The Forestry Research Institute of Nigeria (FRIN) has demonstrated that youths, women and retirees can make millions of naira practicing low-capital agriculture with its simple, innovative but profitable agro-allied enterprise prototypes.
The model enterprises include cane rat, rabbit and snail farming, with simple housing, cost-effective feeds and sustainable returns on investments regularly.
The institute has also developed some improved varieties of economic trees which can now fruit at three to five years instead of 20 to 30 years in their wild forms.
The Director General of the institute, Dr Adeshola Adepoju, exclusively disclosed these to The Guardian while unveiling the small-scale business models and improved economic trees that could be used in the efforts to combat climate change as a result of forest depletion.
Among the small-scale business models is cane rat (grass-cutter) farming.
Senior Executive at FRIN, Mr Segilogbon Johnson, who oversees the cane rat business, explains that though adequate care is required, the art of raising the animals is simple, and the animals are almost problem-free.
The only major challenge is that cane rats are susceptible to cold, hence their housing should be insulated against excessive breeze, and heat should be generated through electric bulbs or other means in the cold weather.
“On their feeding,” he said, “the animals eat grasses, leaves and formulated feeds. If a farmer has access to grasses, leaves and forages, the cost of feeding would become insignificant, and formulated feeds would become supplementary for fattening the animals. The animals could be raised organically.”
Female grass-cutters are ready for reproduction at five to six months old, and the gestation period is about two months. The male grass-cutters reach the table size at eight months.
Cane rats are prolific, reproducing between two and eight kids about three times in a year. Giving a breakdown of how a farmer could multiply his stock, Segilogbon said a colony of five, comprising four female and one male cane rats, could multiply to about 50 in a year. And that a colony is sold for N75,000 at three months to those buying a breeding stocks.
Rabbits, as explained by the Principal Instructor at FRIN, Oluseyi Ereme, are prolific, reproducing between two and 12 kids in every three months.
Each of the rabbits is sold at the table size after six months, and at the rate of about N3,500.
Cost of feeding, he added, is about N1000 to the table size, with forage supplementation. The institute has also developed a housing model that simplifies wastage collection and management of rabbit rearing.
Wild economic trees of bitter kola (Garcinia kola), African star apple (agbalumo in Yoruba language) and shea butter (vitalleria paradorea) which normally fruit after about 30 years, have been improved upon through the vegetative propagation technique and they now fruit in four or five years.
Babalola Olumide, Principal Forest Technologist at FRIN, disclosed to The Guardian that the propagation uses a grafting technique by cutting the stems of old and fruiting trees, and budding or grafting them into the seedlings of those trees prepared in the nurseries, thereby reducing the maturity period drastically.
The institute encourages arable crop farmers to inter-crop with economic trees to avoid forest depletion and negative climate change in the process of feeding the country.