Temitope Matthew Adewole, in his late 20s, is a graduate of crop protection and environmental biology from the University of Ibadan who chose to be a farmer, speaks on his business and why and how he went into farming in this interview with OLUYINKA ALAWODE.
I put five hectares under cassava cultivation last year in Ekiti State. Marketers come to the farm with trucks and I have sold four hectares out of the five, with one hectare left. I have seven permanent staff, one is a graduate, the others are undergraduates and lots of labourers, depending on the time of the year and the work on the farm.
I plan to go into cassava processing in the very near future. I will start with processing for garri, because this would be more realisable in terms of resources needed than cassava flour production. With an additional piece of land, water supply and the grinders, I can start production of garri. That way I can double the staff strength because some of the labourers can now be employed on full time.
In fact, the staff strength can be tripled because I would then need marketers as well. I also plan irrigation facilities so that the crops I inter-crop with cassava, such as maize and water melon, can be produced all year round.
Like many in my age group, I had choices: either to join the bandwagon of white-collar job seekers or become self-employed. I chose to be self-employed and decided on farming, which many young people detest. But while many of my friends are still in search of jobs, within a year of planting five hectares of cassava, inter-cropped with corn and water melon, I have been able to raise money to rent a two-bedroom apartment in an housing estate in Ado Ekiti, the Ekiti State capital. I have also bought a fairly used Mercedes Benz 190 car for the purpose of overcoming my mobility challenges. I have also been able to assist my younger sister with payment of school fees.
I grew up in Lagos State, where I was born. I attended my primary and secondary school education in Lagos State. Farming is what I have always loved to do. I decided to go back to Ekiti, my state capital, to start a farming project. My parents are in Lagos. I have practical experience in agriculture because of my course of study. I also did it during my NYSC.
After my university education, I was posted, for my NYSC, to Ogun State in Odeda Local Government in Ogun-Osun River Basin Development Authority. As a young graduate, I have seen a lot. My friends that are graduates already, and my brothers, could not even find jobs to do. So, I decided on what to do.
I went back to Ibadan to pick up a form for my masters degree and I was admitted. Along the way, my uncle who works in Ekiti, called me, that I should come to Ekiti if I was interested in farming. My uncle told me of Governor Kayode Fayemi administration’s Youth in Commercial Agricultural Development (YCAD). Since it was what I did in school, I should be able to do it, I told myself. I obtained the form and entered for the programme. The interview was conducted. Out of 1,000 candidates, 150 were picked. I was lucky to be among them.
I started with nothing other than what Governor Fayemi promised: that was the N1.4 million for each beneficiary. We were not given in cash, but everything we use on the farm was provided and deducted from the N1.4 million. I have harvested the water melon I inter-cropped with cassava and sold them. I can really stand and call myself a man from the little I have made last year: just a year.
Now my friends are running after me. They want me to teach them how I did it. I thank God, I thank Governor Fayemi, my uncle and Nigeria’s minister of agriculture; it was what he said that made me venture into cassava production because I realised there will be market for my cassava based on what he said.