Prince ArinzeOnebune, the CEO and Managing Consultant of Jovana Farms is undoubtedly one Nigerian who is passionate about job creation in the country. He has spent over 16 years in grasscutter farming and has gone ahead to preach the gospel to job-seeking graduates.
He insists that unlike other forms of animal husbandry, it costs next to nothing to start the business even right from one’s backyard. “The good news is that grasscutter meat is now being recommended in place of beef because of its health benefits”. For this reason he wants the government to appreciate his efforts. He took time to speak on this recently with Saturday Vanguard Business. Excerpts
You keep insisting that grasscutter farming is one easy means of creating job in the country. Why is this so?
Thank you for this question. When people in government talk about poverty alleviation their mindset is that of providing Okada, motorcycles, Wheelbarrow and tricycles for the job-seeking youths.
This is wrong. After years of research at Jovana Farms, we discovered that rather than what the government is doing, people can become self-employed and self-reliant through agriculture. The tricycle can be stolen or get spoilt but it is not so with grasscutter farming.
All an able-bodied man needs are a rain boot and a cutlass. Once he enters into the bush and he is able to get the elephant grass to feed the grasscutters the rest is covered. We want the government to look inwards to use agriculture as a sustainable means of job and wealth creation.
What practical means have you adopted to get this message across to interested Nigerians?
Well, I discovered that job creation is a serious matter anybody should not joke with, but quite unfortunate government is not doing much on this area. Nobody is talking about youth empowerment.
That was why we took it upon ourselves to organize nation-wide seminars creating awareness for self-employment on animal farming in 30 states across the geo-political zones, teaching Nigerians how to breed the grasscutter and other livestock.
And how to start with as little as N47,000. Out of this amount N40,000 is for a family of one male and four females. The N7,000 is for the wooden cage. We teach them the nitty-gritty so as to maximize the farm; how to market them and export to other parts of the world especially Italy, Germany, U.K., France, U.S.A, especially where you have large concentration of Africans, black people.
What do you hope to achieve through this idea of seminar for years now?
The idea started 16 years ago in Lagos when we started the animal farm. We found out that among others grasscutter farming is more lucrative. So, we did not want to keep the secret to ourselves whereas there were young graduates going about with files and in ties looking for white-collared job, but we saw the need to re-orientate their minds towards agriculture so that they can be financially free and self- dependent.
How lucrative is this type of farming?
Grasscutter farming is very profitable because they have a high reproductive rate. If you breed one male with four females for one year you can get 56 grasscutters. You know what that amounts to in financial terms. Apart from this, the grass they feed on is free. You do not need to feed them like you do in other farms like fishery, piggery and poultry farming.
Let me explain here an interesting incident that happened to me recently. We discovered a large expanse of land with plenty of elephant grass as we moved from Akwa Ibom to Cross River State. They were just wasting away. In fact, they were using money by paying people to clear them. But after I showed them what they could be used for; they were very happy with me because I have come to liberate them from ignorance and now they know how to use the same grass to make money.
At what stage do you sell them?
When they get to the table size you can dispose one for between N5,000 and N10,000 depending on the size as measured in weight.
What have been your challenges?
The challenge at the beginning were that of management because it was difficult to get the right breeding stock then. I am happy to tell you that at Jovana Farms today, we have high quality grasscutter breeding stock to start with.
The other challenge was technical. People who want to make profits from grasscutter farming have to go for training. Some people rushed into it without the requisite knowledge and rushed out. But here at Jovana Farms we know grasscutter farming inside out. We have written books and we have CDs to teach people on grasscutter, pig, snail, fish and antelope farming. People who cannot make it to our seminars can order for these self-tutorial materials.