‘I Want To Make Young People Love Farming’
Mrs. Josephine Kachikwu is the operator of the biggest pig farm in Delta State. The lawyer-cum-farmer wants to endear young people to farming since white-collar jobs are scarce. In this interview with ODITA SUNDAY, the Chief farmer at Joedaca Farms also seeks government support for expansion of her pig and cassava farms in the state. How did you venture into pig farming?
I went into the business of pig farming because a friend who is in the business encouraged me to do it. Aside my profession as a lawyer, I love farming. It came out in my examination then at Law school that the only thing a practicing lawyer is allowed to do alongside the profession is farming. That is why I went into farming. I saw myself doing it and I am enjoying it. I do it side by side with politics. I enjoy what I am seeing in my farm now, and God is doing wonders.
How many pigs do you have in your piggery?
I started with 180 pigs, 100 piglets, 30 fowls and 50 boars and before I knew it, my pigs were going to 1,000. Today, what I have in the farm in Onicha-Ugbo is about 2,000. There was a time the Commissioner for Poverty Alleviation came in conjunction with representatives of the Central Bank of Nigeria and other banks along with some government officials to see what I was doing. And the commissioner then who was from my town, when she came, she hugged me and commended me saying she has gone round the whole state and my farm is the neatest and the most well-organized piggery farm. After that, some banks have been coming to see me to find out what we can do together. At that stage, I told them I went to do it alone for some time and see where I can take it.
Have you received any form of encouragement from the government?
For now, I have not received any form of encouragement from the government but I know it would come as time goes on. The Speaker of Delta State House of Assembly has also visited the farm; he was astonished during his visit. They promised to encourage us and also send some students on Industrial Training (IT) to my farm for me to train them. Over the years, they buy pigs from me to encourage and empower the students who want to establish their own farms.
What triggered this vision of pig farming?
I ventured into farming because I want to teach the youths in this state that as an educated person, hard work pays. Pig farming is encouraging because it promotes food for all. I love hard work because when I was younger, I sold all kinds of things in order to support my parents. My children have taken after my footsteps because they know I don’t play with hard work and I love to keep myself busy. I don’t have time to visit or roam around with friends. My mother was a businessperson too and I helped her a lot, not knowing that I was helping myself.
My passion is to encourage people to be hardworking. It is only through hard work that you can make it in life. You can’t seat idle and make it. Even in the Bible, it is clearly stated that there is no food for a lazy man. The Bible also encourages us to go and till the land. For now, I have 25 plots of land housing cassava plantation.
I trust this present government would encourage farmers. A few days ago, I called the Commissioner of Agriculture because I saw what he wrote in one of the newspapers where he promised to bring some new varieties of cassava. The commissioner should encourage us by sending buyers within the state to buy from us instead of buying outside the state. I have another piece of land, about four plots, where I planted banana. I also have plantain plantation.
What level of encouragement have you received from your family in this business?
One of my children in United States of America visited Nigeria and was in my farm. She said to me: “Mummy, when will you rest?” And I told her that what one learnt from childhood can never be taken away. They encourage me morally, financially and in other ways. A major part of the finance for my farm is from the family. During the stakeholders’ meeting with the farmers in Delta State, the commissioner introduced my farm as the biggest in the state. For that reason, I don’t want to relax. I was impressed by that particular commendation.
The commissioner asked if I had room for expansion and I said I do. Soon, I would commence meat processing. My plans are to build more piggeries before I commence meat-processing plant. I am thinking of going to Europe to source for a butcher who would come down and train some of our youths on how to butcher. We have a future plan of repackaging pork meat and supplying the big supermarkets in Nigeria.
When did you start pig farming?
I have been into farming for a long time now but I started pig farming in 2007 and I am also into Bee Farming. For years, I went into Bee Farming and it has been yielding increase. Due to this, I know what it is to produce original honey. When people are selling fake honey, I could detect it easily. People buy honey from me because they know I will never adulterate.
What inspired you to go into farming generally?
Farming is very interesting. I have a friend who does pig farming in Lagos, so she encouraged me to go into it. I had faith because I believe I can never fail. I like surpassing my successors in getting the best in whatsoever I do. Today, she is so proud of me. Many retirees are now coming into the business. Now, most people buy pigs from me to establish their own farm. That was where I got the inspiration. All I am doing is to encourage others to go into farming because our youths are no more interested in farming but now I believe the governments are encouraging the youths.
What advice do you have for women who solely depend on their husbands for their needs?
It is not good to depend on your husband for everything. It is good for any woman to be engaged so that she could support her husband. I have a group of younger people who I encouraged to come together and form cooperative. I also advise them to pray for the nation, which we do twice in a month. I started mentoring the young ones by taking them to my farm and also encourage them to start small. I organised a harvest show where varieties of their crops and products were displayed.
Concerning the bee farming, I encourage a lot of young ones to go into it. My aim is that by the time a lot of people are into it, my farm becomes a collection and repackaging centre where they could come for proper packaging.
What is your major challenge in farming?
The major challenge we face as farmers in this area is poor water and power supply. Another issue is finance. For the past seven years, there is no electricity in this area. If you dig boreholes, you spend billions; it is not what a farmer can do for now. As I plan to go into food processing, we need power because we would attach a cold room.
As an extensive farmer, have you approached the Bank of Industry and Bank of Agriculture?
I opened an account with them, but they have never encouraged me to continue with them. My advice to them is to improve on their services to customers. I am a practical person and I don’t like people delaying or dragging me back. That is why I depend on family support for the survival of my farm. But now, I would approach the Bank of Industry and Bank of Agriculture because I really need them.
As a farmer, what is your advice to the government?
My advice for the government is to look for professionals like us when they are setting up committees to transform agriculture. They should stop fixing medical doctors, educationists and those who are not practical farmers in committees set up to improve agriculture. If they continue that way, the agric sector would remain untapped. They should look for the real farmers like us, not office farmers. I don’t have an office here; my office is this farm. The government should give us financial support so that we can train others in the field.
The last dispensation of government came to my farm and promised to bring different species to support my farm but I haven’t seen anything till now. I hope the present government will bring in real farmers, not office farmers that would be given money for expansion. I have seen some cases where government officials gave the money to their relatives and loved ones while the real people doing farming suffer. If the right thing could be done by not giving the wrong people the money, agriculture would be better for it.
I also observed that the governor of my state likes farming and he encourages it. Instead of using the land which God has given to us freely, everyone is looking for job.