Unfulfilled in the concrete jungle, Ruth Suberu wriggled her way out of the construction industry to wake up surrounded by shrunken brown huts, towering plants, and chirping birds. Now in her mid-30s, the soft-spoken lady is an example of young Nigerians quitting their corporate experiences to wander into the country’s fertile fields to take up farming. In a recent encounter with Sahara Reporters, the Kogi State indigene disclosed how her journey into vegetable farming and other crops started in the thick forests of Oluwo Village, an agrarian settlement in the heart of Ogun State.
She said, “I studied History and International Studies in 2002 and worked in a construction firm because I did not have that passion for sitting at a spot.
“One day, an idea came to my mind and thought to myself that I could create something by exploring a new area.
“I love plants, I love animals and one thing led to the other and I started sourcing for land.”
Nigeria's unemployment rate in 2018 rose by 23.1 per cent, which implies that 16 million out of 200 million people in the country are out of work. Of this number, very few young Nigerians are seeking jobs that leave their hands temporarily soiled with dirt and in the long term, money. Suberu utilised the social media to secure training in the basics of starting a farm after quitting her job. Luckily for her, the training she received set her on the path to owning her first cucumber farm. From that point on, the beautiful young lady has not looked back.
“Someone helped me to get some acres of land around Owode/Idiroko area of Ogun State and that was how I started farming.
“I started with maize and cassava but had to switch to vegetables following the long period one had to wait to harvest these crops.
“I saw an advert on Facebook by a lady for training on vegetable farming, so I reached out to her, made payments and went for that training somewhere around Saki in Oyo State.
“It was a one-month training and immediately I came back, I started a cucumber farm,” she said.
However, like many farmers across the country, Suberu had to deal with a whole lot of environmental issues largely occasioned by climate change. Increases in temperatures, changes in precipitation patterns, changes in extreme weather events, and reductions in water availability all made farming quite tough for her. But like the genius that she is, the young lady had to find a way to surmount the challenge and fulfill her desire of becoming a successful farmer.
She said, “There were days I felt like giving up on farming but the inner strength inside me kept telling to go ahead because I was on the right path.
“One day, I left Lagos for a village in Ogun State where there is a river. The place isn’t safe during the rainy season but because I love nature, I had to source for a farm around that place.
“Since I didn’t have funds to sink a borehole, I needed to look for a place where there was a river.
“So, it was the river that brought me to where my farm is now between Lagos, Ibadan, and Abeokuta.
“I decided to move here fully and once I harvest, I take the produce to Lagos or a local market because I am already building a customer network across cities.
“This year has been my best year yet even though there haven’t been much rains. However, I have had to put in extra work.
“I use irrigation to water the farms by connecting a hose to the river and distributing to individual plants. Even though it has not been easy, I have managed to keep the farm flourishing to yield maximum harvest.”
But beyond carving a niche for herself in agriculture, Suberu has invested time and resources to extend her knowledge to other Nigerians willing to pluck fortunes from farming. Through her non-profit organisation, she has been able to give new lives to ex-convicts and other categories of unemployed Nigerians. For her, it is a fulfilment of a dream even as a child.
She added, “Through my NGO founded last year, I have been able to train a lot of people including ex-convicts on how to farm.
“There is always a stigma around people who have committed a crime and just stepping out of prison. Our training has given these people a new life and this makes me immensely happy.
“I want to help more people who need to start afresh but the only challenge I have at the moment is accommodation.
“If I can get support in this area, I’ll be able to train more Nigerians and help reduce unemployment in the country. This is my biggest goal at the moment.”