Making Farming A Profitable Business
OFONMBUK NELSON is the Head of Department (HOD) of Agricultural Investments Directorate, Akwa Ibom Investment Corporation (AKICORP), Uyo. He has extensive experience in agribusiness and has partnered with some international agencies for the development of the Agricultural sector in Nigeria.
As HoD, Agricultural Investments Directorate, he had worked closely with Pastor Umo Eno, while the Governor then served as the Executive Director of the directorate. A highly exposed public official, with excellent leadership acumen, Nelson cannot be missed when discussing agribusiness.
He played a pivotal role during the enumeration of farmers across the state three years ago and is overseeing many Agricultural Investments of Akwa Ibom State Government, including Dakkada Global Oil Palm Limited, Cassava Processing facilities, Farmers’ database, etc.
In this interview with JOY NKERUWEM HANSON, he simplified the important role micro businesses play in the economy and how farmers can take advantage of the present administration’s programmes for farmers for the growth and expansion of their businesses.
What’s your perception about the micro business in this administration?
The economy is sustained by micro businesses. These are businesses with very low capital requirements. About 60% of the population is into micro businesses. Farmers and micro business operators are at the heart of the current administration. The Governor himself is an entrepreneur, he is poised to encourage entrepreneurship, particularly micro and small businesses, by ensuring there is an enabling environment for them to operate.
The Governor was an Executive Director in the Directorate of Agricultural Investments. During the period, he related closely with farmers and small business owners and felt their pulse, now as the Governor, God has given him a rare opportunity to touch the lives of farmers and micro businesses. The Governor has carefully articulated how these businesses can be reached both in the urban and in the rural areas; as encapsulated in the Arise Agenda. The word A R I S E is an acronym of:
R- Rural development
E- Economic empowerment.
Connecting with micro businesses
By the Governor stopping by to interact with micro business operators, he’s breaking every form of protocol to connect with the people. Aside from protocol, he would have loved to interact directly with traders to relate with them and gather more information on how he could reach them directly.
Those few ones the Governor has reached will be grateful that their businesses have received the attention of Government. If you look at these micro businesses, the entire individual investment may not sum up to 20,000 naira, so imagine the Governor supporting them each with 50,000 naira; it will go a long way to improve their businesses.
Database of farmers as a tool for empowerment of farmers
At the Directorate of Agricultural Investments, the Governor gave us a strict directive to update the farmers’ database which was developed three years ago in order to connect with farmers for assistance. So, he has a systematic way of reaching out to registered farmers in the State.
Some people will ask, ‘How many people will be able to reach?’ The registration of farmers is a systematic way of reaching almost all the farmers provided that they have correct information in our database. This shows you that the Governor is very well prepared for this particular job.
Why people don’t go into agriculture as a business?
For some time now, our people were used to receiving quick money from politicians and you know that agriculture is a systematic occupation that requires patience. You have to till the land, plant your crops and wait for some time for the crops to mature. Some crops take time to mature for harvest. In this part of the world, people are very impatient; they do not want to see themselves tilling the soil, having to wait again for 90 days, some six months, some a year for the crops to yield. This is why many prefer going into businesses that can yield quick money like trading.
However, agriculture is more rewarding. If you grow your crops or rear your animals, at the appropriate time you will start seeing your efforts yielding good results. The mistake people make is that they don’t see agriculture as a business but as a part-time occupation. If you see agriculture as a business, then you will allow the normal business process to take place. Part of the business process is planning. For instance, if you go into crop planting, you have to get the best of the species; you plan when to apply fertilizer if there’s a need. Planning involves selecting your farm location or soil that is fertile so that your effort will not be in vain.
Agriculture as business
People are not taking agriculture as a business, they just dabble into it and in most cases, they don’t get their expected yields and they are discouraged. If you look at it as business, there are various options: if you don’t have enough land for you to go into crop production which requires a reasonable size of land, you can go into animal production.
For instance, if I am going into poultry, I have to decide if am going into layers, broilers, or egg production. You have to sit down and do thorough planning and if possible, have a business plan to guide you to know when your business is likely to make profit so that you don’t back out of the business at the point of your breakthrough.
We want to encourage people to see agriculture as business and that is what the Governor wants to do. There will be enough sensitization and enlightenment programmes to encourage people to see agriculture as a business. When this is done, people will be encouraged to stay back in the rural communities where we have enough land for agribusiness. Youths will then realise that agriculture will make more economic sense than paid employment. With assistance from the government, you can cultivate your land or go into animal production to earn a decent living instead of roaming the city for jobs that are unavailable.
I will encourage as many youths as possible to see agriculture as a business and take time to acquire skills that will be useful in the business. Going into farming doesn’t stop anyone from engaging in other activities. For instance, some persons I know go back to their roots during farming season to cultivate, once cultivation is done, they return to the city for other business engagements and go back later at the harvest season. This is a secret of wealth creation that many don’t know.