October 12, 2022

Agric DigestTrending

Vegetable farming can be a money spinner for any enterprising entrepreneur. Every household in Nigeria consumes one type of vegetable or the other.  There is hardly any soup made in any household, in restaurants, hotels, local joints and ‘boukas’ that will not contain a vegetable.  And when you consider the fact that Nigeria has a population estimated at 200 million people and still growing with hundreds of thousands of visitors to the country daily, you will see why demand is high, why supply is always insufficient and why the business of vegetable farming is lucrative.

If you are a school leaver, a graduate, a retiree or someone preparing to retire or you are considering a business to go into, or someone who is looking for what you earn your passive income while on your full-time job, think seriously about vegetable farming.  It is easy to start, requires little or no expertise (illiterate mothers in the villages live it), has a short cycle from planting to harvesting, and can be done on any scale that your finance can reasonably support. 

Thus, even if you start on a very small scale and you do it well, the opportunity is there for you to scale up and grow very big in a short time.

Types of Vegetables You Can Grow

Different types of vegetables are grown in Nigeria, though some are in more demand than others.  Lettuce, onions, okra, cucumber, carrots, tomatoes and pepper are some of the vegetable types that are commonly farmed in Nigeria and which are in hot demand.

A prospective investor is advised to carefully weigh the options before deciding on the type of vegetable farm to invest in. Factors to consider before you decide on the type of vegetable farm to invest in include cost requirement, market size, how fast the vegetable grows, how pests and diseases impact the type of vegetable and how easy you can learn the processes if you have no prior knowledge. Some of the various vegetable types include:

1. Fluted pumpkin – This is also known as ugwu in Igbo and ikon-ubong in Ibibio. Fluted pumpkin is mostly grown in the South East of Nigeria where it is cultivated for food and medicine.  Recently the government of Anambra State started exporting ugwu to earn foreign exchange. But most importantly, it is loved and consumed all over Nigeria and in West Africa for its rich nutrition.

As a plant, it can be grown in any part of the country because it grows even on the poorest of soil and is tolerant to drought.  The seed looks much like a cocoa pod but is much bigger, sometimes weighing up to 13 kg. Each pod can contain about 100 seeds which are also edible and can be boiled or roasted.

2. Jute Leaf –   What ugwu leaf is to the South East people of Nigeria is what Jute leaf is to the people of the South West Even though it is more consumed in Yoruba land, jute leaf is eaten in most of Nigeria.  It is called ewedu in Yoruba and Rama in Hausa.  It is a leafy greenish edible vegetable that is used to prepare the slimy soup.  This leaf is packed with essential vitamins and minerals that help to fight diseases in the body.  It will require an average water supply but rich organic soil to grow. Jute leaf can be grown in most of the country.

3. Watermelon – Most people love watermelon and like the fluted pumpkin, it can grow anywhere in Nigeria and has a short gestation period. In fact, within 90 days, one can plant and harvest watermelon for sale, thus if properly done a farmer can go up to four cycles in a year.  It is high in demand especially during the hot season because it contains a lot of water. To be successful with your watermelon farm business farmer has to ensure an adequate supply of water to the farm, weed regularly and take care of pests. 

4. Cabbage –   Cabbage looks like lettuce but it belongs to the Brassica genus of vegetables, which includes broccoli, cauliflower and kale. It is of a variety of shapes and colours including red, white, green and purple. It is a popular vegetable in Nigeria.  In Nigeria, it is majorly used to make salad and coleslaw.  It can be eaten raw and also applied to other types of dishes.

Apart from its food value, cabbage is consumed for its nutritional value because it is packed with essential vitamins and minerals. It is said to help in digestion, reduce inflammation, keep the heart healthy and help lower cholesterol levels. Cabbage can be more expensive than other vegetables and this may be due to the tedious processes it takes to grow the plant. It does not like the sun, and survives more in cold environments but must get at least six hours of sunlight every day.  Cabbage grows robustly on fertile, properly drained and manured soil.

5. Cucumber – A very high-in-demand vegetable because it is used both in food and in cosmetic and skin care making.  cucumber is used for treating skin problems and for maintaining healthy smooth skin. Thus, the market is wide as you will be selling to the consumer market as well as to the industry. Your limitation is in your ability to develop your market.

It is easy to cultivate, though it requires a substantial amount of sunlight and loves well-drained, organic-rich soil.  Cucumber is widely consumed. It can be eaten raw or added to a variety of dishes.  An investment in cucumber farming will pay back within a short time.

How to Get Started

Just as in any other business, starting a commercial vegetable farming venture requires careful planning.  In as much as it has been said that anyone can do this business, going without doing your homework properly will not achieve the desired results.  This is because vegetables are very perishable, hence are not to be shelved for long. 

If you have planned your project well, you find that your products are sold at the farm gate. If you do not have such a mass market to off-take your vegetables at the farm gate, you will have to develop and cultivate buyers like large grocery stores, supermarket chains, hotels and restaurants to whom you supply directly.

STEP 1. Decide on the type of Vegetable to Farm – The first step to starting a vegetable farm is to decide what type of vegetable farm business to invest in.  Carefully consider all the types of vegetables that are in hot demand and decide on one or two.  In deciding on what kind of farm to operate, you will consider the gestation period, the technicalities involved, your capacity to learn and cover areas you are deficient in, the market and the amount of investment capital needed.

STEP 2. Raise Money for your business – A simple feasibility study or business plan will enable you to gauge how much you will need to start your farm.  In any case, the amount of initial capital you need to invest will depend on the scale of operation you want to engage in. 
However, with a starting capital of NGN100,000 one can start a small-scale vegetable farm assuming one already has land for cultivation. So, this estimate is exclusive of the cost of land.  This will cover the cost of buying seedlings, pesticides, labour and initial administrative costs. 

STEP 3. Select your Site – You will spend much less if your farm is located in a remote village where a plot of land can be obtained at a cheaper price. However, as a starter, I advise you get a lease of land to test run the enterprise and build your market base before buying land.  But in choosing your location you have to consider several things including nearness to your market, road network and most importantly, soil attributes.  Most vegetables grow best in loamy soil and humus soil because they contain high nutrients that help vegetables to grow fast.

STEP 4. Prepare your site for planting – This will involve clearing the land, applying organic manure and other things that are required to be done in preparation for planting. Your manure should be applied two weeks before planting and if you are using fertilizer, apply it a month after your plant has germinated. Talking about fertilizer, urea which is a nitrogenous fertilizer is better for most vegetables, particularly, fluted pumpkin because it promotes the growth of the leaves.

STEP 5. Source and Prepare Your Seed – A major factor that will account for the success or otherwise of your farm is the quality of the seed that you plant. So, ensure you buy your seed from the right source which can be other farmers around you, or reputable agro-based companies as this will define the expected output of production. Good inputs will produce a good output/yield and vice versa.

STEP 6. Planting – Different vegetable types have different planting rules.  Take some time to educate yourself on what applies to the seed of your interest.  For example, the ideal time to plant Fluted pumpkin is between April and May as the plants do well in such rainy conditions and the seeds will begin to germinate within one or two weeks. Weeding should also be taken seriously to ensure that your growing plants constantly take in water and vital nutrients. 

STEP 7. Harvesting – You can start harvesting your vegetables in as short a time as 30 days, for some others harvesting can start 60 days after planting.

Vegetable farming is a lucrative venture.  The demand is high and supply has remained inadequate even though vegetables may be all around us.

However, you must be aware of some of the challenges that you will face and find a way to mitigate these challenges.  The first is glut which happens in a period of too much supply, particularly when families are harvesting from their gardens and have less need to buy from the open market.  During such a period, prices do come down and this means less profit for commercial farmers.

Another problem is that in Nigeria, we have not been able to develop a standard way of preserving perishable farm produce like vegetables.  So farmers who do not sell their produce on time will have to give them away at ridiculous prices or have them wasted.  This is the reason you have to develop a market for your vegetables beyond the general open market so that you supply to ready buyers straight from the farm.  This way you avoid the challenge of preservation.


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