A post-graduate student of the Modibbo Adama University of Technology, Yola, Adamawa State, Jesse Maitabil, has blamed middlemen, comprising wholesalers and retailers, for skyrocketing prices of foods in Nigeria.
Jesse, who turned the ongoing strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) into an opportunity to further make wealth from his farms, said the middlemen make more gains than farmers.
The ICIR had earlier in June reported how prices of food jumped under President Muhammadu Buhari’s government by over 100 per cent.
In October 2021, The ICIR reported how Buhari also blamed the middlemen for the price surge. But, it is unclear if the government has taken major action(s) to address the issue.
Jesse was on the verge of completing his master’s degree programme at the Modibbo Adama University’s Department of Vocational Education when ASUU proceeded on strike.
He currently has 20 hectares of okra, rice, groundnuts, watermelon and maize farms, which he manages with his friend, Samson Yaro.
They have 12 hectares of maize farm, six hectares of rice, one hectare of okra farm, and another hectare of watermelon.
Jesse and Yaro, both pastors, make N150,000 from their okra farm weekly, according to the post that Jesse made on his Facebook page on Friday.
“The challenge of the middlemen is of great concern,” Jesse said of the middlemen’s role in food price hike.
“We sell in bulk to the wholesaler, and they sell to the retailer or consumer at an exorbitant price.
“For instance, we can sell a basket of okra for N3,500, and they will sell to the retailer for N6,000 or N6,500. They make more gain than the farmers,” he added.
Jesse said harvesting okra begins about seven weeks after planting, and the harvest could last for 12 weeks if farmers do enough pest control and manage their farm well.
Jesse started full-scale farming seven years ago, five years after obtaining his first degree at the Modibbo Adama University.
In addition to crop farming, he has poultry and rabbit farms and has experience in fish and fruit farming.
The father of three also manages a laundry business which he started over a decade ago.
“I called on Nigerian youth to go into farming or acquire at least a skill to help them from being unemployed because of the country’s economic situation. Farming is profitable. That does not make it devoid of challenges.”
He said farmers face many challenges in the dry season, including the dearth of water, bush burning, and cattle invasion of farms among others. A hike in fuel price also worsens the challenges, he noted.
Jesse and his friend do not use machinery and other equipment for mechanised farming to do their work. They use only cows where it is necessary to plough the ground.
“We don’t use cows on all the farms. On the other farms, there is zero tillage and zero fertilizer, meaning that we did not plough or harrow the ground, and we didn’t apply fertilizer because the land is very fertile.
“We planted our seeds on the land, including maize and rice, and the farms are doing very well. The location where we farms are is very fertile,” the 43-year-old said.
He, however, called on the government to subsidise farm chemicals such as herbicides and pesticides because many farmers could not afford them.
Like in other parts of Nigeria, farming is a major occupation in Yola, but farmers have challenges doing irrigated farming.
Jesse and his friend farm far away from their village in Yola where their families live because that is where they have enough water to do dry season farming.
Meanwhile, Jesse said farming helps him to get closer to God.
“It’s easier to communicate with God in the field because you see nature around you. God loves nature.”
While calling on ASUU to end the over four-month-old strike, he said not all students have the opportunity to farm like him and his friend because of worsening insecurity in the country and a lack of access to land for farming in some cities.
He urged the Federal Government and ASUU to reach an agreement to enable students affected by the strike to return to their classes.