At a time friends are still busy designing attractive curriculum vitae in readiness for available job openings, 29-year-old Temitope Adewole moved on.
The graduate of Crop Protection and Environmental Biology from the University of Ibadan (UI) is fast becoming the envy of friends and colleagues, particularly those in the banking industry.
Within one year of planting five hectares of cassava, which he intercropped with corn and watermelon, Adewole has raised money to rent a two-bedroom apartment in a housing estate in Ado Ekiti, the Ekiti State capital, bought a fairly-used Mercedes Benz 190 car for mobility, just as he was able to help his younger undergraduate sister offset her tuition.
This is the sweet side of a tough decision he made earlier. One of such was leaving Lagos, where he was born and bred.
“I grew up in Lagos State where I was born. I attended my primary and secondary education in Lagos State,” Adewole noted in an interview.
But he was quick to point out that he is not a peasant farmer. “I am a farmer, but of course not a peasant farmer. I am a professional farmer.”
The big decision
“I decided to come to Ekiti to start a farming project,” Adewole, who had the advantage of not being a total stranger to agriculture because of his university training, said.
However, he had a confusion to deal with after graduation and national youth service.
“After NYSC (National Youth Service Corps), I thought of going back for my Master’s degree as Plan A, and going into farming as Plan B. How do I do it with no funds? I went back to Ibadan to pick up a form for my Masters. I was admitted,” Adewole said.
He, however, had to put the programme on hold after completing his course work, just before he commenced work on his dissertation.
“At this time, my uncle, Dr. Wole Olugboji, who works in Ekiti, called me, that I should come to Ekiti if I was interested in farming. That is how I moved to Ekiti to start a farming project,” he said.
His uncle did not relent, as he went ahead to tell Adewole of a programme of the state governor, Kayode Fayemi, that supports youth in farming called Youth in Commercial Agricultural Development (YCAD).
“My uncle asked if I were interested and I said yes. But he said it was not automatic; that I was going to fight for it.”
Spurred, Adewole took the giant step.
“I obtained the form and entered for the programme. Interview was conducted. Out of 1,000 candidates, 150 were picked. I was lucky to be among them.”
That marked the change in fortune for the young Adewole, who had ventured into agriculture at a small scale during his NYSC service year in Ogun State, where he served under Odeda Local Government in Ogun-Osun River Basin Development Authority.
Adewole said, as a young graduate, what he was going to do was a constant thought in him.
“I have seen a lot. My brothers and friends that had graduated earlier could not find jobs to do. So I decided on what to do.
“I have never worked anywhere in an office,” he confessed, describing farming as the only job he has ever had.
He started without any physical assets of his own, but has now started building his own assets.
“When I came to Ado Ekiti and started the farming, I started with nothing other than what Governor Fayemi promised – that was the N1.4 million for each beneficiary, which was not given in cash. But everything we use on the farm was provided but was deducted from the N1.4 million.
“As you can see, I can really stand and call myself a man from the little I have made in the last year alone,” he said, while also using the opportunity to show gratitude to Governor Fayemi.
“There is a lot that I have done with the cassava money within a year that I can’t even say. I don’t think that there is any job anyone can offer me now that I will run to and leave this farm. This is where I think my wealth comes from. I don’t think there is any place that would have paid me what I have realised so far.
“Within this short period, I can now boast of two-bedroom flat, even in an estate.”
He is even happier for not being a complete let down as anticipated by his friends.
He said: “When I started, a lot of my friends were laughing at me. They said Tope, you that grew up in Lagos State, you are going back to your state to farm. What are you thinking of? What are you doing? Even the person I was dating could not make it up with me because of the farming that I decided to pick.”
The story is different now, as he is a fond friend to many again.
“When I started, I was staying with my uncle that invited me. After a year that I harvested my cassava, I got myself a two-bedroom apartment.”
Challenges and motivation
“One of the problems I encountered in the course of farming was transportation,” Adewole said. This is the reason he bought himself a car with the income he made from the first year harvest.
The motivation to produce cassava came after the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, visited Governor Fayemi on YCAD in Ekiti in 2012.
“The Minister of Agriculture, because of what he has been saying, has made it compulsory for me to go into agriculture.
‘Meanwhile, he has called for cooperation between the Federal Government and Ekiti State government to boost the cassava industry.
“I want a situation whereby the Federal Government will work in collaboration with the state government to help the youth. Fayemi has shown that this can work,” Adewole stressed.
The young man is already thinking like a businessman. He said his mind is on how to engage corporate agro-entrepreneurs.