Also from GAN

Zim farmers making progress in Nigeria
Wed, 11 Feb 2009 10:02
Jaco Maritz

Graham Hatty with one of his cassava plants on the farm in Kwara State.
Young cows from South Africa arriving at Ilorin Airport. A group of the Zimbabwean farmers will use the cows for dairy production.

In January 2008 TradeInvestNigeria published an interview with Graham and Judy Hatty who, together with a group of other Zimbabwean farmers, had been invited by the Kwara State Government to start with commercial agriculture in Nigeria. The article proved to be one of our most popular stories. Now, one year later we again talk to Graham to find out what happened over the past twelve months.

What would you say were the highlights of 2008 with regards to the farming operation?

The highlight for me was starting to sell my cassava. I am presently selling 60+ tonnes of fresh cassava tuber per day! The second highlight was the agreement between the farmers and the Federal Government regarding the installation of irrigation to all the Shonga farmers.

And the disappointments?

A big disappointment for me was the slow start to the cassava selling. We should have sold a lot more cassava than we have at this point in time. However, the situation has been addressed, but the delays have cost me dearly. The other disappointment has been delays in availability of funds, necessary for me to finish my development. We are also disappointed in the delay in the installation of electricity. Generators cost a lot to run!

Did you witness any significant growth in Nigeria’s agriculture sector over the past year?

I wouldn't say that the growth has been significant. I would say that it has been slow and steady. Recently, we visited the other group of Zimbabwean farmers in Nasarawa State. Some of them are working hard and two farmers are putting in a cassava flour mill, which is a very significant development. More commercial farmers are needed - thousands more!! I do think that Nigeria is becoming more agriculturally aware. There are still huge shortages of agricultural products. For example, Nigeria imports 700,000 tonnes of fish per year! This could all be produced locally.

When we last met you said that you had problems with adequate electricity supply and irrigation at the farm. Has the situation been resolved yet?

Electrical poles have been erected in Shonga and some are on the farms. We should have electricity by the end of 2009. All Shonga farmers have been visited and have put their irrigation requirements forward. A South African water engineer is working closely with the governor of Kwara State and other Nigerian consultants and engineers - to ensure that the Shonga irrigation project becomes a reality in 2009.

What are the main challenges you still face in operating in Nigeria?

Our main challenge is the lack of understanding, particularly by commercial banks, of long term, medium term and short term finance. Our other challenges include lack of reliable transport systems and lack of spares/poor back up service for our equipment and vehicles.

Last year this time you were struggling to find suitable transport for your cassava to processing facilities. Has the situation changed?

We have addressed the transport problems for my cassava crop, thanks to assistance from the buyer of our product - Nigerian Starch Mills. However, we still urgently need processing factories in Kwara State. Preferably in our area.

The viability of transporting crops long distances on, sometimes, very bad roads - is not really a long term option. I am doing it at the moment, but the buyer of my crop will be putting up a processing factory in the near future, which will make cassava production more viable and easier to manage. No factories have been installed, as yet.

Any interesting developments on the farms of the other Zimbabweans?

The dairy syndicate have made great progress this year. The cows arrived from South Africa earlier in the year and the processing plant is up and running. Marketing of their products is a problem at the moment, but they are working tirelessly on this aspect.

The poultry syndicate are also working very hard to install their feed mill, abattoir and climatically controlled chicken houses. Significant progress has been made and the first broiler chicks are expected within a few months.

The crop farmers have imported some combine harvesters, have planted a bigger hectarage of crops and have had better yields this year. However, maize yields are the same as last year. Crops grown in 2008 include - maize, soya beans, rice, cow peas, bananas, ginger and pineapples.

One of the cassava growers is putting in a factory to make fufu from cassava. (Fufu is a fermented cassava meal).

Any other interesting incidents or stories that happened on the farm over the past year?

We are working with the local Emir, to establish a security system, to control the theft of crops, and to protect residents of the farming project and local villagers. This is the start of the whole community (farmers and locals alike) working together.

Nothing too exciting to report on the social side because we are all so very busy, all the time! We've had some interesting visitors from overseas and from Africa - and journalists are always very intrigued as to what we are doing. Basically it's work, work, work! Once our projects are developed, we can start doing entertaining things!

What are you hoping 2009 will bring?

Irrigation!!! With irrigation, my cassava yields should double! I cannot wait to turn the tap on my first centre pivot! I am also hoping to develop the new cassava varieties that I've had on trial for two years. I want to invent (with the help of my engineering colleagues) a cassava forage harvester. I have bought a regular forage harvester and now need to adapt it to cope with the huge vegetative mass that stems from cassava tubers.

  • Read the original interview with Graham and Judy Hatty