With no opportunity to have formal education, or to learn vocational skills and no hope of employment, less privileged youths in Plateau State have found a source of livelihood in hawking sugarcane.
In a society where paid jobs are hard to come by, this set of youths aren’t sitting idle and wasting away.
These youths believe survival in a modern world is not about where you work or who employs you, but about discovering a legitimate source of income within one’s immediate environment and being engaged.
The hawking of sugarcane is a small-scale business that requires little or no capital to start. Good enough, there are sugarcane farmers in Plateau State, especially in Mangu and Bokkos local governments areas of the state. So, the sugarcane is available in good supply in the state. Besides, there are traders who specialise in purchasing the product from neighbouring states like Kaduna and Kano.
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Daily Trust Saturday observed that the number of youths involved in hawking sugarcane in both urban and rural areas of the state is unimaginably high. There is hardly any village in the state that you will not find youths hawking sugarcane in wheel barrows.
One of them, Abdullahi Musa, said “I started selling sugarcane from age 10 in Panyam, Mangu LGA, but I discovered that I will sell more in Jos than in Panyam, so I came to Jos to make more sales.”
Zekeri Hamza said “This is one business that a lot of people overlook, but there is a lot of gain in it. I can tell you that I know more than 200 young boys, especially Hausa boys, hawking sugarcane in Bukuru alone.
According to Sabiu Ado, another sugarcane hawker, “Sugarcane has provided a source of livelihood for thousands of Plateau youths, because if you look at all the 17 local governments of the state, you will see youths doing the business and they are making lots of gain.”
From a survey carried out by our reporter in Jos, an average sugarcane hawker earns more than a level six civil servant. For instance, each hawker using wheelbarrow can earn N2,500 a day.
Sugarcane seller Ismaila Zubairu said “If I buy sugarcane of N5,000 in the morning, I will sell it and make a gain of N2,000 or N2,500. And if I buy N7000 worth of sugarcane, at the end of the day, I can make gain of N3,000. For one who makes N2,500 a day, in 30 days he would have made N75,000.
However, hawking sugarcane goes with too much pains and energy. “We go with the product in the sun and in the rains, if you imagine how many kilometres we cover in a day, then you will understand that it is not a job for a lazy youth. The weight of what you are pushing about is another thing, sugarcane can be very heavy,” says Zubairu.
Bitrus Fom, another sugarcane seller, said “In my own case, I sell by the roadside, I don’t hawk because I combine it with farming, so I buy and sell sugarcane when I’m done with my farm. But I know there is gain in the business. In our village in Zawan, I know at least 20-30 youths in the business of selling the product.”
The sugarcane section of the Bukuru market is a beehive of activities every morning. Youths rush there with their wheelbarrows, purchase the product, process it, pack them neatly in the wheelbarrow and pushed the wares around town.
A sugarcane merchant, Alhaji Haliru Kabiru, said “At least, we receive ten trucks of sugarcane from Saminaka in Kaduna State every week. The demand for sugarcane is very high in the city, especially Jos. If you come to the sugarcane market during sugarcane season, you will see the commercial value of sugarcane.”
Umar Bala, a trader, said “I have been in the business of supplying sugarcane in the last 12 years, that is the only business I know, and the business of sugarcane has provided jobs for thousands of youths in this state. Most of them that I know got married and had children with proceeds from hawking sugarcane in wheelbarrows. As a matter of fact, most of them earn more than some civil servants, because their income come on daily basis.”
There are lots of nutritional value in the consumption of sugar cane. “It flushes out toxins from the body. Sugarcane juice basically clears your gut, increases metabolism and also helps in weight loss,” said a Jos-based nutritionist, Dr Caroline Benson.