Nigeria’s population is witnessing a rapid growth. It has been projected to reach about 250 million by 2050 according to forecasts. This invariably presents new challenges for the agricultural sector.
The challenge is to counter the effects of erratic rainfall, raise productivity and use water efficiently. In line with the deployment of old technologies to tackle the threat of pests, diseases and climate change, farmers have learnt new skills to make the most of their crops.
Added to these is the rise in the demand for produce in Europe, which has increased its African tomatoes, cucumbers, pepper and herbs imports.
With small-scale farmers hit by the European Union’s (EU’s) stringent food safety rules, arising from high agrochemical residue levels, they have turned to using greenhouses that do not require the use of chemicals and offer better vegetable yields.
The Executive Secretary, Agricultural Fresh Produce Growers and Exporters Association of Nigeria (AFGEAN), Mr. Akin Sawyerr, said greenhouse is the answer to the challenges facing farmers in growing vegetables in the open field.
This is because there are fewer requirements for chemicals, manure and that the crops are shielded from rain and sunlight, he said.
According to him, insects destroy vegetable crops but that their threat in a greenhouse is minimal.
Sawyerr said greenhouses are ventilated, and the crops grown inside them enjoy controlled temperature, humidity, light intensity, and irrigation.
The method, he noted, is also efficient in protecting plants against adverse climatic conditions, such as wind and cold.
Since greenhouse production began, farmers have made major advancements in agribusiness; tomatoes and sweet peppers grown without soil are for sale in local groceries, such as Shoprite.
Dizengoff Nigeria has entered into partnership with Best Food Global to promote production of quality vegetables and crops that will be harvested all-round the year, using an emerging technology.
At a Farmers Field Day, organised by the duo at Epe, Lagos, the Managing Director, Best Foods Fresh Farms, Mr. Emmanuel Ijewere, said with the evolution of greenhouse technology, many farmers would produce more.
Ijewere regretted that though the country has about 4,000 greenhouses, 50 per cent of them are comatose because of lack of management on the part of the government.
“We are also working with banks and government institutions to find how to finance farmers to use this technology. We must all work together to come up with solutions to make finance available to get this technology.”
Ijewere said Dizengoff provided 20 greenhouse kits to his firm, Best Foods Fresh Farms.
The kits, he added, has helped to strengthen its production capacity.
The MD added that the greenhouse was one of the best in Lagos with a production capacity of 30 metric tonnes per season.
And that this would enable the firm to meet the huge demand for fresh vegetables in Lagos and other parts of the country.
“Clearly, our capacity to produce more high quality vegetables will be greatly enhanced. And if you do the calculations, it means we will be able to do more for our customers,” he said.
“With greenhouse technology, you can get your return on investment in 18 months and growing vegetables with greenhouses is definitely profitable and a healthy business.’’
He disclosed that the partnership would unveil 100 greenhouse tents before the end of the year in Lagos, to boost tomato and vegetable production to meet domestic demand
“We have just scratched the surface and you already know that about 70 per cent of the tomatoes are imported. There is a huge market for greenhouse in Nigeria. There is actually a huge market for quality vegetables. Tomato is a highly sensitive product that if you need to transport it from one place to another it will not be presentable to the final consumers. Lagos is Africa’s biggest city with about 24.5 million people, so there is so much opportunity for Greenhouse farming,” Ijewere said.
He further said the kits contain everything that farmers need, from seeds to greenhouses to fertilizer. It offers farmers monthly checkups from an agronomist.
The Chief Executive Officer, Dizengoff, Mr. Antti Ritvonen, said its greenhouse technology is aimed at providing farmers with an all-year round technique to increase greenhouse crop yields, such as tomatoes, pepper, cucumber and sweet-melon as well as provide steady incomes for the farmers.