akpehe: First you have to weed the grasses, make heaps; that is usually around October November, then the following year around February you clear the weeds that must have grown on the heaps before planting. After planting, you will apply chemicals then wait for about two-three months to remove the weeds again and then add fertilizer. After that, you remove the weeds again for about two-three times before you harvest and begin to sell around December. It’s actually a long process. Rice is actually more profitable but since I don’t have a choice now because of the Fulani herdsmen I just have to focus only on yam farming. If the government is able to tackle the issue of herdsmen, I will still go back to rice farming.
Question: How do you intend to use your farming to alleviate hunger in the country?
Barr. Akpehe: I farm yam in large quantity and sell to people, I also give to people around me especially the ones that I know don’t have and whenever I’m harvesting, anybody that comes to greet me I give the person yams so I’m doing the best I can and by the time we all put our hands on deck, hunger will be a thing of the past.
Question: Yams are relatively expensive this year compared to past years, what do you think is responsible?
Barr. Akpehe: Quite true yams are expensive this year, but that’s why we are grateful to the Buhari administration; we farmers, because the binding of the importation of foreign goods into the country is what has made the prices of yams and other local products to go up so we are grateful to the Buhari administration. During his campaign, he said he was going to made agriculture attractive to every Nigerian and he has done it so we are grateful to him and we definitely don’t mind if he remains there.
Question: Yea, it’s good to know that you farmers are happy but beyond that, prices of other commodities are high and Nigerians are complaining of hardship every day.
Barr. Akpehe: Everyone complaining is a lazy man or woman. Like me, when I decided to go into farming, I’m a lawyer by profession but that didn’t stop me from going into farming, I go to farm I work. Being a lawyer is demanding as well as being a farmer and one can decide to live only on his/ her earnings as a lawyer and do just fine but I ventured into farming because I know that it’s another source of income for me. So anyone that is not lazy will not complain of food or money. Like in my state, Benue State you need only a token to start yam farm, you can walk up to any Tiv man ask for a piece of land to farm and he will give it to you, some may even give you free.
Barr. Akpehe: Yes, a Tiv man will give you land free, he may even give you with the seedlings to encourage you; I do that to people too even to non-natives.
Questions: That reminds me, I was going to ask how you acquire your land, do you get your land free too?
Barr. Akpehe: Yes, at times they give me free, especially from my mother’s side the Ukum local Government Area of Benue State, and I have taken more than 10 persons to my mother’s place and they gave them free; those that are not lazy, anybody that is not lazy can follow me there and I will give you land to farm.
Question: There is a time of the year when yams are very scarce, I think from May-July, and from my findings, there are species of yams that if not consumed before time, they get too try and lose their taste or get spoilt, So what can be done to make sure yams can be available all year round?
Barr. Akpehe: That’s one of the challenges we are also facing because one we don’t have a good place for storing yam and then we don’t have a chemical that we use to preserve yam so that they yam wouldn’t get rotten. When you harvest your yam between December and January and store it up to like May, the yams will start decaying. In the villages they build thatch houses and store them there, it’s better storing them in Zink houses but even that is not very safe because we always have issues of the thatch houses getting burnt by fire. Like last year, about sixteen of the thatch houses were burnt down by unknown persons, so what I did was I constructed a long Zink house and perforated it for enough ventilation but still whenever you go in there you still feel heat coming out of it. So on the whole; we have challenges storing the yams. Yam storage is a problem to every yam farmer, but we are hoping that the government can come to our aid and provide a suitable environment for us to store our yam or provide a chemical that would help preserve yam. If that is done we will be happy because most times, the level of decay is so high that you lose over one-two hundred yams and its during those times that yams become scarce and expensive.
Question: I thought there is something they use those rotten yams for?
Barr. Akpehe: Yes, is what is called kpor in Tiv or what the Yorubas call Alubo or Amala, that’s what rotten yams are used for but then as a farmer you are losing much you don’t get the same value yams when they are used for the that purpose. First, is not the rotten part that is used, let me say it’s the good part of the rotten yam that is used so the value depreciates, secondly
Question: Apart from the attacks from the Fulani Herdsmen and the storage problem, what other challenges are there in the farming business?
Barr. Akpehe: There are challenges but then you don’t have to focus on the challenges, you focus on the gains. One, we don’t have fertilizer frequently and we don’t have a good land for farming rice in Benue State.
Question: Okay, let’s talk about how you balance up as a lawyer and a farmer
Barr. Akpehe: Well, I have people that manage my farm and though I give more time to my legal profession than I give to farming I always try to create time to visit my farm. And whenever I’m on vacation; my vacation is usually in December during Christmas period I always go there to see how my yams are been harvested and it’s a thing of joy. Also from August-September when High Courts judges are not sitting, as a lawyer you have time at those periods you have time. And good enough I have trust worthy managers, they are all doing well, they have good cars that they have acquired diligently from salaries I pay them. I pay them salaries and I give them incentives.
Question: How much do you pay your workers on average?
Barr. Akpehe: On average I pay my workers N30000 (Thirty thousand naira but like I mentioned earlier, I also give them incentives and I also give them yams.
Question: Would you advice Nigerian youth to take farming over a white collar job?
Barr. Akpehe: Of course, you see in Nigeria a lot of people fight their way into offices so that they can try and embezzle money, they are not going there because they like the salary. You see someone struggling to get a government job or appointment only because he or she thinks it’s an easy way to make money not because he or she wants to improve the country. If you want genuine money, you won’t kill yourself for a government job. Like for me, there is no appointment in government apart from political appointment that I will accept because I will be wasting my time. Which appointment will be given me more than a Million Naira every month? None, but my farm gives.
Question: What would be your advice for the Nigerian youths?
Barr. Akpehe: Let them forget about thuggery and all other social vices that destroy lives and go into farming, they will achieve more.