By Agropreneur Nigeria - Associate of The Unknown Nigeria
Ezedike Fredrick is a “northern farmer” from Imo State. He is a graduate of Pure and Applied Physics from Lodoke Akintola University (LAUTECH) Fredrick’s interest in agribusiness developed during his youth service year when his students became his friends. They took him to their various farms after school hours and enlightened him about the business of agriculture. He was encouraged to buy bags of onions for storage and make extra money apart from his NYSC allawe. Unfortunately, the onions spoilt but He did not give up! In fact, the situation triggered him to have a better interest in farming. Today, he is an onion, garlic and tomato farmer and CEO of Sawah Farms based in Sokoto state, Nigeria. Fredrick is our Young Agropreneur of the Month!
My name is Ezedike Fredrick. I hail from Nwagele Local Government Area, Imo State. I had my primary and secondary school education in Lagos, so I will say I was born and brought up in Lagos State. I studied Pure and Applied Physics from Lodoke Akintola University (LAUTECH). Great Lado-ki-te!
How did you develop the interest in Agriculture and when did you consider it as a business to venture into?
My interest in agriculture developed during youth service year in Wurno Local Government Area, Sokoto State. I was posted to a school and my first new friends were the students I taught Physics, my new friends enlightened me about farming by taking me to their individual farms. They encouraged me to buy bags of onions for storage and make extra money apart from the NYSC allawe – assuring me that within few months, before my passing out parade day I would make huge returns. Unfortunately, the onions spoilt but I did not give up! In fact, the situation triggered me to be very interested in farming. This is because I wanted to know what caused the spoilage of my onions.
What aspect of Agriculture do you practice?
When service year ended, I travelled back home to Lagos but before I did, I bought a cow with the little money I had and left the cow in Wurno with one of my friends because I knew I was still going to travel back. I worked in Lagos for some time hoping to get funds and go back to farming, but it did not work out as planned.
In March 2015, I resigned from the teaching job I got in Lagos and went back to Sokoto to learn about farming- with no money and no plan of how I was going to get accommodation. The only source of getting income was the cow I bought and left behind after youth service. Also, Language (Hausa) was another barrier but I moved around with my young friends, and volunteered to take free English lessons, this made me popular with other people around. I learnt the Hausa language and was able to communicate well with people about my wants and as God will do it a lot of people gave me advice on what to get and how to start farming. I presently specialize in the area of onions, garlic, and tomatoes farming.
Can you tell us the challenges you faced while starting up?
My main challenge while starting up with agribusiness in the northern part of Nigeria was having to call the names of chemicals used in farming in the local language (Hausa) and not in English. Also in the area of nursery development, the rain was a major factor that destroyed the seed beds while growing up.
What societal problem are you experiencing, and what measures have you implemented to curb it?
The major societal problem that affects my business directly is the inability to get people that are educated technology wise. Also, communication is very much needed in farming – most of the rural farmers don’t have a means of communication talk less of knowing how to operate a phone. I buy phones and give to some farmers I work with, I also teach them how to operate it – so as to ease our work as a team.
What do you think about youth participation in Agriculture? Do you think funding is a major challenge for youths?
I believe if the youths participate in agriculture like the way they do in the entertainment industry, Nigeria’s economy will grow. For now youth participation is still not impactful. Youths should be aware of what they are getting into- before thinking of how to fund it. In an area where a fund is available and a youth is not enlightened about what to farm- of what use is such fund! Funding is not the only challenge. Youths should show seriousness, commitment, zeal and passion for farming.
What advice do you have for young people still thinking of going into agriculture?
My advice to the young people thinking of going into agriculture is that they should first forget about making a quick profit. ‘First know what you are getting into because it is not a course but a life experience’ so be ready to be hard working.
What do you think the government should put in place to improve the agricultural sector in Nigeria?
The government should farm directly. They have hectares all over Nigeria, let them get involved and see what farmers go through in terms of getting inputs like chemicals, seeds, and fertilizer. They should subsidize inputs and encourage farmers to expand their agribusiness. They should also concentrate on areas known for the production of certain food crops in the past and find out why it is no more as productive as it was then –this will help them have an appropriate solution to solve such a problem.
Ezedike Fredrick – CEO, Sawah Farms