I find it expedient this week to discuss something very important – food. We all need food, no matter what your profession is. Food is an essential part of our lives. It is the source our energy to work and nutrients that enable us to grow, develop and be healthy. In short without food, we are dead; no one can live for more than 60 days without it. It is because of its importance that we work very hard to put food on the table for our families daily. Many spend all their earnings every month on food. The consequences of not having food or not having enough of it are hunger, malnutrition, diseases or even death.
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Our population is growing geometrically and would soon outstrip the available food. This is so as only 20 percent of the population is engaged in food production. The result is that there is scarcity of food not just to feed the population but also to feed our agro-allied industries.
Worse still, is that the 20 percent of the population engaged in farming is old and retiring. The young seem to be averse to farming, even when it is obvious that it is the panacea to the prevailing crass unemployment in the country. Every one ought to be involved in food production whether you are a trader, teacher, lawmaker, or engaged in white collar jobs. All ought to be involved one way or the other. A nation that cannot feed itself is a poor nation. And one of the reasons why our country is classified as the headquarters of poverty in the world is dearth of food for our teeming population. There is a correlation between hunger and poverty. Many households live on less than one dollar a day and probably do not have access to enough food.
This not to overlook the contributions of conflicts, Boko Haram menace, farmers/herders clash, communal clashes and climate change to the poor state of affairs. While some of these variables may be out of our control, we all must join hands to remedy the situation by taking action – engaging in one form of farming or the other.
Whether you are living in the rural areas or in the cities you can engage in farming. Traditionally, vegetables and fruits are grown in a piece of land. That means that if you do not have a piece of land to cultivate, you cannot engage in farming of any sort. But with the advancement in technology, you can grow your vegetables wherever you are even in the cities. Scarcity of land can no longer be a limiting factor for the realisation of your dream of becoming vegetable or fruit farmer.
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There are two ways through which this can be done – using containers such as polypropylene bags, plastic garbage bags, pots, baskets with soil and manure or the latest technology known as hydroponics which is growing them in containers with little water, without soil, compost manure and fertilizer.
Apart from the fact that these methods make farming possible anywhere and in small places, they encourage organic farming, that is, farming devoid of chemical based fertilizers and pesticides. Although, the use of fertilizers and pesticides in farming bring about increased food production, more and more people are becoming suspicious of the chemical content of what they eat.
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This is because overuse and misapplication of such chemicals have adverse health and environmental implications. Many are skeptical about consumption of such produce because they associate increase in diseases like cancer, cardiac arrest, kidney problem and other ailments to the chemical deposits in some of the foods they eat. They are therefore increasingly turning to eating foods devoid of harmful chemical contents, hence they are turning to organic farming.
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For the different containers and different vegetables, there is basic procedure common to all of them. That is, fill the container you have chosen with a few inches of a mixture of soil and compost manure at the bottom; plant between three and six seeds. Then cover them with three inches of soil. Then you continue to add soil to the container as the plants grow until the container is filled. You then place the container at your balcony, walkway, rooftops or driveways where it would be exposed to solar energy which it would tap to speed up the growth.
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If you are using containers such as polypropylene bags, plastic garbage bag or pots, ensure that you make holes in them to allow for proper drainage. If not, the container would be waterlogged which is not good for proper growth of the plants. If you are using bags, ensure that you fold the top edge to enable it stand upright. As I said earlier, the planting method is basically the same. However, there are some peculiarities.
For planting crops like pineapple, follow this procedure: Get a fresh pineapple and cut the crown off. Then soak in water for a day or two to absorb moisture. Next, you plant in the container and place it on the balconies where it would be exposed to sunlight. Water it regularly until it starts fruiting and grows to maturity.
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For potatoes, choose species that matures early. I mean the one that can mature from between 70 to 90 days from the day of planting. Do not choose the species that takes 120 days to mature. Moist the mixture of sand and manure and use to fill the container for about 4 inches deep. Cut the seed potatoes into chunks with each having eyes from which the tendril would sprout. You can plant the small ones just like that, leaving about 5-7 inch distance from one another. After growing to about 7 inches, continue to add soil until it fills the container to the top. Water the container regularly. At maturity, the stems would turn yellow. Then you stop watering and after one week, you can harvest. Harvesting is simple. Just turn the container upside down and sort the tubers through the stems.
Hydroponics on the other hand, works on the principle that when all the nutrients needed by the plants are supplied in soluble form there would be no need for soil for the plant to survive and grow.
With this technique vegetables and fruits are produced without toxins associated with chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Other benefits of hydroponics farming are that it occupies less space; it is devoid of soil borne diseases and grows plants faster. Other advantages are that they produce all year round and in a controlled environment while plants mature earlier than the soil method.
Many hydroponics farms are springing up in the cities and many families are turning to them for their green groceries.
Another method of farming that is gaining ground in the cities and urban centres is greenhouse farming. A greenhouse could be described as a building with glass sides and glass roofs in which crops can be grown in a controlled environment. It enables the farmer to protect sensitive crops from external weather conditions. It enables one to regulate the temperature and humidity of an enclosed space thereby making it possible for certain crops to grow and thrive regardless of the external weather conditions and elimination of pests. A greenhouse technology enables growing of crops such as tomatoes, pineapples, peppers and temperate crops such as cabbages, apples, blackberries, etc. in commercial quantities. It guarantees improved harvest and production yields.
Meanwhile suffice it to say that to practise this type of farming needs a lot of capital to buy the needed equipment and as well as serious training to be able to operate it profitably. Seek help where necessary.