By Hadassah-Esther Osimen
Hadassah-Esther Osimen
I am a finicker for the real sector. I am so glad that investment options have sprang up steadily over the years but the bad lifestyle of some people have eroded these opportunities for some but not completely. I am richly persuaded that the real sector is where to go. A sector is real when it is tangible and measurable qauntitatively as well as qualitatively. It is the root of every economy. It’s foundations are industries build around the lifestyle, demand and supply of an economy. This is not an academic definition but a practical one to enable you understand why it is much more wise to invest in the real sector because when you do, you are meeting targeted needs of a people. In Nigeria and Africa at large, the single biggest untapped and bountiful opportunities lie in the real sector and in particular, agriculture and allied INDUSTRIES.
I am saying, if you have some funds, put it in a farm! I know it may feel rather frightening or too hard to embrace farming but I can tell you for free that you will never go wrong with agriculture in any African country especially Nigeria. The demand for food is so high, prices have been on an outrageous increase of more than 10 percent per annum and many people are still looking away from agriculture? I am alarmed! The cheapest things I found abroad was food but in Nigeria it is one of the most expensive. Why? ‘We are not growing enough food’. Hear me right, ‘we cannot fry plantains with petrol’! We’ll need vegetable or ground nut oil and we need to farm those! Please stop looking for quick money, roll up your sleaves because the money is hiding in the soil at your backyar. For goodness sake! Farm. I am fast discovering that I am the Cosmos and must warn people firmly about so many things. The rich economies have ample supply of food but the poor ones don’t. That is ridiculous considering that we in Africa have more firtile soil, more rain, more sunshine, more people, more stable natural topologies. So, to be poorer than any nation and sadly the poorest economies of the world is completely outlauntish! How in the world did we get here? Poor should be a far from Africa and Nigeria as the  upper north is from lowest south of the equator. We have everything we need for prosperity but we are not touching it. Haba! I insist that everyone must have a farm or two, large or small. Some years back, I listened to a radio programme which was speaking about dying babies in Uganda due to hunger! I was sad then but now I am angry about it. Are there no lands in Nigeria? Uganda? Niger? Chad? If the land is the laters are too dry for food, are there no waters to dredge the lands for irrigation farming? What is going on everywhere? Why are we so sofisticated that we would not simply place some seeds in the ground and let them grow? We must have theh food first so that when money comes there will be food to buy. How is it that we are looking for money without realizing that the money is in the soil, not inside the deep oceans else all that oil would have prospered us all. To be ranked at the bottom of poverty over 120years into oil mining is enough to tell us that we  have it completely wrong. The money is in the soil: Farm. Yes, it is also in the waters: Farm too! It is not the petrol in them, it is the food! Go get it and you are on your way to prosperity.
I am aware that there is a reason why people are not farming, why they are choosing other means rather than farming. First of all, there is a perceived notion that farming is too hard, for the unlearned and illitrates, the unschooled and unemployed etc. Many have packed all the negative badges associated with hardship and poverty on farming. Even with several attempts to bring in machineries to make farming easier, it is still not attractive to most and the tell tales of woe by some farmers, like tomatoe farmers who loose up to 40% of their yield to logistics and wharehousing or storage, does not help the matter but this does not have to be your case at all if you apply the value chaine methodology to your farming. In other words, it is not enough to simply plant, you should also have a plan for your logistics, storage and industrialization of what you are planting. Before you go away saying, ‘who wants all that palava?’, let me encourage you that this too is quite simple. Too many people take things for granted in their businesses. Please do not do that. I am happy to let you know that I am a consultant per excellence and can help you make investing in agriculture the best decision you’ve ever made. Some point to note:
There have been some investors that sold stakes in their farm businesses to the public. If you are thinking of those, I do not actually endorse them. Not because it is not viable but Nigeria is too intergrously volitale. So unless an investment offering is endorsed by known brands in the financial martket place such as the SEC, NSE, a performing bank, a well known product brand etc, please do not put your money in. If any venture is serious about taking money from the public in agriculture for instance, let them get themselves endorsed so that people will feel safe. In the meantime, please take the following approach towards investing in agriculture and look at the following areas of agriculture. Let me start with the areas:
1. Fish Farming – I am so sad that Nigeria, bordered by the Atlantic ocean in the southern hemispher: Lagos, Port Harcourt and Oron and all those Rivers: Niger, Benue, Amayin (in my village) etc does not have fish! We actually pay a fortune to have a fish meal! Unbelievable! We must all frown strongly at the situation and begin to take deliberate actions to addressing it. What’s wrong with the School of Oceanography? Why do we still import fish? Titus fish, stock fish from finlane, etc. Why are their so little fish farms if any in Nigeria? What is this outlandish scarcity of fish when each person should be able to have a 1 kg fish meal per day, no stories! Let me tell you what? You are all looking at petrol. Okay! Let’s eat petrol now! Aha! Not possibel right? Please roll up your sleave for a fish farm shall we?
Slightly above the scope of this piece but let me mention that I want Nigeria’s government under my leadership, God willing, to have an AGUNGI Fishing Festival in every LGA in Nigeria, borrowing from the AGUNGI people. That’s another day, another explanation.
Having said all of the above, how can you as an individual invest in fish farming?
Plant fish! Many farm fish but do not realize that they should also plant fish. They go into the oceans and harvest the fish they find there. They harvest both the fish with eggs and the ones without. They eat the pregnant fish with a million eggs. Not the fault of the eater but that of the farmer. For goodness sake, if you harvest a fish and discover it is pregnant, put it back into the waters. Many farm fish from the ocean without realizing that they are to plant fish. Well, let me let you know clearly ‘YOU HAVE TO PLANT FISH’. I am saying, just the same way you must plant fruit and food trees, cocoa, ugba, ube, cherries, almonds, oranges, UJURU, mangos, apples, etc, you MUST plant fishes and indeed any animal, snails, crabs, goat, cow, chicken, turkey etc. The difference is that with the animals you rear them by breeding them, mating them etc. You don’t just hope they will grow, no, you are intentional about them, making sure they reproduce and as quickly as possible. Do you know that chicken can breed into full grown hens in six weeks abroad, which takes six months to breed in Nigeria? Even a year when they are free range! How come we are not doing that, that we should be buying chicken for Three Thousand Naira. This simply has to stop. I got chicken as low as 1k abroad.  These are the rich economies, yet food is cheaper in them than in our so called poor economies with ample lands, sunshine and waters? Something is seriously wrong with that. People who farm fish should therefore, plant fish. Never do fish farming, especially deep ocean fish farming without a system for plantingg fish. Apply the same to your trees. Many do not know that they are to plant new fruit trees where the old ones were or in new fields. They just expect that somehow more will grow because they did not plant the ones they met there. The later might be true but you are expected to cultivate your land and waters so that it can continue to produce for you. Of course, this includes cleaning the waters and environment so that negative factors do not stunt or altogether stop the fish or whatever it is you have planted from growing.
Start a local fish farm at home, use a tank, create a pond, use a drum, etc but be sure you can clean the waters and feed your fish daily. I am deeply persuaded that every household can and should have a fish farm. You can easily have your years or half years fish supply from your home farm. It only needs cleaning once a day, plus all that fun watching it grow. I am sure with GMOing in due time, fish can be cultivated in weeks too.
Have a Garden  for tubers, vegetables and groundnuts. The grounnut in your farm provides fertilizers called Nitrogen Fixing Bactaria which help keep your soil fertile all year round. I was measuring the size of my dad’s apartment passage the other day and realized that if I had a space that size in my compound, I could easily plant up to forty tubers of yam! I also realised I could plant up to forty seeds of pompkin seeds (Ugu), in the same space and Forty Groundnut seeds around them to provide for fertilization, that not wistanding the fact that I could use some cow dung or other dung for the soil prior to planting. I don’t like dungs though, so I’d always recommend the grounnut planting to help fix some Nitrogen into the soil. In otherwords, use your soil, plant a garden. In the simple sample I have illustrated above, you could easily save up to 100k by burying some heads of yam and seeds in a space that is barely 1.5 x 6 metres long. Something you could easily do in 2 hours or less and mind by wetting it for 15minutes daily for the same time you would have been using to do near to nothing useful or better still multitask with a friend or family, gisting or praying. I am strongly suggesting you explore the farms as a simple income stream.
So, do you have a space filled with sand in your environment? Plant in them. If the soil is not fertile, treat it with fertile soil and plant in them. If you have planted some flowers, consider replacing them with edible plants that can feed someone if not yourself. Rather than ordinary hedges, use Bitterleaf for your fencing and trim with as you would your hedges. They grow tall but with time timing them will provide a steady fencing for your space. The trims are edible, the straws can be replanted, the vegetables can make you our good old ‘onugbu’ soup with Egusi if you want and if you don’t need it, you have something for your neighbor or friend or guest to take home. Consider converting your flower gardens into edible food gardens and you will be nipping poverty in the bud eventually. Plant those tubers, they grow flawlessley. Remember that they grow in the soil and you don’t have to be bothered about them until harvest aside from watering them if you live in an area with not enough rains, although this is not so common. I strongly recommend that you water your plants at least once a day, it will greatly increase yield compared to waiting for the rains to water them for you. People do not wait for rain falls in developed countries, they get water to their crops. Stop waiting for the rains, get water to your farm.
I have slightly dwelt more on the actual logistics of owning a farm. Let me show you how to make it an investment: Build a farm ranch. Malaysians came to Nigeria in and bought some of our best palms, they returned to their country and planted them. Today, Malysia is the world’s largest producer of plam oil with the palm they got from the then Enugu/Anambra state. The country is filled with farm ranches. They are among the worl’s top 38 richest countries. They are mainly farmers and their main cash crop is oil palm that they got from Nigeria. I have bought some of their products, made from our oil. They made our counterpart products laughable price for price, quality for quality, packaging for packaging. If you are not feeling sad about this, I am.
Nigeria has cocoa trees, sheabutter, plants. These make chocolates and the best body and food products you can imagine but when are we going to launch industries around them>? I need not mention cassava and the flour for bread it makes in china or the many snacks we could have been packaging with them such as tapioka (I love the name by the way), ready to make cold food from abacha salad which we could have been serving in our best restaurants so that people like myself can have the courage to eat them; good old garri, fufu, lafun which can be fortified with vitamins and packaged even for export. Once I bought a premium banded body cream which would be worth over 5 Thousand Naira in todays economy and alas, its active ingredient was sheabutterQ Are you still with me? Hair cream, Hair Relaxer systems, Body Cream, Cooking Oil (red and clear), Body cream, Baking Fat, Non alcoholic palmwine (that anyone can drink), foot mats, construction shells This is propriotory), massage and treatment oil, red colorant, fiber for electrification cablings, brooms, ferns  for  interior decorations (propriatory) etc all come from the palm. Even food processors can be greesed with palm based greese, saving the environment and optimizing the product. Indeed, Nigeria can become the world’s richest economy through agriculture, even one product: Palms. Now if we add cocoa to the extent that we can make enough chocolates to sell to neighboring countries and sheabutter to heal our skins and make the best body products etc, we are in some money here. What then is the reason for the poverty in Nigeria? I have not even mentioned several other trees that we can plant and farm to yild juices, medicines, etc. We already have them o! A tree takes about 5-10 years to grow but it continues to yield up to about 200years depending on the time of tree. When was the last time you planted one?
If as a farmer for instance you decide to face only orange trees and plant a million of those, making sure that they are the best seeds you find and then you maintain them using nurseries, ranches (which also support other smaller vegetations like ugu, yams, potatoes, etc, you will be doing something remarkable to the economy and to your finances for many years. I already have a blueprint for Nigeria, starting with Enugu for zoning and mechanizing the farming system to be owned by government, not private individuals, so that ranches can be built for crops and animals in strategic areas, all over the country so that Nigerians live in ranches rather than in overly busy cities with people looking for jobs. rather minding their alocated ranches, They are paid a salary to work on ranches and the share bustlings of the economy including abundance of work and prosperity  will be beyond words. Why don’t you get into it as the first mover and oblige yourself of the giant.
I strongly recommend that rather than the land being green with grass, it be green with ranches. All those bushes we see as we drive into the east for instance, Abuja and many parts of Nigeria MUST  be converted to ranches as a matter of urgency. We have no business being poor at all.
If you get a plot of land, build in half or less, plant in the remaining. If you get four plots, build in one, plant in the rest. Plant cash crops, plant food and fruit trees, but be strategic about it. It is better to have an entire plantation with only one product than try to plant too many.  Be sure you plan your industrialization/household products too. I am saying backward and forward integrate your farm business. Let’s talk.
Helping Nigeria follow my Agriculture map, people will know what their allocated areas are allowed to farm to allign with the economic objective. Also, rather than farmers waiting for yeild before they can flourish, government should pay salaries to farm workers or partner big time farmers to give an excellent farming nation. Something went wrong with petroleum and I am persuaded it cursed this country, it did not bless it. I can explain this in another piece but their is nothing that cannot be salvaged. Only, it requires massive value rengineering. Call it repentance if that helps.

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