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Land For Farming

Quoting  the  latest  statistics  from  the National Bureau of Statistics, the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi said the nation’s unemployment rate has doubled in the last five years to hit the red-button zone.

Sanusi said: “Unemployment rate in 2011 was 29.3 per cent. This means that it has doubled since the last five years. Unemployment in Yobe is 60.6 per cent; Kano is 67 per cent, which explains why a trip to Kano introduces you to a sea of loafers, without work”.

In Nigeria, the unemployment rate measures the number of people actively looking for a job as a percentage of the labour force.

Yet, despite this nasty statistic, there exists at least one million hectares of government owned farmlands available for farming in remote villages across Nigeria.

These farmlands are already being given out to local and foreign investors at very cheap rates. The farmlands are being managed by the River Basin Development Authorities, Agricultural Development Projects (ADPs) and farm settlement schemes. They are being leased at about N1, 000 per hectare for a period of about eight months.

Mr.  African-farmer  Mogaji,  Chief  Executive Officer, Xray Farms Consulting, is one man who has benefitted from this unique opportunity for over a decade.

He says, “I changed my name from Afi-Oluwa Mogajji to African-farmer Mogajji in 2005, legally published, and it reflected in all my documents. I started my agricultural journey over 16 years ago, and I stayed in the business on a small and medium scale in 1996, with Ogun/Osun River Basin Authority operating in Lagos.

“I was growing corn and vegetables (Ewedu and the likes). I had also stepped into bee keeping in  year  2000,  when  I  won  NYSC  Award  for introducing bee keeping into Jigawa State and funding it successfully. Then in 2002, I farmed quite extensively, using the Ogun/Osun project in five states. I have used land as much as 250 acres”.

He  adds  that  virtually  all  states  in  the federation have lands cleared for farming, and that  majority  of  the  lands  are  owned  by  the Federal Government and some by state and local governments.

Mogaji says, “These lands can be utilized by anyone –  whether  foreigners or Nigerians, because they are not being used, so the (River Basin) management embraces whoever shows up. Payment is by ‘Pay As You Go’, like using telephone recharge cards.


“Many Nigerians do not even know these lands are available, and when they do they are not keen on doing businesses in such remote places.”


Process Of Getting The Land

Mogaji says, “You just need to get there, tell them you want land – there are cleared areas, and if the area you want has not been occupied, you pay your money. They ask you what you want to plant, you fill a form; and if it is not late in the day, they take you to the land, and that is the end, after issuing a receipt to you”.

Mr.  Abiodun  Olorundero,  Director,  Abiodun Farms, Lagos and Oke-Odan, Ogun State, is another  beneficiary  of  the  scheme.  He  says, “Getting the land is a very simple process. What I did was that I headed straight to the Ogun/Osun River Basin in Abeokuta; from there I was told that there are two major sites in the state – one at Oke- Odan and the other in Mokoloki. Then, I had to choose Oke-Odan, because it was closer to me. I got there, met the project manager, and asked him one or two questions about getting the land; and I got my allocation, with a token of N2,500 for one hectare – which is 2½ acres.”


Mr. Seun Onamade, another farmer under the scheme says, “Just meet the man in charge in the person of Mr. Aare in Itiokin Farm Settlement. You have to notify him on what you want, because they have different areas for planting different crops. It just depends on what you want to plant. Further procedure is that you are charged N2,500 per hectare, and  for  harrowing  and  ploughing.

Ploughing is the first stage, which entails clearing the land. For these extra works, you pay N5,000 for 20 litres of diesel per hectare, mainly for fueling the tractors. Though, if you can provide the diesel yourself, it is ok. The joy of it is that you can get the lands just a day after going through the process”.


Where are the lands?

Mogaji  adds,  “There  are  project  sites  in different states. In Lagos State, we have the project sites (about 500 acres), in Ogun State, they have in four locations, and in each of the locations, they have 100, 250, 300 acres and so on. They have in Oyo State, which is very large in four or five locations, with as much as 5,000 acres. They also have in Osun State, with 800 Acres. They have it in different states like that, so you choose which one is closest to you, or the one you like, based on what you want to do. For instance, I moved to Iseyin from Lagos; because Lagos was getting too choked up for me, and I was able to use 250 acres. From there, I moved to Sepeteri – I have been moving”.



Requirements To Meet

Mogaji says  there  are no  requirements. “Though, they will ask you if you have farmed before, they are not concerned with that, you want land and they will give you. So, it is as simple as that.  The  usage  of  the  land  depends  on  the available   spot   per   time.  Your   payment is renewable, so as long as you are really utilizing the land, you may be allowed to use the land for 40 years provided you are paying yearly, if not they will allocate it to someone else – you can’t just hold the land without using it”, he says.

Olorundero says,  “There are  no serious requirements like that. Basically, because of the high demand for land around here, you might not get allocation for more than one or two hectares of land for a start, and you must strictly plant annual crops  such  as  cucumber,  tomatoes,  maize, cassava, among others”.

Onamade says, “All you need to do is show seriousness and your genuineness. They need to notice that in you, before allocating the land to you. There are so many people that will just come and make enquiries and go without coming back. But, with your seriousness, they will work with you. Also, their own way of doing things is that they won’t want you to pay and go away – they want you as  the  farmer  to  be  on  ground  as  much  as possible”.


Price Of The Land

Mogaji says, “We have one part of the land called up-land, in the high areas; for this, you have to pay N2,500. It used to be N1,000 (for over 30 years) up till early last year, before they increased it. For 2½ acres, which is equivalent to one football field – or 15 plots of land – you pay this amount for a year.


When To Plant

Mogaji says, “You can’t plant anything from October; it is basically from February or March till October. This is because it is in February you take your decision and plan; and when one or two rains fall in March, you start preparation.



Policy Change That Opened Up The Land To Private Farmers

Mogaji says, “People didn’t have money to buy bulldozers  to  clear  the  land.  So,  government bought and cleared these lands. Before then, the River Basin Authorities were initially producing rice, cassava and garri massively, with different equipment to fry and process cassava to fufu; thus, making sure food was readily available. But, as you know how government policies work: along the line policy changed… that they should not produce again, but face water (Irrigation). So, they introduced the policy that farmers can come in to rent those lands, while they will be providing water and all other equipment, which are on ground. Every year, they add new equipment. So, they are just providing  a  platform where  people,  or interested farmers come and they make farming easy”.


Period Of Usage

He says one can use the land for 100 years (and more). “It depends on you. It doesn’t have a limit. You determine that, in the sense that: if you are not farming on it after a year, they take it from you, to be allocated to someone else. You are renting”.



Mogaji says, there are no challenges that can crop up. “In this same Nigeria that people are complaining, nothing of such has been happening on those lands, which I have been using for 16 good years in four different states – Osun, Ogun, Oyo and Lagos; and I have used four locations in three states. There is nothing like “Omo-Onile” or hoodlums called “Area boys”; rather the lands are just crying for people to use them. For instance, there was a location in Oyo State called Igbo-jaiye.

It was over 4,000 hectares, about 10,000 acres all cleared, and people were farming in every corner of it. But now, 50 per cent of the land has been occupied with trees, because of non-usage. I have operated on a location in Oyo State that is about 11,000  acres. The  lands  are  there.  I  asked  a question in 1996, when I was about starting, and that was what triggered me. The question was, “When Awolowo, Azikwe and Tafawa Balewa died, did they take the lands along with them?” “No! Then we have agricultural revolution. It means the lands were just lying fallow”, he says.

Olorundero says, “The challenge is that if you have to engage in irrigation yourself, it is very expensive   because   government   support is lacking. Like I heard, those that did the irrigation say it cost them about N41,000. This covers the

cost of renting of the land, ploughing twice and it covers the cost of irrigation for the next six months. There has never been an issue of “Area boy or Omo-Onile” disturbing or invading the land. The crops are save, no issue of theft, harassment and no violence”.

Onamade says, “Everything in life is a risk. The challenges that crop up are those associated with fluctuation in the two seasons we have  –  but  mainly  the  raining season. There are times you expect rain, and it ceases. Let’s take for instance, early this year when it was raining; one would say the rain should not have started… All those weather changes affect farming. But when you are working with a professional body – having someone to advise you on what to do – I think you will be exposed. The only challenge is just the weather. There is nothing like Area boys or Omo- Onile invading the government lands”.


Why Nigerians Are Not Looking In That Direction?

Mogaji  says  many  people  are  discouraged because of the challenges. “You don’t blame them; the  terrain  is  very  rough. You  need  fertilizers, chemicals  and  the  likes,  and  they  may  be adulterated. Adverse weather can show up and wipe the farm out and get people discouraged. Market is also part of it. There are dynamics to agriculture. You need to learn it, or hold on to someone who knows the industry, before you step into it. But it is a good industry. I have used the irrigated project site in Jigawa. It is about 20,000 Hectares, where tomatoes are grown”, he says.


Getting Farm Workers

Mogaji says, “To get Nigerian farm workers is very  difficult,  except  for  minor  operations  – spraying  and  planting.  But  the  hard  core  – weeding,  you  don’t  find  them. There are lots of foreigners now that come in to do the job. They get legal papers to work yearly, and in the North where I have farmed, you have people coming from neighbouring  villages  during  the dry season to work. So, labour is a challenge; and at the same time not a challenge – if you plan before you   start it,   you   won’t   have problem. For instance, labour is scarce everywhere, however, when you know you are planting – during your planning, you give two weeks.

Let’s say you are planting on the 10th of December, and you have been making that plan since October  or  November.  So,  you already know that planting on the 10th of December will attract the first  weeding  in  the  next  two weeks. So, you have to be intimating different labour groups (labourers) that can help you”.

Olorundero says, “Farm workers are readily available. Like my house where I farm, I do get labourers around there, since they don’t go to school – all they do basically is farm work. They are waiting for you for weeding, and when it is time to spray,  they  are  there  to  help  you  apply  your fertilizer. What you need to do is to negotiate on the price, because they charge per hectare as well. I am about a year into the business with these project sites allocated by government”.

Onamade says, “There are many farm workers in this area I am talking about. So many people are on ground for weeding, spraying and other things.”

How Secure The Farm?

Mogaji  says,  “In  my  sixteen  years  in  four locations of three states, I have not heard of theft. I have been on it full time, since year 2002. It is even more secure, because the lands are allocated to different people, and at every point in time, there will be somebody on the farm. So, it is easy to identify strangers.

“Apart from that, agricultural products are bulky; you cannot, for example,  go and harvest 20 baskets of tomatoes in the night with torch light. It is difficult, you have to bring a car, and you can’t harvest it alone. Even in Lagos where you expect such things, it doesn’t happen, because there is always  somebody  on  the  farm  –  labourers  or others.  So,  there  is  always  movement  –  the security is somehow tight”.

Onamade says, “The truth is that we can say there isn’t any security challenge. But there might be some little passers-by who may want to steal. But they are very few and scanty. That is not a challenge at all”.

Crops That Grow Fast

Mogaji says there are crops that mature within three months, such as green pepper, water melon, cucumber and tomatoes. “The crop we know as ‘rodo’ takes longer time, but it’s a secure crop, and you can harvest it for five good months – every week or at a two week interval. I have spoken about corn and the basic vegetables – (‘ewedu’, ‘soko’, ‘tete’, okro}and other basic daily foods that we eat. These can grow on the land”

He  adds,  however,  that  different  lands  can accommodate different crops, depending on the location. “Take for instance Lagos type of land, which is mildly salty during the dry season. When it is raining, it neutralizes the salt. In the dry season, the saltiness, causes flower abortion.

Selling The Crops

Olorundero says, “I didn’t plant tomatoes, but I deal with cucumber, maize and cassava. For the maize, my major markets are poultry and feed mills. I would have negotiated with them after the harvest and the drying. The markets are readily there for all other crops”.

Mogaji goes on a discourse, and says, “I am a bit different, because I have burnt my hands, and so I know how not to let you burn your own hands. I will take tomatoes as a study. Everybody farms when everyone else is farming – that is a wrong mind-set. I mostly do my farming during the rainy season, when I project that there is going to be scarcity. If otherwise – not projecting that there is going to be scarcity – I plant during the dry season when  98  percent  of  the  farmers  cannot  plant because there is no rain.

There is a method that you will use to plant. Take for instance, you want to plant two and half acres of tomatoes in the dry season, there is a principle {not in any University textbook  used  by  graduates  of  agriculture}that local people know as the 2-2-2 principle. You divide the two and half acres into three and farm in each for two weeks. Weather will destroy one, leaving two.

The second will bring more money and the third will bring the most return. So, if it affects the first  and  second,  the  third  one  will  hit  sales, because there will be scarcity of tomatoes. If you don’t know these things, you just go and produce, there may be problem”.

On how he sells the crops, he says, “There is a period of the day that your product must get to the market to get the highest price, and there is a time to harvest it to make the product still fresh. These are the dynamics a lot of people don’t know before they harvest. You should also be watchful as a dynamic farmer, because when the sun is shining during the dry season, crops mature at least one week. There is an art to marketing, harvesting, production, planting, and even transportation.

“Let me cite an example. There was a year I planted about 50 acres of corn with irrigation, knowing that there was no corn in the market. I used to produce in Epe, but I went to Iseyin. I produced and it was ready and I knew there was market in L agos. The corn came out second week in January, when it should have been hot cake, but when I brought it to the market, it was another story entirely.

Customers  were  saying  I  have  been diabolical in producing the corn too early. They were asking, “Where will you find corn in January?” The earliest you can find corn is March. So, we had a problem with the sale. They didn’t buy, and we had to allow it to dry; but it was a loss, because we used money on diesel to pump water.

“It is these same people that buy about 15 trailers, brought into the same market everyday, and  it  is  not  even  enough;  but  this  time,  you brought a bus load, and they said no. These are the market dynamics which you should know before you produce or harvest. Sometimes, you need to prepare the minds of the buyer weeks before you bring in the product. We also targeted the wrong market. There is a market that if we had taken it to, they would have jumped over their heads to buy. So, there is a dynamic to it that people don’t know”.

Onamade says, “I plant cucumber and water melon. Selling these crops varies, and transportation tends to be the major issue in this lucrative business. So, when your crops are ready, move them to the market you want. The major market,  as  far  as  I’m  concerned  in  this  our environment is still Mile 12. Most people patronize it very well.

If you don’t mind, you can do your little feasibility study before the harvest, and I think it will help. Go to the market, know the price they buy, how they sell – the price they sell per dozen. Based on my own experience in cucumber, or let me use water melon, you know they are in balls, and it varies in sizes with different prices”.

How  Can  Farmers  Get Agro  Information Resources?

Mogaji says, “There are two types of farmers – the real farmers and the investors. You studied agriculture doesn’t make you a farmer. You are not an agriculturist until you begin the practice. The rural farmers know what to do, but they don’t have the resources to expand, and sometimes they get boxed-up in what they know, when they are not open to innovation and technology.

The whole thing has  to  do  with  training  and  making  the  right information available. These days, people teach for money, not to empower and set people free. Most seminars you have on agriculture are taught so that people can come back for consultancy and lots more. Dr. Ojeagbase is doing something – training people to be independent and the more they are standing alone, the more he is growing bigger.

Some people hoard vital information. Ability to rub minds  and  share  information  as  farmers  is important – planting the same crop should not be the problem, there are markets for everybody, and we are not planting on the same farm. Thinking you are the only custodian of knowledge in agriculture is a wrong mindset”.

How Lucrative Is The Business?

Olorundero says, “I don’t have another thing I do right now – that is the regular job I do for now. I will tell you that you could get at least 50 to 70 per cent returns on your investment. Using myself as a study now, within the period of about 5 to 6 months, I actually processed dry maize, because it has more value than fresh maize for the poultry birds.

On the average, you get about six tones of maize on your farm after harvesting. In the worst case scenario, you will sell for N50 per kilo – that is N50,000 per tone. If you do the calculation, you get N50,000 multiplied  by  6  tones,  and  you  would  have expended about N160,000 on one hectare. The markets are readily available once the maize is dry”.

Onamade says, “It is highly lucrative, and can more than feed a family. Do all that needs to be done perfectly, and at the right time. There are seasons for everything, and if you can work with the season  steadily,  applying  irrigation  and  all  the necessary fertilizers, I think and I know you will not regret the venture.  I am very sure about that”.

Advice For New Entrants

Mogaji advises that before one starts farming, the person should first ask himself if he can cope. “Ask yourself, ‘is this a terrain for me?’’’ We have production, marketing and chemical supply. So, before you step in, ask yourself how long you can spare within the months that the crops need to mature? You may partner with somebody, and both of you will put the money down, and share returns on agreed times and terms.

There is also this saying in agriculture which has proven to be true in my 16 years experience. It says, “If you want to make  little  money  in  agriculture,  start  big…”  It means, if you want big money, start small.

He continues, “Apart from that, look for a mentor, or an adviser who understands the terrain. You are also advised to source your inputs from reputable agro dealers, and be willing to learn – not just putting  your  money,  and  not  yourself  in  the business. For instance, I started my project by learning as a labourer – I worked with labourers. I didn’t have to, but I knew they know more.

So, when I was posted during my IT, there was no space, and I told the man I would work for free. The man was a farmer under Ogun/Osun. I was feeding myself, no light, no water; and I went to do everything with the labourers, acquiring knowledge from them”.before that time. When it is time for the weeding, you would have one of the groups you have been talking to for almost a month before the planting. So, labour is available for the person that can plan for farming”.

Olorundero says, “Farming may be a little bit tedious in the sense that it is capital intensive. My advice is that you must have a fund before going into it. Though, the lands are actually cheap and available for you to farm, you need the fund and knowledge. You might not even have the fund, but the knowledge is very important because without that, you can burn your finger.

You must also make sure you are available at your farm, especially when operation works are going to be done – such as weeding, fertilizer application and planting, even to see that your resources are well utilized. This is because sometimes your labourers might want to play funny”.


Confirmation From The Ogun/Osun River Basin Authority

A senior officer in the Ogun/Osun River Basin Development Authority  OORBDA,  who  pleaded anonymity says, “Get to Abeokuta (the River Basin office, at Alabata Road); there they ask questions about you, and where you want the land, e.g., do you want it at Ikorodu (Lagos State), or at Osun State. At Abeokuta the person gets the form, and gets the details of available lands.”

The official confirms that there are available hectares of land at Ikorodu. “So when the person gets to the Head Office, the person that will give out required information is the Executive Director of Service. The lands are there for people that want to plant. We have lands, so when the person gets there, he should just tell them where he or she wants it, and the purpose. We have available lands in Osun, Ogun, Oyo, and Lagos. There are no problems in getting those lands, except for the person to fill a form, where he will be required to give his necessary data. Then he or she is allocated the land,” he says.

“The  Ogun/Osun  River  Basin  is  primarily covering Lagos, Ogun, Oyo and Osun States, and there are other River Basins that cover other parts of the country, and people can also get lands there,” the official says.


Note: This article first published in 2014.



The  Ogon  Osun  River  Basin  Development Authority  can  be  contacted  at  the  following addresses:

OORBDA, Ikeja Area Office, Agidingbi, Opp. Coca-cola Factory, Alausa, Ikeja, Lagos State.

OORBDA, Ibadan Area Office, Oyetibo Street, Behind High Court Building, Ring   Road,  Ibadan,   Oyo   State.   Tel: 08033224278

Apart from OORBDA, there are 12 other River Basin Development Authorities in Nigeria. More information on them can be gotten from the various liaison  offices  of  the  Federal  Ministry  of  Water Resources and Rural Development.

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