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Despite shrinking green spaces, horticulture business thrives in Kano

Horticulture, otherwise known as garden cultivation in Kano, is among the old businesses but rare among the people of the state. Although it is seen…

Horticulture, otherwise known as garden cultivation in Kano, is among the old businesses but rare among the people of the state. Although it is seen within all the nooks and crannies of the city, people in the state hardly patronised them or invested in the business as they were not conversant with planting flowers in their environments. Daily Trust Saturday reports.

Despite the roles they play in beautifying places, cooling the temperature of the environment, as well as contributing to mitigating the effects of climate change, people did not patronise practitioners frequently.

The only time they witnessed a boom in those days was during tree-planting campaigns when the government distributed them freely to citizens.

“In those days, from the 1980s to early 1990s, people didn’t patronise us in Kano because they were not used to planting trees and flowers. The only customers we had then were the government because of the green spaces, the Lebanese and other white people living in Kano,” one of the old hands in the business, Baba Kabiru Lawan said.

However, the green spaces have continued to shrink over the years, Daily Trust Saturday discovered that the horticultural business is now booming and generating income for investors in Kano, aside from providing employment opportunities among the youth. Many gardens, mostly located along the main roads, are re-emerging and beautifying the places.

Also, with the recent reintroduction of the planting of trees and flowers along main roads and roundabouts by the government to beautify city areas, the horticulture industry further received a boost, thereby making significant waves amidst hundreds of opportunities.

The serenity, cool temperature and nice fragrance welcoming customers to the gardens are obvious, even to passersby, and at the same time encourage patronage, some of the horticulturists said, adding that the processes of trimming, planting and transplanting the trees and flowers, as well as how they are undergoing re-bagging, have also been considered worth watching and pleasing to human eyes.

In an interaction with some of the owners of the gardens, Daily Trust Saturday gathered that through the business, many people earn a living, and they are opening more branches as patronage of trees and flowers has increased.

Sabi’u Umar, the owner of one of the popular gardens in the state, Ni’ima Garden, which is located on the wall fence of the popular Bayero University, Kano (BUK), said the business witnessed rapid transformation as a result of the many new structures that are currently coming up in the state and the adoption of modern ways of building. He said the new structures provided spaces for gardens, landscaping and tree planting, hence the need to patronise them improved immensely.

Among other reasons that prompted the patronage of trees, he said, were the boost in the agricultural sector of the country and the recent action of the world to mitigate the effects of climate change, which is now a global issue.

“I started this business at childhood but it has never witnessed the boom it is witnessing these days. And that is not unconnected to the development in infrastructure. In those days, when people thought the business was booming, it was entirely different from now. In those days it was once in a while or once a year. But now, it is on a daily basis. Regularly, people are coming to buy trees, flowers or even fruits,” he said.

Umar, who has spent over three decades in the business, said  that nowadays, due to high patronage of flowers and trees, many people, companies and institutions are hiring them to look after their gardens and other places for them, and they pay them on a monthly, quarterly or yearly basis.

“It is not that people buy flowers every day; we can spend a week without a single customer coming. But the patronage is high, such that if you get one or two customers in a month or sometimes in a week, it will cover you for a very long period. If you are lucky you can sell a flower of up to N200,000 in a single day or sometimes N50,000, depending on the customers.

“One very important thing is how people are now hiring us to look after their gardens. Schools, government agencies, hotels, estates and individuals now employ our companies in form of a contract to continue working for them. After patronising our products they also give us consultancy to check on their flowers and gardens. This is also another segment of the business that opens more chances for employment and more,” he explained.

He added that the current development in the business was what made him open more branches, and that very soon he would consider opening in other states.

“Many of us now have branches. For example, I have five branches, apart from this one. I also have two orchards on the outskirts of the city. All of the branches are in Kano city. In total, I can say that I have about 20 people working under me. Even during that strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), some parents brought their children for me to teach, and one of them is about to open his place now,” he added.

Speaking on how to do the business, Sani Iliyasu, popularly known as Sani Hisbah, who owns the Albarka Garden located by the perimeter wall of the Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital (AKTH), said there were over 1,000 varieties of flower in a garden and each has its price and the way it is managed.

According to him, while there are foreign and indigenous seeds, the way they grow and the value and beauty they add to places depend on how they are raised.

He said that in the past they bought some of the flowers from Kaduna, but with the recent development, some places now surpass Kaduna in the business, and they have to travel to Abuja or Ibadan in Oyo State to get the varieties.

“Flowers are of different sizes and types. It depends on what customers want. We have the least of N100, and some can be up to N50,000. The foreign ones are the most beautiful and most expensive. Like Saka, the small one is sold at N10,000 while the big one can reach up to N50,000. The reason they are expensive is that they grow once in six months and can be as old as human beings. Any flower that is expensive can last up to 100 years.

“The indigenous ones are simple and cheaper, not up to N5,000. Some are even sold at N100, and most of them are raised here. We just get the seed and plant them on a nursery tray and transfer them into nylon when they are ready for sale. The new flowers that arrived in Nigeria have added to the boom in the business, unlike before when we had yellow bush and izora and the like. Now, we have modern flowers like Astrania, Achillea, Camellia and so on,” he added.

Iliyasu inherited the business from his father, and in the past 15 years he has been able to open two branches and is willing to expand.

Speaking on the challenges they are facing, many of the horticulturists said the lack of a permanent place to grow their flowers and inadequate water to keep them fresh had been their biggest problems. They said they had been facing the threat of relocating from one place to another, which is seriously affecting their business.

Although past governments promised to provide land for them to establish a Green Village that would be suitable and permanent for running their business, the promise has not seen the light of day.

“We are very important as we contribute to the society in many ways. But we don’t have a permanent place to do this business. The places we are using are not our own and they can chase us out any moment they like. If not for the cooling and greener nature we are giving to places, nobody would host us just like that,” one of them, Jamilu Abdulkareem said.

They called on the state government to consider allocating a place for them to set up their permanent gardens as that would provide more investments into the sector and create more employment opportunities.