Popular fish farm consultant and trainer, Mr. James Idowu Oke of Knight Vic Industries Nigeria Limited based in Ekiti State, has noted that money or some other form of capital isn’t the most important in setting up any kind of farm. He is also of the opinion that there were enough government policies to drive agriculture in the country. Sam Nwaoko reports.
Given the disposition of Mr James Idowu Oke, a fisheries expert and proprietor of Knight Vic Industries Nigeria Limited, based in Ado Ekiti, the country does not need any more of government policies or laws to make agriculture thrive in the country. Rather, what the country needs for a sustainability in the sector is honesty by the various players in the sector and focus of the younger generation on achieving results, rather than pushing for immediate wealth.
James Idowu Oke runs a successful fisheries consultancy in Ekiti State and has proven his mettle with his thriving huge fish farms in parts of the state, including consulting at the ABUAD Fish Farm. The man popularly known as Knight Vic, is also a force to reckon with in plantain farming, poultry, piggery, snail farming, oil palm plantation.
Following his successes in various aspects of agricultural ventures, Oke has decided to train the young and the willing in different aspects of successful agricultural practice. So far, about 500 has benefitted from the training, some of whom he said that he had employed when they are yet to muster the capital to start their own businesses.
This time round, 100 people are in line for yet another training, which would acquaint them with practical agricultural skills and thereby equip them enough to start their own businesses. He said what he had in mind was to see foreigners come to Nigeria to learn some of the things Nigeria has to offer just as Nigerians go abroad to learn some skills. “We travel abroad to learn. We also want them to travel to Nigeria to learn from us. That’s what I’m aiming at.”
According to Knight Vic, “that’s the purpose of this training. We’ve trained nothing less than 500 people. Out of that number, over 100 have started their own businesses with their own passion and are doing well. In two years, we have trained a lot of people. Our target now is that in 10 years, we would have raised a great number of farmers who would stand on their own and make impact. That us why we have made our pioneer farm at Basiri, Ado Ekiti, an institute of agricultural training.”
On the mode of training, he said “it is free because we partner with a group. The idea is that when you train, for instance, a civil servant that still has about 20 years in service and engages in one form of farming or the other and makes some extra money while still in service, by the time he retires and gets his retirement benefit, he would have known exactly what to do with the money and how to invest it.”
Speaking on some of his activities, Oke explained that “we have three lakes and 10 ponds. In our main farm, we have over 80 ponds. A lake takes 30,000 to 50,000 table size fish while ponds take a maximum of 10,000.”
Having come this far, the popular fish consultant tried to explain what he thinks had been hindering sustainable agriculture that seems a mirage in Nigeria. “Honesty is the first thing and I mean on the sides of consultants and the farmers,” he stated. He said he had found through interactions that “some consultants are not honest with the people they are working with and the farm owners too are not honest with the people working with them.
“There must be specialisation, but many people try to do everything by themselves, thereby ruining many things in the process. If you have funds but no idea of how to establish a farm, the man you’ve paid to help you in setting up the farm should be honest enough to do exactly what he’s been paid to do. Dishonesty is what I’ve found to be the number one factor affecting our farm practice.
“Also, some farmers play smart and soon after throw out the consultant because of the thought that they too can do it as well as them. This affects a lot of things and also ruins farms and investments.”
On another plane, he said “farming isn’t what you just crash into. You must have the passion and tenacity to stay in the trade and continue to work hard before the results start coming in. This is very important. Capital is just about two per cent of all you need to start a farm.
“Capital isn’t as important as your passion to make it work, because you can start small and grow. Also, a man who has a plantain farm may not work on his farm as much as the man who has a poultry farm, filled with layers or other birds. The time and energy invested vary. That’s where passion comes in.”
Regarding policies that government should twitch or replace to help in boosting agriculture in the country, Oke said he was of the opinion that there were enough government policies and programmes that could make agriculture run, but stated that a lot of people lacked the focus and commitment to sincerely run with the policies.
“I recall that during the first term of Dr Kayode Fayemi, he made moves to get some youths trained in agriculture. The money the government spent then was wasted because after they were given funds, the youths went their separate ways. There were up to 10 farms that were under my full consultancy. I was the main consultant to each of the farms and I know what the government paid to each of the farms then to get the young farmers trained and started.
“The government gave people money to buy the fish and fingerlings, their feed and some extra money for miscellaneous expenses to manage the farm, sustain themselves and sundry things. But I tell you that some diverted the money to conduct weddings, some people used their money to buy cars, some used it to build houses and so on. It was very disturbing.
“I think what the government should do, if government really wants to help, let them help those that are already in the practice and have the passion. Some of those who go to government to say ‘I have passion for agriculture but I don’t have the money’ are not sincere.
“We don’t need too many government policies because we have enough policies to drive the Nigerian agricultural sector. What we need is honesty and commitment on the path of those who want to practice agriculture. With honesty and commitment, Nigeria can greatly excel in agriculture. I was the first to start fish farming as a full-time business in Ekiti, and people did not believe in me. When I started here, people were laughing at me and were wondering what I was doing. The first plot of land I bought, I paid in three installments and that was 10 years ago.
“I started with just 300 fish. I tried many places for loans, but they would always deny me but I wasn’t deterred because I have passion and I excelled. So, government should explore that avenue. That is why I no longer pity the youths… I’m sorry. What our president said about lazy youths is not a mistake, if we look at it critically.”
Now, he said his business has grown enough for him to start a feedmill for fish, piggery and other livestock. “We are coming up with a feedmill, which aim is to end the importation of feeds. We are setting up our feedmill and envisage that the feed sold for N8,000 or thereabouts would be sold at the maximum rate of N5,000. And the quality would be better than the imported feed. That’s our next target and we are starting the plant very soon.”