From the bank to the field
You think agriculture is for African youth who have no other choice? Think twice: Dung Daweng Pam is not only a college graduate, but also an economist who worked at a bank for three years before making an unusual choice.
“I decided to quit my job at the bank and go into farming, and I’m enjoying it,” Dung said.
Dung lives in Jos, Plateau State, Nigeria and is a member of the Wedurat Corporative Society, involved in the 2SCALE-supported vegetable partnership driven by East-West Seed International (EWIT).
Why would a 30-year-old economist leave his job at a bank to grow tomatoes in a small town like Jos? The reason is not as romantic as you might expect: money.
“I wasn’t a farmer until 2SCALE came into the picture. I used to work in the bank, and farming was done as a way of life. Now we do farming as a business. I’m now growing almost two hectares of EWIT’s cabbage, carrots and tomatoes. 2SCALE is my driving force as we learn about good agricultural practices. We’re now preparing to label our produce for traceability.”
“Currently we practice furrow irrigation, but 2SCALE has introduced us to drip irrigation, which is much more water efficient. We knew the market for vegetables was there, but we lacked the knowledge on how to access these markets. Bearing this in mind, I believe even though there is an increase in the volume of production, the market will absorb it. We also learned that different markets have different requirements. The markets we sell to want quality products with a good taste and long shelf-life, traceability to ensure food safety and consistency in supply. For instance, the EWIT Padma tomato we planted stays good for six weeks without refrigeration. This is exactly the kind of variety we want. Last season I planted Padma tomatoes on 0.3 hectare of land. I had a neighbor who planted a local variety, and his plants started flowering while I transplanted my plants. Surprisingly, though, I started harvesting before him, and he finished harvesting before me. We harvested the tomatoes about 15 times, and our yield was 30 tons per hectare, against the usual 5 tons.”
“The availability of EWIT seeds is no longer a challenge. Before, seeds were sourced from Porto-Novo in Benin, but right now we have a license from the Nigerian seed council and we are about to import large volumes of EWIT tomatoes to grow on 239 hectares. In a special program funded by the World Bank, and with help from 2SCALE, we have acquired a grant of $400,000 to implement the project in two local government areas of the Plateau state, from which most of the Lamingo tomatoes cluster actors will greatly benefit.”
“My dream is to become a renowned farmer. Currently we employ five people permanenty and we have 30 seasonal laborers. At the moment, we have about 1,115 members in the Lamingo cluster. It’s my hope that we continue to grow in the future.”
For more stories of young people involved in 2SCALE, check our series “Youth in Agriculture.”