Making money from vegetable farming

Sunday March 29 2020

 

By Devotha John

While many young people his age are complaining about lack of jobs, 31-year-old Obison Obadia is already his own boss and an employer to over 12 young people.

Like the majority of thousands of graduates who enter the job market every year, Obison hunted for a job, luckily got one and only worked for two years before venturing into agribusiness.

Obison was bold enough to take the risk that many dread lest things go wrong. Instead of looking for a better paying job, the daring young man chose to invest in the sector that many don’t find attractive.

Five years down the line, Obison’s success can only serve as a testimony that farming is not a job for those who have retired from employment like many think.

He in fact calls upon fellow youth to fully tap the potential in agriculture. Obison says instead of just complaining about lack of jobs, both unemployed youth and those employed should try their hands on farming. It doesn’t hurt earning an extra income if you are employed and for those who are jobless, they can surely make a living through agriculture, says Obison.

You don’t have to be a villager to engage in agriculture. Neither is being a villager a sin for that is where we all originate from. There is no harm putting food at the table through farming.

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Unlike many who give the sector a blind eye, Obison was smart enough to see the potential in agriculture and is now happily reaping the benefits. The Dar es Salaam-based young entrepreneur started with cassava farming after quitting his logistics and supply job with a certain company in the city.

Having been raised in a family that engaged in farming and livestock keeping, Obison, who was born in the city did not find it difficult treading the same path. Since they lived in Makongo Juu, the family had a farm in neighbouring Goba, where they kept domestic animals.

Being the first born, Obison learned many things about animal husbandry. He participated fully in this as his parents did not hire someone for the job. He learnt a lot from his parents, which later served as a benchmark for his entrepreneurship spirit.

“I saw the opportunity in agriculture because not a single day passes without people buying food as food is everything in everyone’s life.”

Obison chose to start with cassava farming because the crop could be easily handled cost-wise. It also presented a few challenges. Using his savings, he bought a Sh 3 million one acre farm in Mzenga village, Kisarawe District.

Cassava business was good as market was readily available, especially during the holy month of Ramadan.

He switched to vegetables after learning there was a huge market for vegetables in the city. He learnt that some farmers came all the way from Dodoma, Kibaigwa, Morogoro, Gairo and Chalinze to sell vegetables in the city due to high demand.

This made Obison look for farms in Rufiji and Mlandizi where he grew almost every kind of vegetables including, cucumber, string beans, eggplants, okla, squash, carrots, celery, lettuce, rhubarb, spinach, cauliflower, sweet corn and bell peppers.

Bright future in agriculture

Speaking about his customer base, Obison groups them into two. First he has got contracts to supply vegetables to different boarding schools in coast region, which he does daily. He also sells to traders who buy vegetables to sell in the city.

“These are my major customers. Market is readily available and some customers even call me in advance for orders. I also supply to markets in Ilala, Temeke and Tegeta.”

Although his farming business has been successful, like many businesses, his also faces some challenges, the major one being bad weather. Although rain is good for his crops, it sometimes becomes a stumbling block due to poor infrastructure.

It costs him dearly when it rains as vegetables fail to get to the market on time and hence rot or get there in poor quality. Also the fact that some shops sell fake agriculture inputs is a challenge as it costs farmers like him a great deal.

Looking back, Obison does not regret ever leaving his job to engage in farming. He has big dreams in the business instead.

“My dream is to become a big farming entrepreneur to sell in and outside the country. I also plan to buy big machines for packaging vegetables to sell outside the country,” Obison says.

Apart from creating jobs for over 12 young people, vegetable farming has enabled Obison to build a house of his own, he has bought two more plots in Dar es Salaam and two more farms in Kisarawe and Rufiji districts. He is not yet done with buying farms as he plans to buy more land for agriculture in future.

Obison earns enough from his farming business to sustain his needs and those of his immediate family. Through his income, he supports his parents and helps pay school fees for his siblings.

He advises young people to engage in agriculture and not to take it as a second option. He advises that they should take it as any other income generating activity.

He calls upon the government to crack down on business people who sell fake seeds, fertiliser and pesticides. He also makes a call to financial institutions to leverage conditions for issuing loans, explaining that farmers should be given concessional loans depending on the nature of their investments.

The government should also provide capital to young people interested in farming as the country has been blessed with enough land for agriculture, a big part of which is yet to be utilised.

He says if we for example use the youth in national service to invest in agriculture, the country will reap the benefit both financially and in terms of producing enough food for the nation and for import. The national service youth, he proposes that they can be engaged in various ways, as producers, marketers and any other skills they may have to produce enough for both local consumption and export.

“The government sends many youth to compulsory military training every year. These could be organised in groups and used to fully exploit the untapped potential in agriculture. With inputs and technical advice from extension officers in place, this could make youth build an interest in the trade and in the long run realise their dreams for a better future,” says Obison, adding that Tanzania has huge arable land in every region that could be utilised for farming to lift the country out of poverty.

Brief background

Obison was born in Dar es Salaam in 1989. He went to Makongo Primary School for his primary education in 1996 and joined Kibasila Secondary School in Temeke District in 2003.

He later joined Karatu Boys High School in Arusha for his advanced secondary education in 2007-2009. In 2010, Obison enrolled for a bachelor’s degree in marketing at the University of Dodoma where he graduated in 2013.

The same year, he got a job with one of the leading media houses in the country as a marketing officer, where he worked until 2015, when he quit to engage in agribusiness.

Email: djohn@tz.nationmedia.com