Three members of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) in Sokoto State are making the best of their service year by engaging in sheep/goat rearing; broiler, groundnuts and onion production.
The young men, Matthew Afolabi, Yusuf Owolabi and Kunle Shittu told The Guardian how they have been channelling their resources to help them earn extra income and build skills sets that could make them entrepreneurs and employers of labour in the nearest future.
Afolabi, a graduate from the Federal Polytechnic, Offa in Kwara State, who is currently serving at Tambuwal local government area of Sokoto State, said he is involved because “I got this idea from a friend who has been in Sokoto for a while.”
He was advised to purchase rams and rear them in preparation for the past Sallah festival, and he did. He bought six rams, which he started rearing while still serving.
He revealed that the cost of the rams ranged from N6,000 to N10,000 each, depending on how healthy and big they appeared.
“You have to make sure that the rams have enough food, change their water and check if they are healthy,” he explained. He also pointed out that during the last dry season, when there was no vegetation in the area, he was forced to buy formulated feeds for the animals.
“The first time I went to buy feeds, a bag cost N900 and I bought five bags, which totalled to N4500. Within a month, the rams consumed everything. So, I had to buy more bags of feed but this time, the price increased to N1,300 per bag and now N1,500 per bag. This is a challenge,” he said.
He sold each ram between N18,000 and N30,000 depending on the size. He, however, claimed that the profit margin was low because of the high cost of feeds, but was glad that the money invested was not lost.
He admitted he had never had any training on animal rearing, as this was his first experience, expressing satisfaction that he had learnt the rudiments of livestock production.
Another corps member in Sokoto, Shittu, cultivated and harvested groundnuts recently on a piece of land he leased, and is about to harvest his onions.
Shedding light on how he goes about it, he said, “Planting onions requires more attention and regular weeding and this has been very stressful, unlike groundnuts. Planting groundnuts didn’t give me much stress. After planting, I only had to weed three times before harvesting. I planted three kilos of groundnuts during the raining season and I harvested a bag of groundnut and five bags of the groundnut leaves.”
Shittu revealed that he got to know about agriculture during a Skills Acquisition and Entrepreneurship Development (SAED) programme at the NYSC camp orientation, and went on to his place of primary assignment where he requested for a small piece of land to plant groundnuts.
“After clearing the land, I made ridges and went to the market to buy groundnuts which was sold at N450 per two kilos. The outcome of that was very positive because I gained a lot of money. If I had known, I would have planted 50 kilos of groundnuts instead of three kilos,” he said.
Owolabi, who is now planning how to start a poultry farm after his service year, holds a degree in Computer Science from the Federal University of Technology, Minna.
The corps member currently rears over 150 broilers for chicken production, and is planning to expand. “I sell to people who prepare roasted chickens on the roadsides and other people that still want to eat chickens in their personal homes,” he said.
He also disclosed that he had not only earned a lot of money from the poultry production, but had learnt a lot on the business. He, however, warned about the risks associated with poultry, saying, “Poultry farming is highly profitable but the risks involved are undoubtedly many. Broilers are vulnerable to diseases and are most likely to die if proper care is not taken.”
Owolabi said the need for gainful employment creation for himself and others, and the desire to do a business that ensures a quick return on investments prompted him into the agribusiness. He also added that he got his inspiration from some of the successful men in Nigeria who engage in agriculture.
Meanwhile, Mr Bello Ballama, the NYSC FCT coordinator, had said that the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) would include farming and crop production as part of the one-year primary assignment for corps members, starting from the next service year.
“This will not only support skills acquisition of NYSC but also government’s plans of boosting agricultural production to improve self-reliance and achieve national growth and development,” ballama had said.