After nine years in the banking sector, Samuel Aende, who was in his 30s, decided to invest in the murky space of greenhouse farming though he had no formal training in agriculture. His will to succeed drove him to look for information and take part in training at home and later abroad to become the successful and experienced greenhouse farmer he is today.
“The idea came when I was researching practices to improve agricultural production. I have always been interested in greenhouse farming, so researching practices, I studied them very much on my own. I even travelled to Israel where greenhouse and irrigation is very common to experience how it works and get the practical knowledge and business experience required to run the business. I visited Songhai farms in Benin Republic, also to get all the knowledge I could. These experiences developed and shaped my vision for what I was going to do. It’s been very interesting,” he told Daily Trust.
Aende’s 12-hectare farm, Terjimin Farms Limited, is located in Masaka, Karu LGA, Nasarawa State, on the outskirts of Abuja, and he currently grows beef tomato and bell pepper, producing about two tonnes of each every week.
“The key lessons learnt have been that it’s a very patient industry. You have to be extremely patient and diligent before you start earning returns on your investment. It is also risky, especially when you have infections. Yes, they occur either through the soil, transmitted by a person who has previously visited an infected farm without sanitising or through insects. You have to be ready to go again when such unfortunate incidents occur. But with experience gained over the years, now I can say precaution to a large extent mitigates these incidents, ensuring the use of quality inputs and adhering to good agricultural practices reduces your risks. When these practices are adhered to, your chances of profitability are much higher,” he explained.
For many, quitting a lucrative banking position as a young adult to pursue farming would have been a difficult choice. However, he made the choice to set out on the adventure, and although he has not yet arrived in the dreamland, he stated that the effort had been worthwhile.
“I can say I am still on a journey. I am not there yet, but I totally enjoy what I do. I have no regrets about my decision, as engaging in this business has exposed me to so much. I have had the opportunity to impact knowledge to people, travel, support other SMEs and NGOs technically with the experiences I have gained. It’s given me a whole different perspective to business and life that I probably wouldn’t have had from the prism of a banker. I am still working and building that dream,” he further said.
Like other farmers in the sector, the challenges in the space are multifaceted, which demand a calculated and coordinated response to tackle.
He advised newcomers to the space to find ways to deal with the high cost of production, quality seeds, fuel to power irrigation systems and other inputs.
“These result in high cost of our products. It’s very important for new investors to be aware of these. Working and creating a market for your products is also very important as it makes sales and offtake much easier. Also important is ensuring and identifying quality inputs as there are so many fake products in the market,” he pointed out.
He worried that, “Commercial banks are still wary of lending to farmers. This is where policies should be developed to target this gap. Interest rates are very high and it becomes very difficult to borrow at such rates for agribusiness considering the risks in agriculture. Government, through stakeholders, can tackle this challenge probably by even involving farmers in the design of policies so that they can make inputs to mitigate against not working like previous government programmes that were not very successful.”
Despite these challenges, the farmer said, “Greenhouse farming is very important as it makes products available all year round, most especially when they are normally off-season. This enables market availability, which is a win-win for both the farmer and the consumer.”
He further said, “Government can support greenhouse farmers by creating programmes targeted specifically for them, which can enable scaling up production while also developing skills for youths in this space. Scaled up production through greenhouse production can enable export of these products like what is obtainable in Kenya. The hub for vocational training in this space can create jobs, improve productivity of quality agricultural products which can also lead to earned FX if scaled up to international standards of production and export handling. Creating an ecosystem of greenhouse technology for agricultural production will attract youths into agriculture and job creation, improved livelihoods and economic development will follow.”
Speaking on the market for greenhouse products across Nigeria, he said consumers and companies were always ready to offtake the products, adding that the returns on investment could be remarkable with proper planning and diligence.