Akeghayifa Diffa, is a proud farmer in Bayelsa State. Although, she studied Agricultural Economics and Extension in University of Calabar, she decided to Rub shoulders with men in Agriculture and on the farm as she spoke passionately on the gains of being a farmer with Pauline Onyibe
You were into agriculture some time ago. How has it been?
Agriculture is a very interesting hobby for me and apart from that, others should see agriculture as a hobby because we cannot do without food. Agriculture is key to every family. Without agriculture, the garri (cassava flake) we see in the market may not be there. The rice in the market, we will not have them. So for me, agriculture should be seen as a very important venture.
Why did you as a woman, decide to go into agriculture because it seems to be a field not so attractive to many people?
I studied agricultural economics and extension from the University of Calabar and since then I have been practicing agriculture. I also had my one year service with NIFOR Nigeria institute for oil palm research in Edo state. So, in all, it has been agriculture for me. I have stint with FADAMA. I have that passion. If you come to my house, the whole environment is filled with plants and it will interest you that when we had that crisis in 2016, I didn’t suffer because I had vegetable all around me. So what I needed to buy was just fish and meat. In fact, I don’t need fish because I can find easily in the neighborhood. So I just go out with my Okro, pepper and vegetable, I will just make soup. It didn’t really border me that there was crisis at that period in the state.
But I learnt like agriculture is tedious especially when considering the terrain of Baylesa?
We have problems because we don’t expose ourselves to information. Like I told you, even though, I employ labour to do the initial clearing; it doesn’t take much to rid your farm of weeds. What you need is just to apply herbicides in the right proportion and you will be able to get a clean farm with a good produce. So if we allow ourselves to gain knowledge, I think agriculture will be an interesting thing for us.
As a farmer, what is your area of specialisation?
Vegetables. Because of the season, we are looking at short season crop like Okro. We have spinach which is not very common here. We have pumpkin leaves and we are looking at other exotic breed. We are expecting them soon.
What do you mean by exotic breed?
I mean some vegetables that are not indigenous to Bayelsa. And the varieties we have are improved ones. We work directly with Biotech Odi. So whenever they get improved variety, they send to us.
So far, what are some of those things you have been able to produce?
We have green pepper, bell pepper. They are not very common in Bayelsa state. We are also looking at producing more of that.
Are there some methods you know that can help farmers in the state achieve easy means of farming?
Our people have not known how to use herbicide. So we want to teach them how to use herbicide for fast production because if we do not use these herbicides, we get tired so fast and it makes agriculture very cumbersome. So we want to introduce its use. Using herbicide is a very technical procedure. In time to come, we will teach our farmers on how to apply these herbicides in their farms so that before the weeds come, they would have harvested their crops.
Bayelsa youths said they are afraid to go into agriculture because it’s not mechanized in this part of the country. What do you say to that?
I’m very concerned about the way our youths are going and I sincerely want to advise them to look for something to do. I know for sure that there is dignity in labour. Let people know that you are into something and when people know they will come and support you. But if you are not doing anything at all, it will be very difficult for anybody to see you and want to support you. It is my sincere appeal to our youths to look for something to do. They have spaces in their compound and if they don’t have space, they can start with pots. You can use pot to plant, just get soil from your environment. You are good to go. You can start with two pots and before you know it, you are fending for yourself. You don’t have to go out to the street.
I thought it is only flowers that you can plant in such way?
No you can produce Okro. You can produce even vegetables, even if you don’t have pots, you can use cement bags. Just wash out the cement and fill the bag with humus soil. You mix it up with manure and you use it to plant.
Talking about using cement bags and pots, can you explain better?
I know that plants thrive in soil. Once you are able to put them in a conducive environment, plants will strive and so once you get a bag because bags are perforated. There is a way air can circulate. Even if it is not a cement bag, once you have holes where air can penetrate, you are good to go. And a lot of plants are phototropic, so, they have a lot to do with sunlight. All you need to do is to position your pot where there is enough sunlight so that the photosynthetic process can go on. Once you have that even if your floor is cemented, the plant will grow.
This place is covered with water. You don’t think it could be an added factor discouraging many who want to go into agriculture?
And that is why I’m saying there are many ways doing that. We have a problem when it comes to being receptive to knowledge. Advanced countries have gone past this. Right now as we speak, in Germany, they plant tomatoes in the air. That is how far technology has taken them. So we shouldn’t limit ourselves to our terrain. We are humans and God has blessed us with wisdom to be able to overcome certain things that nature has given to us. And so, we should try and open ourselves to knowledge. A lot of things can be done in the area of agriculture in Bayelsa state. So, I’m inviting as many women, youths and men to contact me. I’m ready to teach them and let them know what they can do to be able to go far and improve in their agricultural occupation.
Talking about challenges, I know there must be. How do you source for your products, finance manpower and all that?
That is a very big challenge. When you say finance, if we had finance, we would have gone far and our farms would have been larger. We don’t seem to get support from the government. And when there seems to be green light and you want to go close, you see that green light is so deem. You have to be connected somehow before you can access any finance and so that is a major challenge genuine farmers are facing. Even when you go to our communities and you want to sensitise people, that is the main complain. They complained that the government is very far from them. And if we want to move on, government should at least go closer to farmers. More than 70% of people in our local communities are farmers and so if we don’t support them with some of these techniques, they will continue to remain at the subsistence level and that is not what we are looking for. We want a government/citizen relationship when it comes to farming activities so that we can move away from where we are to a higher position.
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