Chinyere Anyanwu, [email protected]
Healthy lifestyle is synonymous with healthy foods and healthy foods cannot be separated from vegetables-fortified diets. This accounts for why vegetable farming will always be in vogue, not just to meet consumption needs but also as a wealth creating business.
Vegetable farming is one of the simplest forms of farming that does not require huge capital or effort because most vegetables can grow and flourish with little to no supervision.
It is a very lucrative business that requires some knowledge, skills, diligence and can be started with minimal funds, yielding large profits after some time.
There are various kinds of vegetables, therefore, there is need to decide what kind to vegetable farming to embark on. In taking such decision, consideration should be given to the current demand on the market, the price of the produce and its cost-effectiveness.
One of the most popular and by far, the most consumed vegetable in Nigeria is fluted pumpkin (ugu in Igbo language). An acre of fluted pumpkin farm, which, according to the farmers, will take about N60,000 to cultivate, is capable of yielding above N500,000. Also, when the crop yields fruit, money can be made by selling the seeds. So investing in ugu farming on a commercial scale is a money spinning venture as it is a vegetable that is always in hot demand all year round. Ugu can be cultivated across the country due to its tolerance of drought and poor soil.
Ugu is a nutrient-packed vegetable known to supply the body with numerous vitamins and also increase the volume of the red blood cell when consumed fresh, without being cooked. The blood enhancing nutrients gives it the ability to expand the volume of blood at a very short time after consumption.
The following are the steps to be taken when embarking on ugh farming.
Establish the market: Because vegetables are highly perishable and cannot lie around for too long, it is important that a prospective investor explore market options beforehand. The profitability of the vegetable farm depends on it. Ensure that buyers are available before cultivation. Potential customers include vegetable retailers in local markets, eateries, hotel, and restaurant operators and supermarkets, among others.
Funding: Ugu cultivation is not capital intensive. Depending on the scale being considered, a limited amount of funds can do for a start and increased as expansion of the business becomes imminent, especially when profits start rolling in. If large capital is available, it can be started on large scale from onset. Most of the expenses will go towards acquiring the land for the farm, though there is possibility of short term leasing.
Ugu seeds are inexpensive; five can go for N100 and are not hard to find. These seeds have to be properly dried before they are planted.
Choice of land/site: It is crucial to pay attention to topography (whether the soil is prone to erosion, presence of slopes, trees, rocks, underlying materials, etc.), type, water retention and content, among others, when considering land. Though ugu can survive on any soil type, the best soil types for vegetable farms are humus and loam soils because they are full of nutrients that aid the fast growth of vegetables. The land should have access to water because it will be tasking and inconvenient having the farm in an area that lacks water.
When looking for land for the farm, consideration should be given to the distance to the nearest market. The closer it is, the less that will be spent on transportation.
Work tools/materials: Shovel/hoe can be used for digging up ridges and turning up soils. They can be rented at a very affordable price or bought; a good one will last for a long time. Wheel barrow is also necessary as it aids in the movement of things within the farm.
Machete/cutlass will be needed if there are overgrown weeds on the farm and for cutting down stakes and also for digging up holes. Hose is equally important for watering the crops. It should be fixed properly and the right length chosen to allow access to all areas of the farm.
Bamboo stakes (optional): This is optional because the vegetable can be allowed creep or crawl on constructed stakes. The bamboo stakes can be found in bushes or purchased.
Planting seasons: Although ugh vegetable can be planted all year round, it is good to know what season is best for good yield. It is not so good to plant during the rainy season because there might be too many vegetables in the market, a situation called vegetable glut. The farmer should be aware that there might be need to sell the produce way lower than expected to prevent wastage. When planting during dry season, ensure to water the plants properly as sufficient amount of watering is required regularly.
Nurturing the crop: To achieve good results, it is recommended that poultry manure or any other kind of organic manure be used as fertiliser. Chemical supplements should be avoided and pesticides should be used in moderation. It is best to avoid them unless there is a dire need.