Urban Farming

Rise of backyard farming

Along with fresh fruits and vegetables, mini livestock, backyard farms are providing jobs, start-up programmes, knowledge and social connections, DANIEL ESSIET reports.

Mrs Ngozi Chineze lives in Lafenwa, an Ogun State suburb. She is far from Shoprite or Spar, two major retail chains.

This means, she is unable to source some of the family needs from either of these two supermarkets. But she is not complaining. A civil servant, she has joined a growing number of urban dwellers growing backyard farms. Like other urban farmers, she benefits from fresh veggies and increases her vitamin intake. A combination of raised beds is used to grow the produce. The urban farming model puts fresh, locally-grown fruit and vegetables on the table.

She is happy to start a farm at her backyard, which provides her high-quality fresh, local produce.

With urban farms, she believes a lot of young people who have the capacity, can make a living from growing crops and raising mini livestock.

According to her, backyard farming helps to address a number of serious challenges, including public health and well-being concerns.

She encourages people to take advantage of their gardens and growing things.

Backyard farming – a term used to encompass everything from independent vegetable gardens – to  home beehives, chickens and more – is on the rise.

And while backyard farming is on the rise, it is nothing new.

Backyard farming seems to be an activity that many homes are really interested in.

What started as a backyard gardening project has blossomed into a viable commercial farming.

Founder, Jovana Integrated Farms, Prince Arinze Onebunne, has been raising mini-livestock in his backyard.

Seen as the rabbit king, Onebunne is one of the leading rabbit farmers in the country and has built an extensive business, selling meat to hotels and local shops. He described backyard farms as vital resource for Nigerians living in areas with high levels of food insecurity.

Agriculture and livestock farming, he said, could solve Nigeria’s food problems.

His philosophy is to raise animals that can be eaten.

He has had successes and costly failures.

He has read and reviewed websites, articles, and blogs and watched videos on farming. His success has come from much trial and error.

According to him, a growing industry is that producing small animals. These range from rabbits and squirrels raised for meat to animals such as mice rose for pets.

He said: “Animals, such as guinea pigs and albino, are raised for research. These animals are used to test everything from drugs to toothpaste.”

Onebunne is encouraging people to start backyard mini-livestock farms raising chickens, rabbit and guinea fowl.

Some of his clients have built backyard pens and cages cobbled with discarded wood and corrugated iron.

From backyard vegetable gardens to community spaces, front yard orchards, and window boxes, the National President of Federation of Agricultural Commodity Association of Nigeria (FACAN), Dr. Victor Iyama said people should be encouraged to grow food where ever they are.

Iyama said food security is important, adding that it is vital to support every effort to produce more food.

He said backyard   farmers play in a role in fostering healthy, local food within the community.

For him, the government needs to realise the inherent potential of urban agriculture in creating jobs and supporting food supply.

Former Dean of Faculty of Agriculture, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Prof Babafunso Sonaiya  said backyard farmers need to develop some concrete skills to be successful.

He said backyard poultry is an excellent way to enhance the availability of and access to micronutrients and protein-rich foods.

According to him, this is enabling families to produce eggs for home consumption and enhance their protein intake, while surplus production can be sold in the market or bartered.

He emphasised the need for the government and the private sector to ensure poultry enterprises are encouraged.

He said backyard poultry farmers must obtain the basic training  useful for rearing chicks, feeding, housing and disease management.

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