Every day since the past three years, Bulus Yunusa, an Abuja-based Nigerian farmer, receives calls from the people of his village in northeast Nigeria inquiring about new agricultural techniques that can help their vegetables grow well.
Everyone in his village gives him accolade for being the one who introduced new techniques of modern agriculture to make their agrarian community a habitation of successful farmers.
Yunusa, from the village of Hawul in Nigeria’s northeastern state of Borno, has been a vegetable farmer at a Chinese company for the past five years.
He was introduced to the CGCOC, the Chinese firm in Abuja, by a childhood friend after he left college in Borno and was unemployed, desperately looking for greener pasture.
The 34-year-old man thinks the success of a modern farmer, is measured by all or some of the following abilities which include growing economic seeds, selling them, making huge profits, building at least one comfortable house, owning a vast land for agribusiness.
All these he has achieved since upping his game in farming, by learning modern agricultural techniques from CGCOC as one of the local farmers hired and trained by the Chinese firm.
The CGCOC set up the Green Agricultural Development Company Nigeria Ltd, which later metamorphosed into Green Agricultural West African Company Limited, for the purpose of enhancing the China-Nigeria cooperation in agriculture since 2006.
With a vision to help the west African country achieve its agricultural goals, and enhance food security and sufficiency, the CGCOC has been training local farmers and officials on modern agricultural trends.
And each trainee, like Yunusa, passes on the knowledge to others in their local communities who have not had direct contact with the Chinese firm.
This way, Nigeria is achieving its goal in modern-day agriculture, particularly at a time that the government has a focus on diversifying the economy, and making it more viable, away from oil, its mainstay.
“I have been training more and more people in my local community, and I can confidently say that this is why a lot of people still come to me for help,” said Yunusa who claims to be living comfortably in Abuja and gives CGCOC all the accolade for his success as a farmer.
From age 4, as a kid growing up in the village, he followed his father to the farm and assisted him in weeding, planting, and harvesting just like many other children of the locality.
Speaking with Xinhua, he recalled how his father taught him how to cut the grass on the farm using crude farming instruments. Afterward, he would leave only Yunusa alone on the farm to continue the farming activities. This way, he first learned how to work on his own to become a man, including funding his own education through the proceeds of his farm produce.
In 2003, he graduated from middle school and continued farming. “I planted peppers and that year I was blessed with a good yield. That is how I bought my exam forms and paid for my brother’s school fees with the profits,” he noted. “From then on, I began to prepare to go to university where I studied economics and geography. I endeavored to work in my field of study but with the way things were, I later decided to go into farming.”
However, during this period, little did the son know that he would later become his father’s teacher and his village’s whizkid.
Upon joining the CGCOC in 2014, he started with rice farming before getting a transfer after one year to work on the vegetable section where he further honed his farming skills.
“I have learned a lot of new things here. From my last harvest period to this time, there is a big change because now I am using new techniques.
“In the past, we just plant our vegetable seedlings directly but now we need to do a nursery first before we plant. This will make the vegetables grow bigger. I did not learn this while working with my father,” he told Xinhua.
Even when planting peppers, Yunusa said he has since realized that there is a difference from the way they used to do this back home, in his village, and what his Chinese tutors had revealed to him.
“We now need to prune the stalk. I asked why this is done and I was told that if we prune some branches, it will grow faster and it will grow bigger. This will make us get a higher quantity of yield,” he said with a sense of technical expertise while using his hands to demonstrate how the process is done.
“When I visited my hometown, I shared this knowledge with my relatives on how to cultivate a higher yield of pepper. After they did this, they called me that they noticed a big change. They now get more than the expected yield. I trained everyone in my extended family and village,” he enthused.
Yunusa said he has dumped his economics and geography degree from the University of Maiduguri, the capital and largest city of the northern state of Borno, after embracing full-time farming. Even his father who showed him the way and taught him earlier lessons in farming has become one of his informal students or beneficiaries of the technical skills he learned from the Chinese firm in Abuja.
And many of the beneficiaries have continued to testify to the wonders of the new techniques, which have helped on crops like eggplant and many others, bringing more yields.
In Africa, agriculture remains a vital source of employment and income. And the CGCOC, in realizing Nigeria’s potentials in agriculture, has continued to train more and more local people on the modern techniques that can bolster their capacities in achieving the government’s goal for sufficiency and food security.
The Nigerian economy took a hit from declining oil revenues in 2015, forcing the government to seek economic diversification.
Agricultural development has been chosen as one of the key goals to help address the country’s dependence on food imports.
So far, hundreds of Nigerian trainees drawn from federal and state ministries, departments, agencies, and agribusinesses had benefited from training programs held for them at home and in China over the years by CGCOC.
In 2012, the Chinese firm obtained a vast expanse of land in Bwari, a neighborhood in the Nigerian capital city, Abuja, for the construction of an agribusiness park, which aims to feature and capitalize on modern Chinese agriculture and agricultural technology.
The park is also used for the demonstration of collective breed cultivation and other relevant cultivation technologies, as well as the display and sales of agricultural farm machinery and their support services.
It also serves as a promotion platform for land and water resources utilization, agricultural training, gardening, farming, and leisure agriculture.
It is at this park that Yunusa, and many other local workers of CGCOC, continue to hone their skills, enhance their capacity, and increase productivity toward the agricultural development of their country.
“Even my relatives in the village are making use of the experience that I garnered here and that I have taught them. They are experiencing a big change through the new farming techniques of pepper, eggplant, and tomatoes that I have taught them.
“What they produce on their farms now are of higher quantity and quality,” he added. Enditem
By Olatunji Saliu