Livestock and crop farming in Central Nigeria’s Plateau State are old-time partners. Throughout history, families including high income earners in the supposed agricultural headquarters of the middle belt region have survived by growing one crop or another at least on a small piece of farmland for household consumption. This they do while rearing one specie of livestock or another, either for consumption or commercial purposes.
Dorcas Makopson, 35, one of the few successful commercial crop farmers in Plateau does not have livestock in her house, neither has she directly related with herders in her life. However, Dorcas recalls how closely and mutually benefiting her parents related with herders while she was growing up, which eventually laid the foundations for her present successes in the business.
“When we were growing up, our parents used to buy and sometimes collect for free, animal droppings from the Ruga (Fulani settlement) to apply on our farms. In turn, the herdsmen come to graze on harvested farms, sometimes assisting us to harvest and then push their cattle to feed on the corn stock in the case of maize or hay in the case of hungry rice,” said Dorcas.
This may not have benefited Dorcas directly, but according to her, it remains a model for peace aside from the value it gave both the herders and her farming parents, the high yield included, which encouraged her to take up farming as a trade, despite being a graduate.
Dorcas started large scale farming two years ago after a government training for youths. Since then, her income has stabilized beyond what she’d ever earned as an employee.
“My first harvest from my farm (0.97hctr) was 207 bags of Irish potato and I expanded the farm the following year, expecting to harvest more this year,” she said.
A bag of Irish potato last year cost an average N10,000 in the retail market. This year between March and July 2020, a bag sold for N12,000-N15,000 in the retail market. Dorcas’ earning from a 12 week investment therefore stands at a minimum of N2million, the average income of a ranking federal employee.
Her farm located in Bokkos Local Government Area of Plateau State has never been tempered with by a straying cattle, she said, but she’d heard of conflicts and farmland destructions attributed to herdsmen. If these could be resolved, Dorcas believes more youths would be encouraged to go into agriculture and grow the nation’s economy and at the same time reduce unemployment.
In her words, “Many youths in my community want to go into farming but they are scared of losing their crops to indiscriminate grazing or farmland destructions caused by herdsmen but if government can do something to get the herdsmen and local communities to iron their differences and live peacefully, I’m sure we will have more people interested in farming and we will not be crying of unemployment or food scarcity anymore. And this will even boost our nation’s internally generated revenue.”