By Adedotun Ajayi
Mr Olayinka Sunday Ige is a civil servant, went into tomato farming as a result of the coronavirus lockdown, while others were complaining about lack of money because they didn’t have other stream of income, he ventured into Tomato farming and made millions out of it.
Why Tomato farming?
He said he went into farming in 2020 during lockdown caused by the COVID-19. Though I was into pig farming before, I decided to give tomato farming a trial. I sold more than 10pigs to start up the tomato farm with a three-plot of land behind my neighbour’s yard.
He noted that the major reason he approached his neighbour was because the land was not in use as at that time and snakes were disturbing the environment. So he decided to put it into use.
How he came about the vision?
He said: “I was mainly into pig farming, the pig poop was a major challenge when it comes to disposing. It was getting too much and no sufficient space for disposal. I did my finding. That was when I found out it could be used for manure for crops. So I decided to go into tomato farming. I was formerly a farm trainee myself and have gone on to become independent and improved seeds to see my Tomato crops flourish. My former experience as a farm trainee has helped me running my own, especially with the use of new farming techniques learned.
Olayinka’s vision is to go from planting tomatoes alone and producing them into paste, “My mission is to become the premier provider of tomatoes across Africa, based on products produced in very hygienic conditions, rich in flavour, safe and unique, with a superior level of service” he added.
Trellissing is an advantage Olayinka wants to adopt when dealing with tomatoes, one of his main crops along with cucumber. Keeping the vines above the ground increases airflow and keeps the plants drier. This is especially important as many tomato varieties are susceptible to various types of blight and mildew. Trellissing also aids in harvest time as the tomatoes are easier to find, speeding up the harvest. Olayinka supplements the strong seeds from Thailand Seed with a natural water supply and the use of agro-chemicals to thwart blight and to improve crop yield.
Olayinka said, “It is difficult to find hardworking farm workers.” The lack of committed labor makes the everyday chores and maintenance of the land particularly difficult. The poor workforce is not the only problem. The Nigerian government is not supportive, coupled with huge agricultural tax on imports that makes thriving economically more difficult.
Despite the difficulties, Olayinka has increased his harvest dramatically. The father of three has seen his income rise considerably. From an acre, he gets over 400 30kg crates in a good season, with the harvest rising as the crop ages. He sells his produce to traders across the country and he plans to extend his market scope outside the country.
By increasing his profits he has expanded his choices, “Farming has given me more business opportunities which has translated to financial freedom,” Olayinka said. This independence has allowed Olayinka to give his children and family a better and more stable life.
Apart from being a Tomato farmer, Olayinka has trained more than 200 individuals and they are doing well. “Tomatoes can grow anywhere, as long as there’s sufficient manure,” he said.
Farm production poses a number of challenges for farmers around the world. Food production requires adjustments to rapid population growth, the expenditure of resources, soil degradation, reduced utilization of land and a growing lack of water. In order to meet current and future needs of a growing world population, it’s necessary to increase farm production. However, this must be done in a sustainable and qualitative way, in order to respond to the environmental and food safety requirements. Climate change is yet another challenge for today’s farmers who are forced to adjust their production to increasing risks from weather extremes (such as hail, drought, heavy rain, and soil erosion). Climate changes are not only responsible for adverse weather conditions, they also cause the instability in farm commodity prices.
He advised “farmers to invest in some technologies , from treated seeds and crop protection products and precision spraying. While large-scale farmers may be able to afford to invest, smallholders don’t always have access to an affordable source of credit, that is why the government should come in and help. Then farmers must learn how to best use these technologies to improve their business” he says.
How Tomato grow
Olayinka says the crop grows in altitudes of over 1,000m above sea level, Good watering is key to successful tomato production.
Too much water leads to inadequate uptake by the root hairs, while too little leads to almost no uptake at all. Both scenarios cause blossom and rot, a physiological disorder making tomatoes unmarketable,” he observes.
He said the money he made from my tomato farm helps him cover all our household expenses, and it has allowed me to save some money as well. This means I have money if there is an emergency.
Hazardous damage to the farm
The good returns aside, we have to grapple with blight, Tuta absoluta and white flies, pests that are devastating if not eliminated, but there are ways to tackle them. A farmer can easily detect potassium deficiency if the crops have white brown to whitish spots, he added.