While more and more Nigerian youth are encouraged today with hopes of a profitable career in agriculture, there is little discussion about the challenges awaiting them if they do decide to hop in.
From the very beginning, they face huge financial hurdles – the nation’s banks and financial houses are not likely to fund agri-projects from beginning to end – and so they must be willing to rely on other sources of income to begin their projects. Most young people, including myself, have to keep other jobs to access funds to finance agricultural projects, fisheries, raising poultry or pigs In my case, I teach accounting, data processing and computer studies at All Souls High School and I rely on this income to finance my project.
Here in Nigeria, youth’s movement into the agricultural sector has picked up pace, influenced in no small part by the shortage of white color jobs even for those with degrees in higher education. I myself have a Bachelor of Science in Accounting as well as a certificate in computer engineering. Finding a job to support myself with using these skills has not been possible.
I purchased my first concrete fishpond to help me make additional income to support myself and my loved ones. My plan now is to expand this project so that it can not only keep me fully employed but also allow me to employ others. I want to make food much more available and affordable and also help to reduce the high rate of unemployment in town. I am lucky because I have access to an acre of land with a stream at its bottom end, which will be quite suitable for my next step: a ground dug fishpond.
The market for fish is a ready one, with many buyers interested in buying in bulk to resell to retailers. The best months to make a profit on sales are November through January. I have had a few people who know about my venture express interest in buying from me. I also have contacts with restaurants and canteens that usually buy fish in bulk.
My fish are my first priority because I have my eyes on the bigger picture. Right now, as they grow much bigger in size, they consume more food – up to three times as much as when I first invested in them. It thrills me to see the fish grow, and as they increase in size I realize I am an achiever! After all, it takes patience to grow these fish from fingerlings to such big sizes – 250gms. 400grms, 500grm … I have a target of 1kg sizes for the fish.
I invest the money I make working to feed my fish but once I harvest and sell them, I will be able to reinvest the whole profit into the next set without using my salary, but I do have to deprive myself of things I need to keep my business going.
It isn’t an easy task. I am talking about months of waiting for the fish to reach maturity.
To succeed in any endeavor, I have found it is important to understand that what appears to be a setback must be viewed as a challenge, an opportunity to improvise and be innovative.
Here’s an example. Normally, I drain the water from my fishponds every three days. Recently, the outlet pipes became clogged with particles of fish food and waste and, instead of the normal 50 minutes, it was taking hours for the pond to drain. The plumber wasn’t available for over a week.
I was going to have to save these fish myself. I needed no one to tell me to get inside and scoop out the remainder of the dirty water with a bucket and scoop.
I’ve learned that sometimes challenges manifest as setbacks. If you do not handle it well, it may bring an end to your project. There truly are many ways to skin a cat, and one of the ways is to have an understanding that for every challenge a person faces, someone has passed through it before. Their experience can help you out so you just try and be willing to search for the people with knowledge to support you. I get inspired and encouraged by talking with other fish farmers and learning from them what they have done to achieve success. Many times, their fish sizes at harvest are quite impressive and I get encouraged to work harder at it and give it my all.
My experience working on my fishpond has taught me that success means innovation, persistence and self-reliance. And that it is crucial for anyone considering working in agriculture to be mindful that no job — be it banking, marketing, information technology, or agriculture– is a bed of roses.
Blogpost based on input by Ogunbodede Olukayode Oluwole
Edited by Deborah Phelan
Picture: Ogunbodede Olukayode Oluwole in a concrete fish pond