Agriculture is the bedrock of every development. It is an immense source of wealth. But in Africa, entrepreneurs are not fully exploiting the opportunities in Agriculture. This is due to a number of challenges countries in Africa face – particularly the poor farmers.
This article, with discussing briefly the cause of these challenges to making wealth through farming, how to overcome the challenges and set yourself on the path to being a successful farmer.
Table of Contents
Some Background on Agriculture in Africa
Africa has some of the most fertile lands and is home to a wide range of animal species. This is in addition to natural resources and a huge labor force. Yet it remains controversially the poorest continent in the world.
But colonizers are not the only ones to blame. Incompetent and corrupt leaders play an even more devastating role in further undermining long-term development. Nigeria is a good example of a country mismanaged for decades by corrupt leaders in both military and civilian regimes.
Many African countries were doing fine agriculturally despite not having the right leaders. The people went to farms and produced enough to feed the population. Here again, Nigeria is a good example. Prior to the discovery and exploitation of vast oil deposits in the country, the major occupation for Nigerians was farming. The country exported large quantities of various cash crops to other countries and the economy grew steadily.
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As soon as oil appeared, the government first started to lose interest in agriculture. Soon enough, the people followed. Oil brought instant massive wealth without the government doing much on the part of labor. People gradually relaxed efforts toward agriculture until only very few large-scale farmers remained. The result was and still remains an increase in food prices, food shortages, and even near disappearance of some crops. It is a major problem. But then it presents a big opportunity for fortune hunters.
If you want to make money in agriculture, whether in Nigeria or anywhere else, you need to produce crop that people are interested to buy. It can be grains, vegetables, or even animal and fish farming.
There are three major problems that discourage Nigerians, and by extension Africans, from participating in Agriculture: lack of interest and love for white-collar jobs, and lack of capital.
A lot of people even when given the capital today will prefer to open some retail shop and be sitting in one place than open a farm far from home. We have come to consider farming as a poor man’s occupation and a very difficult task – one reserved for the uneducated. Most Nigerian youths look upon farming as a lowly career option. Consequently, our vast fertile lands lay in waste while we pay exorbitant prices for food.
The second challenge of farming in Nigeria is the knowledge to do it effectively. Because we grow up around village farmers or those who reside in the towns and cities, we tend to think there is nothing much to learn about farming. The process is only tiling or ridging where necessary, planting, weeding and harvesting. And it should be done in the rainy season. That is what most of us think. As such, those who engage in farming tend to overlook the need for advanced knowledge of their occupation – except maybe those in the animal field. Because we pay little attention to getting acquainted with the necessary skills to maximize the yields, our effort in many cases results in low yield that serves to discourage us.
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The third problem for Nigerian youths who want to “hammer” through farming is the lack of investment capital. The poor cannot farm properly. Farming require a huge investment in both time and resources. Everything you need, from farmland to working materials and pesticides costs a lot of money.
The first two challenges can easily be overcome. Dismiss the pride and arrogance that stand in the way of Agriculture and pretty much everything. You need to correct your perception of farming as a lowly occupation. It is important to realize that Farming is the most honorable occupation. It saves lives more than any medicine or doctor can ever do. Hence by engaging in farming, you will be saving lives while making money in agriculture.
Be willing to learn more about your occupation. The internet is the largest ocean of free knowledge. You will learn a lot about growing any type of plant by simply browsing several sources on your smartphone or laptop. This knowledge will help you to do the right thing and maximize yield. You get to learn everything from capital acquisition to best soils for particular crops, the market value of a crop, how to market and reach consumers easier, and how to manage your agricultural investments. Seeds for all types of crops can be purchased on the internet from many parts of the world, and shipped to your location. Equipment you can use to make the farm tasks easier can also be bought from online stores around the world. Even chemicals and fertilizers are also available. In fact, you can buy anything for your farm from ebay.com.
Also read How to Start a Career in Agriculture
The Big Problem: Obtaining Capital
This is the one of biggest challenge cited by majority of farmers and for good reason. You need money to make money in Agriculture. The problem is how to get the start-up capital to establish a large farm that will bring high returns.
Some governments in Africa, or rather, all governments in Africa are very aware of this problem. For example, the Nigerian government is aware that most Nigerians are poor. The farmers are usually peasant farmers who can’t even produce enough to feed their immediate families let alone feed the society. The root cause of the inability of farmers to produce enough to feed the country is lack of capital and knowledge of agricultural activities.
Some governments have found a way to help their local population by providing low-interest loans. Nigeria is a good example. The Bank of Industry (BOI) offers low-interest loans to Nigerian farmers and those who have bankable business ideas, particularly agro-related businesses. While this is a good strategy, its implementation is poor, because many farmers are unable to access the loan largely due to the government’s inability to differentiate those who are serious from those who are not.
Waiting for a loan may take too long to materialize – or may not at all. You need to start something to help you build capital for your agricultural business. Start from something small – like a vegetable farm. Vegetables are a lot easier to produce and they sell very well. Also, vegetables don’t require large farmland. A particularly profitable vegetable in Nigeria is the common Ugu that is very popular among the Igbos but has nationwide patronage. A very small bundle of Ugu costs about N50, and two of the bundles won’t be enough for one person. All you need is a fertile land or make it fertile by adding manure to it. You can get manure for free from fruit markets.
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The greatest challenge you will face with growing the vegetable is irrigation. But starting your farm during the rainy season gives you some advantages. You could sell enough to buy irrigation equipment in the dry season.
Starting small should help you towards achieving the larger goal of becoming a successful commercial farmer. It will also give you some experience with farming, marketing, and managing your agri-business. It also places you in a better position to convince the government or other organizations for a loan.
Once you have substantial capital, you may then explore other business ideas in the agricultural sector or simply expand your farm.
Great Agriculture business Ideas for African Youths
- Open a Cassava farm. Cassava happens to be one of the most popular staple food for Nigerians. We use it for a wide range of needs. Cassava is used for fufu, and gari. It is also used by industries to manufacture starch used in washing clothes and other purposes. Cassava flour is also one of Nigeria’s biggest export commodities. Hence the market for cassava in Nigeria is highly profitable. Despite a lot of people getting involved in the business, there doesn’t seem to be enough supply and high prices of garri is evident in many parts of the country. As such, cassava is a good business opportunity.
- Soybean is also a hot-selling commodity. It is very high in demand due to its various uses in Nigeria. It is used to make vegetable oil, animal feed, good pap, awara, and more.
- Other things you can invest in include; sorghum, fresh flowers, a variety of vegetables, fish-farming, fish farming, food processing or fruit juice plants, quail egg farming, growing of medical herbs, dairy farm, cactus farming, and much more.
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Finally, there are so many other business ideas in agriculture to explore across Africa. We also compiled 15 Things You Did Not Know About Opportunities in Agriculture. The most important steps are to be willing to do what it takes to succeed. You may work at it for a couple of years without seeing much success. But if you persist while learning from your mistakes and adapting your plans according to changing situations, you are very likely to succeed.
Make further research on the type of agriculture you could engage in. There are hundreds of ideas not listed here. Conduct thorough research on the market potential for that business idea and learn how to implement your steps to achieve optimal results.