Mrs Bello wants the government to support women farmers with extension services for trainings and information on how to improve farming and output.
Fatima Bello, 64, a nurse and a mother of four, has farms in Kebbi and Sokoto states.
An alumnus of School of Nursing and Midwifery, Sokoto and also holder of a diploma certificate in teaching, she says she wants to spend more time on her farms. In this eighth episode of our new series, Mrs Bello shares her experience as a farmer with PREMIUM TIMES.
PT: What crops do you cultivate?
Mrs Bello: I cultivate rice, millet and beans.
PT: How long have you been cultivating the crops?
Mrs Bello: About three years now.
PT: What else do you do aside farming?
Mrs Bello: I am a nurse tutor in the School of Health Technology, Gamji. I was in the School of Midwifery, Usmanu Danfodiyo Teaching Hospital, till I retired and joined a private institution. I later joined the School of Health Technology here in Sokoto.
PT: Being a nurse by profession, what really inspired you to begin farming?
Mrs Bello: Firstly, I had the opportunity of owing a land. Secondly, I was influenced by my in-law who is a long-term farmer. He is a graduate in Agric and a professional with over 40 years experience in farming. Whenever I am home, he calls to advise me to have a piece of land to cultivate rice. Then when I had the opportunity of getting a land, which I inherited from my late father, I started using the two for farming. Sadly, some women in my locality inherited farm lands too either from their husbands or their parents but they do not have the opportunity and means of farming. With women farmers associations or Cooperatives, they usually get certain assistance. When the government wants to give out inputs or palliative of any kind, they don’t give to individuals; they give to groups or associations. That inspired me to start a group to help these people so that they can have something and also start farming.
PT: So, you use your personal land for cultivation?
Mrs Bello: My land and also the land from my brother-in-law. I use my land for the beans and millet but for rice, I use my brother-in-law’s land. Although my son owns another land suitable for rice too, it is too far from my vicinity, coupled with the insecurity, herdsmen and other issues disturbing the areas.
PT: What are the sizes of the land?
Mrs Bello: The rice farm is approximately two hectares. I have two millet farms; one is one hectare while the other is three hectares.
PT: Where do you get your seeds from?
Mrs Bello: For the millet and beans, I buy them from the regular markets. But for the rice, my brother-in-law gives me some.
PT: Why did you choose to cultivate just only these three crops?
Mrs Bello: For example, groundnut grows well here but the crops I cultivate are the most common crops cultivated in the area. Sometimes, if people do not want to cultivate beans, they do alternate with groundnut. But for me, I do millet and beans on one farm and then rice on the other.
PT: Have you heard of improved seeds?
Mrs Bello: Yes I have. The millet I use is the improved one bought from the ministry of agric. My brother bought it for me from the ministry as you cannot get the improved seeds from the local markets.
PT: You cultivate about six hectares of land. Do you use machines on these farms?
Mrs Bello: Yes I use machines. I use power tillers on the rice farms, but for the millet farm I use local machines.
PT: How did you get the machines?
Mrs Bello: For the millet, when I hire labourers, they use their machines on the farm. But for the power tillers, my brother-in-law has one so I just get his operator, pay him and he uses the machine for me on my farm.
PT: Do you use your children as labourers on the farm?
Mrs Bello: I use my children on the farm but not as labourers but as supervisors.
PT: What is your average output?
Mrs Bello: My average output for rice is about 68 bags while the millet is in two forms. From the small farm I get about four sacks after deshafting the millet. From the bigger farm I get between 20 to 30 sacks.
PT: What was your startup capital?
Mrs Bello: My startup capital for rice was roughly about N500,000. For the millet, it was about N60,000 on the smaller farm while on the bigger farm it was roughly about N400,000. The startup capital for the rice is that high because it was during the dry season. You’ll have to water it, which will involve you buying pumping machine and fuel. These increase the cost of investment, which would have been lower if it was done during the raining season.
PT: How do you deal with issues concerning fertiliser?
Mrs Bello: Fertilisers are very expensive. A bag goes for about N15,000 and is presently not readily available. I gave my brother money to get for me and it took a while before he could get it as it was not given by the government.
PT: What do you do when you do not have the fertiliser?
Mrs Bello: We use the local manure which also is very expensive. This is because they know it is not always available.
PT: Do you have good roads to your farm?
Mrs Bello: The millet farm has no problem as the road is motorable during both the dry and wet season, and not too farm from the major road. But for the rice farm, during the dry season it can be accessed with vehicles. But because of the nature of the land, during the raining season you cannot access the farm with vehicles, you use motorcycles, which makes it stressful by then.
PT: Is there market for your goods?
Mrs Bello: Yes, there is market for my produce. I don’t have any problem with the market to sell my produce. Whenever I harvest and I want to sell, there are people ready to buy it off from you. Besides, we have middle men who come to buy all from us and take it to resell.
PT: How do you preserve your goods?
Mrs Bello: I have only preserved the millet. But for the rice, I always sell immediately after harvesting.