There is no doubt that these are trying times for Lagosians and Nigerians in general. Things have changed, but this is not the change we were hoping for. And while most people agree that the promised land will take some time to come, like the Israelites in the bible, Lagosians are getting tired.
But as the saying goes, where there is life, there is hope. And as long as we are not considering jumping off the Lekki-Ikoyi Link Bridge like some Lagos celebrities tried recently, we need to make that hope more of a reality.
How then do we turn hope to economic reality? There are many ways to do this in Lagos – trading being the likeliest. Trading is an excellent option because of the large population of Lagos. But the competition in just about anything you choose to trade in will be stiff. Lagosians are very enterprising, and if you can think it, someone else has most likely started it.
Tough tides in an urban fish pond
In the last 3 months, I have met 4 different but equally enterprising women who have otherwise attended university to train in ‘book work’ but have since used their book knowledge for farming. We have met a doctor turned mushroom farmer, snail rearers, poultry keepers, a goat farmer with the most delicate physical features and manner, vegetable farmers, and visited a fish farm in a place called Eputu London run by an Ibo ex-banker lady!
Can we narrow the urban farming options down? Yes. Mushroom farming and snail rearing are for niche markets. Goat rearing and poultry farming can be expensive, and to grow vegetables commercially, you need a large piece of land or employ specialised greenhouse techniques, which will cost much more than most people can afford.
This leaves fish farming as the most viable option, and the statistics support this choice. As a country, we still import most of the fish we consume. The demand for fish is still very very high and cannot be met locally.
One word of caution however – most people grow catfish because they are hardy fish that can survive tough conditions, and can eat almost anything on offer. It is for this very same reason that catfish production in Lagos is on the high side, and is subject to competition. Therefore, if you do decide to grow fish, try Tilapia. They are tough fish, but not as tough, and are therefore less cultivated than catfish.
Whichever specie you decide on, it is advisable that you first learn the business. Specifically, you must visit the Federal Institute of Industrial Research, Oshodi (FIIRO). This is the home for all things urban farming in Lagos, and should be the first port of call for any intended urban farmer.
Finally, start small, and start with a business plan. It will be a rewarding exercise.