Make Money Growing Weeds

By on January 28, 2015
winter-annual-weeds

The beauty of science is that it brings up good ideas, gets them documented and tested and when they have been proven, rates and disseminates them so the ideas become reproducible at all times and in every place. Let me say this before I continue, I am not talking about the other kind of grass, the weed called Indian hemp.

winter-annual-weeds

We all know that animals eat grass and that is why, in the traditional way of livestock farming, keepers of goats, cattle and other ruminants set them loose every day to seek forage. An observant eye would notice that these seemingly blank animals do not chew every grass they see. In fact, they can be quite choosy. Even when they visit a farmland, they eat the crops in various degrees – picking very little of some and eating a lot more of others. This shows that unlike humans who need to read up on what is beneficial for them to eat; these animals know their foods through sheer instinct.

Those who choose to raise the animals at home, also have to go out and cut the grass with which to feed them. However, it is easily observed that except where concerted effort is made to introduce variety into the feed, domestic animals may not grow or reproduce satisfactorily. Besides, their immunity may also be compromised through poor feeding. It is also not practicable or sustainable to cut grass every day for the animals if the livestock population is high. This is why traditional cattle rearers live a nomadic life; allowing the animals to roam for miles in search of rich forage. Aside from its exercise value, the travels enable the animals to pick from a variety of grass and other weeds as they move.

Unfortunately, this also means that they may feed on people’s farms as they go; a situation that has introduced a lot of acrimony between Fulani nomads and farmers. I have personally, helplessly watched grazing cattle destroy my garden on many occasions while I farmed vegetables in Kaduna. The goats were enough of a nuisance but they would usually only strip the plants of their leaves but the cows would uproot a whole plant and swallow. Any wonder that there have been reports of bitter clashes between the Fulani herdsmen and farming communities across the country? Neither the herdsmen nor the farmers benefit from these frequent clashes (to which many have erroneously attributed religious undertones) – the fights are purely economic.

Interestingly, this problem can easily be resolved by science. Smart entrepreneurs who would dust up research information on forage plants accumulated at National Animal Production Institute, NAPRI, can use the findings to set up grazing reserves through forage cropping. One advantage of this area of cropping is that it is not yet popular. So, those who go into it with a determined market in mind would make a huge success of it while competition is still quite low.

One of the inspirations for entrepreneurship is to solve a problem and a solution provider meets a yawning demand for cash. In this instance, the problem is the need to produce nutritious forage for domestic animals, especially the ones that would not compete with human food. This would reduce the need for owners of herbivorous livestock to roam in search of food. The business would also not be capital intensive as the only expensive aspect of it is land; which many rural dwellers and those who live in city outskirts can readily access or afford. Thereafter, the entrepreneur would need to acquire knowledge on improved seed species and farm inputs for higher yields, as well as information on how to store dry grass for off season periods.

Although the business entails the cultivation of ‘mere weeds’ a lot of research work has been done; providing a body of knowledge that upstarts can readily use. It is also an area of farming from which the committed farmer can enjoy good yields all year round.

During the colonial times, the administrators commissioned researches into available forage plants in the wilds and started cultivating them within NAPRI’s vast premises as a way of checking the frequent clashes between farmers and herdsmen. They even brought in seeds of leguminous plants and other forage weeds from overseas and domesticated them to develop large acres of demonstration forage farmlands. Through those efforts, according to Professor J. T. Amodu, a Forage Agronomist at NAPRI, grazing reserves were established across the country. Pastoralists could pay a token to bring their cattle for grazing or downing and they were allotted space and time on the grounds.

The reserves also had amenities like permanent water supply and veterinary services for animals and provided education and other services for those who kept the grounds and their households. Unfortunately, over the years, those reserves and the grazing corridors that were created at the time were encroached upon by farmers and some destroyed by land developers who have converted them for other purposes.

It may not be very feasible for the government to reestablish these areas today; especially in this era when governments worldwide are divesting from business to concentrate on regulation. It is now a viable venture area left for budding entrepreneurs to rediscover.