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Young men who know their onions •Story of the onion agriprenuers

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An idle hand they say is the devil’s workshop. Somewhere in Kaduna State, a group of young people, some of whom are graduates, decided to take their destinies in their own hands by not waiting on the government to provide them employment. MUHAMMAD SABIU tracked down the youths who are into full-time farming to discover how they are surviving in their enterprise.


THE  high level of unemployment globally has become a problem, especially in developing countries like Nigeria. But while the developed nations with their high-tech have been able to bring the percentage of their jobless populations down to a manageable level, third world nations have not been that successful.

For example, while the rate of unemployment in South Africa is 26.6 per cent, signifying that more than a quarter of the population is unemployed, only 3.9 per cent and 4 per cent of the populations are unemployed in the United States and United Kingdom respectively.

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In Nigeria, the latest figures show that unemployment has climbed close to 20 per cent, meaning that with an estimated population of 180 million people, the number of the unemployed in the country hover around 36 million people, if not more

As staggering as this figure stands, some youths in a small village called Rumi in Ikara Local Government Area of Kaduna State, like many others across the country are not perturbed; rather, they are ensuring that they help themselves to be fully and gainfully employed in farming, despite having university degrees. Some of them, Arewa Live discovered, even have Master’s degrees.

A tour round the village revealed that it is indeed a rural settlement. There are no primary and secondary schools there. The only primary school, which used to serve the village, is now in ruins and pupils are no longer attending. Despite this almost hopeless situation, the youth, including the more educated ones, decided to take the bull by the horns by engaging in onion farming

Fortunately that decision not to give up on a better future for themselves had paid off, as any visitor to the village would often be confronted with the sights of huge mounds of onions dotting the entire village.

Almost all year round, tonnes of onions are ‘exported’ in commercial quantities to other parts of the country, especially states like Rivers, Akwa Ibom,  Cross River, Oyo, Ogun, Lagos, Enugu, and Anambra, as well as neighbouring countries like Niger Republic, Benin Republic, Ghana and Senegal.


Through their efforts in onion farming some of the youth are able to take care of their parents and younger siblings. One of the enterprising young men, Matthew Yusuf, a secondary school certificate holder, told Arewa Live that he has been a farmer since he was a kid, disclosing that  so far, he had produced 42 bags of onions and he is hoping to produce more at the end of this year’s farming season.

“Today, we sell a bag of onions between N13,500 and N14,000. So, if you calculate what one gets from that, you will agree with me that onion farming is a very lucrative business,” Yusuf explained.

Also speaking, another young farmer, Muktar Abubakar, remarked that farming in onions has helped his household to fight poverty because the occupation has continued to put food on their table without having to seek help from anyone.

“We can now afford to eat three times a day, travel for the holy pilgrimage and even build a house in the village. We have many graduates including master›s degree holders among us who are farmers in this village and we are doing well,” he said.

Ismail Haruna, a graduate of Mathematics and father of three children, is also an onions farmer. Initially after graduating from university he opted to be a teacher, but he soon found out that his meagre salary would not afford him the comfort he had hoped for in life. It did not take long for him to take the decision to dump the chalk for hoe cutlass. He re-channelled his energy into farming for survival. Today, Haruna is fulfilled and he is proud of his new occupation. He disclosed that this year›s farming season has brought bountiful harvest unlike the last two seasons when heavy rains affected the expected yield.

Matthew Yusuf

“Thank God this year’s rainfall is moderate and we cultivated tons of onions which we have harvested and I can tell you that business is good this time,” he said smiling.

Another master›s degree holder, who did not want to be identified, noted that his inability to gain employment propelled him to start onion farming. According to him, his parents are farmers, but that did not stop him from struggling to ensure that he bagged an MSc degree in Business Administration. After his degree programme, he spent five years shuttling between Kaduna and Abuja seeking employment, but at the end of the day he was disappointed.

Dejected and frustrated, he did not know what to do until one of his brothers gave him N20,000, which he used to start onion farming that eventually gave him his breakthrough.

“Last year when I started farming, I planted onions and I harvested 40 bags and this season I am sure I will surpass what I got last year,” he enthused.

Ironically, most of these young farmers, who now reside in Rumi, never envisaged that they could one day take to farming. They had their minds on something else. Today, however, they are happy that through farming, their village has been exposed to the outside world as a major producer of onions. That decision has also boosted the economic activities of the area and is also impacting the lives of ordinary people.

Processing onions

“People come from Lagos, Port-Harcourt, Warri, Enugu and Ibadan; in fact, as far as Cotonou, Cameroun and Niger Republic, to buy onions in the village. We are living happily with our customers and others who are Igbo, Yoruba and others, who have come to set up petty businesses here. We are happy; we thank God,” Haruna, the Maths graduate told Arewa Live.

Though most of the farmers in Rumi are happy about the financial returns they are getting from their farming activities, they have their challenges too. Apart from non-availability of fertilizer, which most farmers rely on to have good harvest, lack of storage facilities and inadequate capital for expansion are some of the problems they face.

According to them,  a bag of fertilizer in the open market goes for N8,000. Even then, the supply is low and cannot satisfy the needs of the farmers even at their small scale level. Thus the young farmers are frustrated at what they termed “government’s nonchalant attitude” to providing them enough fertilizer.

“Government hardly makes efforts to call on the farmers to come and buy fertilizer,” they said.

Haruna, on behalf of others pleaded for assistance from government at both the state and federal levels in form of loan to expand and boost their farms.

Muktar, one of the farmers who hopes to be a large scale farmer one day, told Arewa Live that with such loan, he would be able to cultivate more hectares of land and thus have the capacity to repay within the shortest possible time.

He, however, lamented lack of storage facilities has been a major problem confronting farmers in Rumi, saying “We don’t have storage facilities to accommodate all the onions we harvest here. At the end of the day, most of them rot away if we cannot sell them off on time,” he lamented, adding that “what we have now is a small warehouse that cannot contain all the onions we cultivate.”

Having made themselves relevant in their immediate environment, one would have expected governments at different levels to key into the onion farming activities embarked upon by the graduates of Rumi. One only hopes that the teething problems of storage facilities and lack of much-needed fertilizer would not frustrate them out of the venture altogether.

The post Young men who know their onions •Story of the onion agriprenuers appeared first on Tribune.

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