Despite Nigeria’s heavy dependence on the oil sector, the agricultural sector has rapidly transformed from being the rejected stone to the chief cornerstone. In recent years, the Nigerian government has recognized the sector’s growth and potential and has increasingly focused on its development.
With agriculture contributing significantly to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth, the Federal Government is not the only one who has realized how profitable the sector could be. More youths are towing the agro path and are carving out a niche for themselves. Reports have shown that agriculture has been a major source of employment, especially among youths.
However, within the agricultural sector, there remains one cash crop that has not been tapped to its full potential –moringa. Moringa may be a relatively cheap seedling but this crop has very high returns on investment. It equally grows in every part of the country, making it easily accessible to any farmer. With a sizable plot of land, any Tom, Dick and Harry can plant many stems that will grow within a short period of time. One major factor that drives the profitability of this plant is its current high demand in Nigeria. A large number of Indian, Chinese and Vietnamese companies are all over the country, searching for Moringa seeds. In fact, some Chinese companies pay some farmers for the seeds ahead of the harvesting period.
However, moringa’s perks are not limited to economic benefits alone. Its root, stem, leaves, and seeds all have immense health benefits, touted by health experts. So far, studies have shown that the plant contains certain antioxidants and nourishing ingredients. Its leaves contain beta-carotene, protein, potassium, calcium, and vitamin C. It can also be used in the production of herbal teas. Scientific studies have also shown that some plant chemicals in the leaves may help the body process sugar and control the release of insulin.
With moringa’s benefits, it comes as no surprise that more people are consuming the plant in its numerous variants. Perhaps, this is what motivated Usman Imanah, CEO of Friska Farms Nigeria Ltd, to dump his job for a future in farming. According to him, people are beginning to realise the importance of going natural and living healthy. Friska is a brand that promotes healthy living by producing moringa-based teas to manage and prevent a wide range of conditions. For people who already suffer from one ailment or the other, moringa-based herbal teas help to boost their immune systems.
Imanah is one of few Nigerians who realized the hidden gem in moringa farming and hopped onto the moving train. In fact, he moved from being a banker to becoming a full-time farmer/entrepreneur. Although he initially had to run the farm while maintaining a day job, he eventually faced moringa farming full-time after his business gained traction.
Despite the profitability attached to moringa farming, Imanah warned that the business is not all sunshine and roses.
“On paper, farming is the investment with the highest return. You plant a seed of corn and it grows into a plant that has numerous cobs in three months. Each cob has numerous seeds. I don’t know any other investment that can yield such results in that time frame. However, in reality, it is not for the lily-livered. You battle with the elements and uncertainties.
“In Nigeria, I have seen and heard of many unsuccessful farming experiences. A lot of people that started with me got their fingers burnt. I also had my fair share of losses. Those that were patient and ready to learn and tweak their strategies are the ones that eventually benefit,” he said.
According to him, Friska gained traction after he shifted focus from farming and production to retail expansion. This experience lends more credibility to the thought that more farmers should focus on agribusiness as a whole. He further stressed that experiencing a big break in moringa farming is not dependent on cultivation or production alone. Rather, it also depends on the farmer’s drive and determination.
“Any business can be as profitable as the promoter wants them to be. It depends on the drive. Profitability is a function of how hard the promoter wants to grind. This is determined largely by sales. We are optimistic that ours will be very profitable because we are very bullish in our drive to be present in all our outlets in Nigeria. We are also looking at exporting to all of Africa and Europe.”