• Govt Needs To Revisit Policies On Importation of Seeds — Ezirim
IN Nigeria, it is unusual to use farming in the same sentence with youths. The grueling crudeness of farm work, man-hour and patience required to harvest the fruits of farming are not just unattractive, they have, over the years, driven young people out of farms and villages.
Instead, the finesse of white-collar affluence, allure of fast-cars and crispness of fast-money, have worked together to present the sky-scraper-saturated cities as the destination for fortunes, opportunities and the good life to the young school leaver.
Running against this trend, Imo State-based agribusinessman, Jasper Chidera Ezirim, in his mid-twenties, has decided to build his wealth on this forgotten cornerstone — agriculture.
Through organic farming, he is leading a revolution in wealth creation, with a resolve to use agriculture as a tool to dislodge Aliko Dangote as the richest black man.
In an interview with The Guardian, recently, Ezirim, who started his agribusiness formally in 2011, said that he wants to prove to fellow youths that agriculture was and still is a goldmine.
He runs a cluster of vegetable farms with 20 staff and consults for smallholder farmers, deploying his expertise and a degree in economics to manage a business he believes is more important to the Nigerian economy than the oil and gas sector.
The love for agriculture runs in his family as both his paternal and maternal parents were farmers. Having been exposed to the practice at a young age, Ezirim proposed to build a life around farming, only he would do so by getting the right information through formal education.
He said: “My paternal grandmother was more of a yam and cassava farmer. She had goats and chickens, too. I spent a lot of time with my grandmothers, especially during school holidays. I think that’s when I began to fall in love with agriculture. I could play with those goats for hours as a kid.
“My maternal grandmother had goats and chickens. She had an orchard beside the house and a vegetable farm at the backyard. She was the type that whenever she visits your place and tastes a good flavour in the food you served her, she could ask for the pepper, tomato and others. She would take the seed home, dry and plant at the backyard. You can practically cook a soup in her house without visiting the market.”
He said as he grew older, he discovered that love and passion was not enough to attain success in agriculture, one needed to appreciate and believe that it can be a profitable and sustainable business, in both short long term basis.
“I think that appreciation came when my dad passed away, and my mum got into full-time agriculture. She was able to open my eyes to its profitability. I saw what I needed to or not do, to make it in agribusiness,” he said.
However, his journey to gain formal education was littered with thorns, as he attended three universities in Nigeria, seeking information that would transform his dreams to reality. After several disappointments in the country, he bagged a degree in economics from a university in Benin Republic.
When asked about the response of his peers and elders, when he decided to go into agriculture, he said it was not too difficult a choice because he was known to be stubborn with decisions, especially ones he is passionate about. He said some people protested. Stressing that his love for agriculture was deep and contagious, he beams with pride that his efforts paid off.
According to him, “It (the choice) was not that difficult, because I never really kept friends. Although, few people that knew really about it wanted to bite me (Laughs). But it was not that difficult. I mean, if you sit down with me for a few minutes, you will want to quit your job and go into agriculture.
“People were skeptical about it, at first, but because I was notoriously stubborn, they didn’t bother talking me out of it. They were 100 per cent sure I won’t listen. So why waste time and energy? I am just happy that my decision has gradually been justified.”
Ezirim works closely with technical partners from Thailand, who, he said, have been instrumental to the success he has recorded. He explained that he deploys their methods in his operations, especially in handling exotic vegetables in his farms, noting that the methods he applies have made it possible to grow exotic vegetables in Eastern Nigeria, a terrain, which many people erroneously believe is unwelcoming to such products.
“A lot of people know me as the ‘Thai farmer’,” he said, jokingly, adding: “I had the opportunity to visit and learn from some Thai farmers, which have given me the privilege to establish a partnership with the Thai Agro Group.
“I practically use Thai technology in my farm and believe in their philosophies, which has been part of the building points that has stabilised their economy as a farming nation. So, it has been a privilege learning and working with the Thais. There has been a common belief among my people in the south that exotic vegetables only grow in the north. I am determined to expose to that as an absolute lie.”
“If done well, this venture produces over 300 per cent Return On Investment (ROI) annually. The major problem has been doing it well, which is using minimum input to get maximum output. That’s where the Thai guys come in. They have trained and equipped me enough for that,” he continued.
He said that, from his experience, making millions as a farmer is easy and can be done in a short time, stressing that all that is needed is, at least, a hectare of land and any of the good vegetables.
On the prospects from his farm, he revealed: “A farm like mine costs about N600,000 per hectare. If one is planting cucumbers, from a hectare, you should make nothing less than N2 million in three months.
That is if it is done right. It has been achieved by a lot of people I have consulted for here in Nigeria. It boils down to understanding what to do.
I and my team, at a time, were able to make a net profit of N1million on cucumber in 2 months planting the cu999 variety sold by Thai Agro. To be honest, it was not an easy task, but we were able to pull it off.”
However, he said a major headache has been the attitude of workers he had to work with, decrying the fact that youths complain about unemployment but cannot deliver on the little responsibilities thrown at them and are lacking in qualities such as faithfulness, commitment, trustworthiness and motivation to work.
Source: The Guardian