.Vegetable farming can be a money spinner for any enterprising entrepreneur.
Every household in Nigeria consume one type of vegetable or the other. There is hardly any soup made in any household, in restaurants, hotel, local joints and boukas that will not contain vegetable. And when you consider the fact that Nigeria has a population estimated at about 200 million people and still growing with hundreds of thousands of visitors into the country on a daily basis, you will see why demand is high, why supply is always insufficient and why the business of vegetable farming is lucrative.
If you are a school leaver, a graduate, a retiree or someone preparing to retire or you are considering a business to go into, or someone who is looking for what you earn you passive income while on your full time job, think seriously about vegetable farming. It is easy to start, require little or no expertise (illiterate mothers in the villages live it), have short cycle from planting to harvesting, and can be done on any scale that your finance can reasonably support.
Thus, even if you start on a very small scale and you do it well, the opportunity is there for you to scale up and grow very big in a short period of time.
Types of Vegetable You Can Grow
There are more than 30 types of vegetables that are grown in Nigeria, though some are in more demand than others. Lettuce, onions, okra, cucumber, carrots, tomatoes and pepper are some of the vegetable type that are commonly farmed in Nigeria and which are in hot demand.
A prospective investor is advised to carefully weigh the options before deciding on the type of vegetable farm to invest in. Factors to consider before you decide on the type of vegetable farm to invest in include cost requirement, market size, how fast the vegetable grows, how pest and diseases impacts on the type of vegetable and how easy you can learn the processes if you have no prior knowledge.
#1. Fluted pumpkin - Known as ugu in Igbo and ikon-ubong in ibibio, fluted pumpkin is mostly grown in the South East of Nigeria where it is cultivated for food and medicine. In fact, recently the government of Anambra State started exporting ugu to earn foreign exchange. But most importantly, it is loved and consumed all over Nigeria and in West Africa for its rich nutrition.
As a plant, it can be grown in any part of the country because it grows even on the poorest of soil and is tolerant to drought. The seed looks much like a cocoa pod but is much more bigger in size, sometimes weighing up to 13 kg and each pod can contain about 100 seeds which is also edible, can be boiled or roasted.
#2. Jute Leaf - What ugu leaf is to the South East people of Nigeria is what Jute leaf is to the people of the South West Even though it is more consumed in Yoruba land, jute leaf is eaten in most part of Nigeria. It is called ewedu in Yoruba and rama in Hausa. It is a leafy greenish edible vegetable that is used to prepare slimy soup. This leaf is packed with essential vitamins and minerals that help to fight diseases in the body. It will requires average water supply but rich organic soil to grow. Jute leaf can be grown in most part of the country.
#3. Watermelon - Most people love watermelon and like the fluted pumpkin, it can grow anywhere in Nigeria and has short gestation period. In fact within a period of 90 days one can plant and harvest watermelon for sale, thus if properly done a farmer can go up to four cycles in a year. It is high in demand especially during hot season because it contains a lot of water. To be successful with your watermelon farm business farmer has to ensure adequate supply of water to the farm, weed regularly and take care of pests.
#4. Cabbage - Cabbage looks like lettuce but it belongs to to the Brassica genus of vegetables, which includes broccoli, cauliflower and kale. It is f variety of shapes and colours including red, white, green and purple. It is a popular vegetable in Nigeria. In Nigeria, it is majorly used to make salad and coleslaw. It can be eaten raw and also applied in other types of dishes.
Apart from its food value, cabbage is consumed for its nutritional value because it is packed with essential vitamins and minerals. It is said to help in digestion, reduces inflammation, keeps the heart healthy and help lower cholesterol level
Cabbage can be more expensive than other vegetables and this may be due to the tedious processes it takes to grow the plant. It does not like sun, survives more in cold environment but must get at least six hours of sun light everyday. Cabbage grows robustly on fertile, properly drained and manured soil.
#5. Cucumber - A very high in demand vegetable because it is used both in food and in cosmetic and skin care making. cucumber is used for treating skin problems and for maintaining healthy smooth skin. Thus, the market is wide as you will be selling to the consumer market as well to industry. Your limitation really is in your ability to develop your market.
It is easy to cultivate, though it requires substantial amount of sun light and love well-drained, organic rich soil. Cucumba is widely consumed. It can be eaten raw or added in a variety of dishes. An investment in cucumber farming will pay back within a short period of time.
How to Get Started
Just as in any other business, starting a commercial vegetable farming venture requires careful planning. In as much as it has been said that any one can do this business, going into without doing your home work proprly will not achieve the desired results. This is because, vegetables are very perishable, hence are not to be shelved for long.
In fact, if you have planned your project well, you find that your products are sold at the farm gate. If you do not have such mass market to off-take your vegetables at the farm gate, you will have to develop and cultivate buyers like large grocery stores, supermarket chains, hotels and restaurants to whom you supply directly.
#1. Decide on the type of Vegetable to Farm - The first step to starting a vegetable farm is to decide what type of vegetable farm business to invest in. Carefully consider all the types of vegetables that are in hot demand and decide on one or two. In deciding on what kind of farm to operate, you will consider the gestatation period, the technicalities involved, your capacity to learn and cover areas you are defficient, the market and the amount of investment capital needed.
#2.Raise Money for your business - A simple feasibility study or business plan will enable you guage how much you will need to start your farm. In any case, the amount of initial capital you need to invest will depend on the scale of operation you want to engage in.
However, based on personal experience, having worked with farmers in this segment, with between NGN100,000 to N500,000 one can start a small-scale vegetable farm assuming one already has a land. So this estimate is exclusive of cost of land. This will cover cost of buying seedlings, farm equipment, implements, pesticides, labour and initial administrative costs.
If you do not have a piece of land already (at least a plot of land measuring 640 sq m) you will be needing between N500,000 to N1,000,000 to start your vegetable farm on a small scale. This amount of investment will cover above costs plus the cost of acquiring a piece of land depending on the area where you want to situate your farm.
#3. Select your Site - You will spend much less if your farm is located in a remote village where a plot of land can be obtained for as little as N50,000. But in choosing your location you have to consider a number of things including tearless to your market, road network and most importantly, soil attributes. Most vegetables grow best in lome soil and humus soil due to the fact that they contain high nutrients that helpts vegetables to grow fast.
#4. Prepare your site for planting - This will involve clearing the land, applying organic manure and othe things that are required to be done in preparation for planting. Your manure should be applied two weeks before planting and if you are using fertilizer, apply it a month after your plant has germinated. Talking about fertilizer, urea which is a nitrogenous fertilizer is better for most vegetables, particularly, fluted pumpkin because it promotes the growth of the leaves.
#5. Source and Prepare Your Seed - A major factor that will account for the success or otherwise of your farm is the quality of seed that you plant. So ensure you buy your seed from the right source which can be other farmers around you, reputable agro based companies like Dizzengoff or online agric products market places.
#6. Planting - Different vegetable types have different planting rules. So take some time to educate yourself of what is applicable to the seed of your interest. For example, the ideal time to plant Fluted pumpkin is between April and May as the plants does well in such rainy conditions and the seeds will begin to germinate within one or two weeks. Weeding should also be taking seriously to ensure that your growing plants constantly take in water and vital nutrients.
#7. Consider how to Secure Your Farm - Of equal importance is to protect your farm from herbivorous animals like goat, sheep and cows which are notorious for destroying farms. If your farm is located in an area where these animals are in abundance or along the grazing routes of catle herders, you must take adequate steps to ensure your farm is out of reach of these animals by raising concrete fence or any form of baricade you can afford around your farm. This certainly will be additional burden to your overall cost estimation but the efforts will be worth it.
#8. Harvesting - You can starting harvesting your vegetables in a short a time as 30 days, for some others harvesting can start 60 days after planting.
Vegetable farming is a lucrative venture. The demand is high and supply has remained inadequate even though it may appear that vegetables are all around us. However, you must be aware of some of the challenges that you will face and find a way to mitigate these challenges. The first is glut which happens in a period of too much supply, particularly when families are harvesting from their gardens and have less need to buy from the open market. During such period, prices do come down and this means less profit to commercial farmers.
Another problem is that in Nigeria, we have not been able to develop a standard way of preserving perishable farm produce like vegetables. So farmers who do not sell their produce on time will have to give them away at ridiculous prices or have them wasted. This is the reason you have to develop a market for your vegetables beyond the general open market so that you supply to ready buyers straight from the farm. This way you avoid the challenge of preservation.