EDITOR NOTE: Davies Okeowo sends this in from Ogun State where he interviews 16 year old Gbenga Akinyele who has picked interest in backyard farming. To be specific snail rearing. Gbenga’s experience is worth sharing. And thus we recognize him as our Young Agropreneur of the Month of May 2014
Over the past few years, there has been a growing call for Africa’s youth to embrace agriculture. This is of great essence as the agricultural sector has been neglected by youths in favor of careers in the “booming” industries such as telecommunications and banking. A large number of African youths see agriculture as a “career for the aged”. Unknown to many, the agricultural sector is one of the most lucrative sectors in the global economy; one of the very few industries where demand overwhelms supply. Not only is the agricultural industry a massive one, it is also an indispensable one…hence, the call for more youths in agriculture.
In recent times, I have learnt a lot about agriculture. My biggest lesson though (which I gladly share with everyone I meet) is that agriculture is one of the few businesses you can start without capital. This is a major lesson, and I learnt it from 16 year old Gbenga Akinyele.
“Tell your son to come by my house today; i have some snails picked up for him”. I was quite startled when my mum made that remark while making a phone call. Who was the boy who needed snails? What does he need them for? Why snails? I definitely have to find out…and that’s exactly what I did.
I met Gbenga, had a chat with him and agreed to drop by his house to interview him. He was quite shy but he consented. On a Saturday morning I made my way to his house and to my amazement, I met Gbenga, his mum, and little brother clearing and cleaning their little farm and the environment. After exchanging greetings and a tour of the little farm, my curiosity took control.
Can we meet you
Gbenga: My names are Akinyele Gbenga Timilehin. I am from a family of five, and the second born of my parents (first boy). Presently, I am a WAEC candidate for the 2014 May/June exam.
I observe some ‘greens’ around your house; I can see a very small farm portion and a snail farm as well. How did all these come about?
Gbenga: It’s just a passion of mine, especially the snail farming. When I am less busy, the snails are the ones I devote my time to.
How and when did it all start?
Gbenga: It all started nine months ago when we moved to our own site. I always see the snails moving around the compound. So I and my brother decided to start picking them. From that point on, we started taking care of them.
Having done this for about nine months, how has been the experience so far?
Gbenga: A bit stressful. Having to clean their (the snails) house, give them food, and the likes is tasking. Every morning you have to clean all over…it’s a lot of stress
If it’s a lot of stress, why do you keep doing it?
Gbenga: I keep doing it because i have a passion for it.
Can you put an estimate on the number of snails you have now?
Gbenga: I can’t tell they are quite much.
What do you plan to do with them?
Gbenga: When they grow big, I plan to sell them. There are some radio programs I listen to where people are taught on how to export snails; I have their phone numbers.
Have you sold any?
Gbenga: No, not yet
Have you eaten any?
Gbenga: No, I have not
Okay. I can see lots of tiny ones as well which i guess are the baby snails. How did you separate the adults from the young ones?
Gbenga: Early in the morning or late in the evening, the baby snails do come to the surface of the sand. From there, we handpick them all.
Do your colleagues in school know that you do such a thing?
Gbenga: No they don’t
What is your parents’ reaction to this venture of yours?
Gbenga: My mum supports me. She takes care of them when I am not at home. For instance, I wasn’t around yesterday so she helped me to clean and feed them.
That’s amazing. You mean she didn’t scold you or try to stop you when you started?
Gbenga: Initially, she was neutral about it. However, when she saw how serious we were about snail farming, she tagged along.
Did you plant them as well?
Gbenga: Yes, I did
You obviously have a passion for snails. Are you passionate about vegetables too?
Gbenga: Actually, I just decided to plant them myself because most vegetables you eat these days are grown with the aid of fertilizers. I want to eat the fresh and natural ones, so that prompted me to plant them.
And have you been eating from them?
Gbenga: Yes, we have
How do you balance your schooling and farming?
Gbenga: My mum has taught me to manage my time properly through prioritizing. When it’s time to study, I study; when I am less busy, I take care of my snails.
So what are your future aspirations?
Gbenga: I intend to study nautical science in the university. Those that study nautical science end up in the maritime sector, working on ships.
So you want to be in the Navy?
Gbenga: i want to be a merchant navy. I want to be the captain of ships that import and export goods.
Okay then, i hope you become all you wish for, plus a very successful farmer
Gbenga: Thank you sir.
Gbenga’s story is one that every youth can learn from. His passion led him to farming and he did not have to raise capital to start. He is dedicated to what he does and manages his time well in between school and farming. At 16, he already has plans to export his produce, and is already feeding from his own efforts.
The value chain in agriculture is very wide and opportunities abound therefore, we as youths should tap into these huge opportunities. By so doing, we will not only build a financially rewarding career, but we will also be contributing immensely to the elimination of food shortages and related problems across the world; just like Gbenga Akinyele…one snail at a time.