Blessing Iwuofor leases land to plant and uses manual labour to process her produce for the market.
Blessing Iwuofor, doubles as a farmer and an agriprenurer in Abuja, but leases land in the neighbouring Nasarawa State for her farming. She is a graduate of Economics.
She cultivates maize and produces beans and plantain flour. In this episode of our Women in Agriculture, Ms Iwuofor shares her experience.
PT: Can you put us through your journey in Agriculture?
Iwuofor: I never had any interest in farming as a child, but during my service year in 2012, I leased a farm where I cultivated yam, groundnut and maize. I had 500 heaps of yam but it was late planting. After my service year, I did not continue, I was hoping to get a white collar job but it wasn’t coming so I went into food processing. I will say my journey is still short, but it started for my quest to go into agro processing. My desire to add value to agricultural products got me into becoming a farmer but not the traditional way of becoming a farmer.
I produce plantain, beans and grains I have converted them into flour like cereals for shallows. I package garri. Then other healthy meals for pregnant women, babies and children.
I hope to begin other products over time, currently I will not be able to do so. I also cultivate maize and rice.
PT: Looking at certain policies or assistance that comes from the government, they basically require that each farmer belongs to an association, do you belong to any association?
Ms Iwuofor: Yes, I belong to the Community Allied Farmers Association of Nigeria and Nigeria Women Agro Allied Farmers Association. As an agri-based association, they help to source funds for members. They also help women farmers get land. They help women farmers lease land, through cluster farming. The heads of the association often go out to source for land. They look out for communities with large expanses of land. The farmers pay, you pay per hectare. Once the farming season is over, it’s either you renew the deal or take your hands off it.
PT: How do you think this method of cluster farming for women farmers has affected productivity?
Ms Iwuofor: It has positively affected our productivity. If not for the method introduced by the association, most of us will not have access to what we have now. For someone like me, I don’t know anyone here, so how will I own land in Nasarawa? If not for the association I will not be able to own lands like here. With them, it makes it easier for women to have access to land.
PT: The location of this land is pretty far from your base, how do you care for the crops? Do you also use machines on them?
Ms Iwuofor: Well we use tractors,we do the planting manually or hire people to do it. Some part of the activities will be done with machines. We pay heavily for these machines. We pay per hectare, there is no fixed amount. We also pay labourers per hectare too.
PT: How are you able to manage yourself as a young woman in agriculture, what does it feel like?
Ms Iwuofor: Farming has gone beyond the traditional methods like I said earlier. Now people farm in clusters, it makes it easier, your presence might not be needed daily on the farm. With cluster, the farm visitation is divided into groups, so in a month you may only visit once or twice. You will see that it has helped you reduce the stress of farming. What we do is that, we have someone who takes care of the farm ( an indigene of this community).
PT: Tell us about your processing firm, how are you able to get raw materials for the produce?
Ms Iwuofor: I buy from the market, for the plantain, I buy from the farmers. In terms of funding, I fund it with my money. I started with my savings. I started in 2019. I don’t have the machines I need. I outsource, I don’t have a dehydrating machine so I sun dry. I have to sit and watch the materials because I am conscious of what I give out to the public. It takes my whole time because each time I have to sun-dry, I don’t go out or do anything else. After drying, I ground it. But I have to come back and sieve it. This is very tedious. I have a scaling machine to measure the weight.
PT: Do you employ people for the processing like you do for farming?
Ms Iwuofor: Yes I employ people, for peeling of plantain because it is very stressful, I pay them based on the hourly wage. Sometimes I do two or three because I join them. But I package the products.
PT: Have you failed in any of the business?
Ms Iwuofor: I would say yes, I have failed. In fact, last year I lost everything I cultivated, the person in charge of the crops didn’t take proper care of them . In the processing I have also lost.
PT: What will you say are your basic challenges that the government can solve?
Ms Iwuofor: I need funds, without it I won’t go far. I need to buy necessary equipment.
Source: Premium Times