WHAT I LEARNED IN MY FIRST TRY AS A FARMER
It was in August 2012, during my service year when I was thinking of what business to venture into, something with good prospects, constant market, and unlimited chances. And then after so much research and deep thoughts, I decided to be a farmer. The main reason was that I figured out that food production is the key to human existence, I think it is easy to put it this way “no food, we all die”.
With enthusiasm, I began the preparation, saved some money, and with the help of a friend I got land in a remote village in Ekiti, an unlimited hectares of land which was more than sufficient for what I needed it for. During one of my visits to the village, while preparing the land for farming, one of the villagers warned me about how some local farmers in the area use charms (juju) to spiritually steal other farmers’ harvest which might later lead to a loss. Being a city boy who only believed that what you do is what you get, I dismissed her warning.
In the next farming season, I started without any large scale farming experience whatsoever. My choices of crops were maize and cassava (mixed cropping), it was a mechanized farm, and also used some manual labor, including myself. I made provisions for adequate inputs so the farm lacked nothing and I was so overconfident about my pending success. Sometimes I stopped at the entrance of the reserve- the aggregate of different farmlands cultivated by many farmers- and I drank fresh palm wine and ate some quality bush meat to celebrate my promising hustle.
I employed a younger fellow who had his farm next to mine as the manager, I asked him to help me monitor and oversee the farm activities because I was doing my youth service in another State. I visited the farm from time to time to partake in the activities and monitor the progress. The first batch of maize planted sprouted and it was a beautiful experience.
A few months in then I began to experience some things, some unusual things. The first batch that was planted was not growing too well. After we planted the second batch of maize, birds would fly in overnight and eat all the seeds, empty the holes. The stress of the traveling distance from my NYSC post to the farm was weighing in, realizing that I had to spend more to keep the farm running. I became confused, I started having second thoughts, regret took over from my confidence. I tried to sell the little that survived from the first batch of maize but the buyers gave me a nauseating offer and that was it, I wanted out. I knew I had failed.
I stopped going to the farm after reality dawned on me and I searched my mind for possible reasons responsible for it. Could it have been the result of me dismissing that villager’s warning about the other local farmers in the vicinity using charms (juju) to harvest my produce spiritually? Or could the illegal farmers I met on the farm and sent away being the rightful and legal occupant of the land do something to send me away just to regain the land? Or the buyers who wanted to buy cheaply and take advantage of me after all my efforts? Could it have been the certified seeds I got from the department of the Ministry of Agriculture? I left the farm and never looked back since then, never stepped on it ever since. Nothing mattered anymore, I failed and I resolved that it was due to spiritual reasons.
Dear readers, I believe you can point out where the problems lie, you do not need a spiritual guide to figure it out. Something I found out some years later was that my failure when I first tried was due to my improper planning. My project lacked proper management, visibility study, poor agronomic practices, and above all the distance wouldn’t allow me to monitor the farm properly. My aims and objectives were undefined, I was trying to be a farmer but not a successful one.
I learned a lot of things from my first trial, I got to know that farming is a serious business. Although I enjoyed doing it, yet I didn’t think like a farmer who was into an agribusiness, I was just in it for the practice. It is not easy to be a farmer; the planning needs to be solid, the timing has to be perfect, the execution must be precise and most importantly the use of modern tools and technology if you want to be a successful farmer. Starting a new farm is a project which needs proper management to make the maximum gain.
I am better at what I do now because I identified the factors that led to failure during my first try. Farmers are needed to keep the human race alive, we have to keep trying, to get back in the race after a failure because if we quit, then hunger and famine will win. I am still a farmer, but I am now a smart farmer and I still believe that what you do is what you get.