Mr Sikiru Lawal Omotunde, the Chief Executive Officer of Ayoola Farms in Imesi-Ile, Osun State is a successful tomato farmers. One of his tomato farms covers 50 hectares of land and he is planning to expand it though it is not mechanised.
Omotunde said he has 15 permanent workers on the farm and about 50 others as labourers. He also engaged an agric expert as a consultant in order to achieve good practices and ensure greater yield. He said he has trained about 25 youth on tomato farming and that they are already doing well in their respective farms.
Omotunde, who hails from Aagba village in Boripe Local Government Area of Osun State, has farms in different locations. Apart from the local markets in Osun, Omotunde said he also transports his tomato for sale in Lagos and Edo states.
But he is not happy that the profit he generates is always eroded by cut-throat interest on the capital he secured for the business. He is, therefore seeking for assistance from government in form of interest free loan and farm implements to enable him operate his farms maximally.
“I got this land free but I need money to pay my workers and for other things. So, I took loan. The interest on the loan that I got is too high but I took it because there was no alternative. Therefore, after the harvest, we have to pay the loan with the interest and that is what takes all our gains away. If I can get interest free loan, the gains would be very impressive and one will be encouraged,” he said.
Speaking about how he ventured into tomato farming, Omotunde said: “When my father and my mother died. I was living with my grandmother. Whenever the old woman wanted to cook soup, she would go to the market and buy ingredients including pepper and tomato. So I started planting the seeds of the tomato at the back of our house whenever she sent me to throw away after she had washed the tomato.”
“When my tomato matured, we used it to cook soup and I used the seeds to plant again. That was how we stopped buying tomato whenever we wanted to cook soup at home. At a point, my grandmother’s friends were coming to our house to get tomato. When I realised that we still have tomato in excess, I started selling it to food vendors in the village and I was making money.”
“After my secondary school, I could not proceed to higher institution because there was no sponsor and I also had to cater for my younger siblings. That was why I started full scale tomato farming. I started with one hectare but I’m doing 50 hectares now. I got the land free but I have to spend money to clear it because it was a forest when we came here. Also, I have to spend money on the workers. I always take loans and the interest on the loan is too high,”
Meanwhile, in a bid to imbibe good and modern practices on his farm, Omotunde has engaged a graduate, Raji Stephen Adewale, who was trained in agric, as consultant. He explained that the yield got better when Raji joined him because he introduced some new concepts.
“Mr Raji studied agric in the university and he has introduced some ideas that really helped us and we have seen a difference. We are receptive to new ideas. We want to grow more. We want to expand further. We have more land. We can do more. We hope to keep improving. We really need farm implements so that we can go the mechanised way. Majorly, we need interest free loans to remain in the business and make gains,” he said.
While speaking, Raji said he decided to join Ayoola farms because he was impressed with what Lawal Omotunde was doing and wanted to assist him. Raji also said the farm requires implements and farm house alongside the necessary amenities.
“As a graduate, I’m engaged in fishery at the moment. I developed interest in Omotunde when I saw his massive tomato farm. He accepted my suggestions and he confirmed that my intervention has attracted positive improvement to his farm,” the consultant said.
Raji said some agric experts from a research institute came to Ayoola tomato farm recently to study it. His words: “The agric researchers brought their tomato seeds and planted them on our farm. They wanted to compare their seeds with ours. We told them that we have our local way of treating our seeds. I can’t remember the name of the research institute now. We are trying to learn from each other.”
A community leader in Imesi-Ile, Engr Kayode Omole, told Daily Trust that Lawal has been a good role model to other youth in the community as they are now showing interest in agriculture. He also urged the state government to support him and other youths in agriculture so as to sustain their interest and deter them from crime.
“We are happy that Lawal Omotunde is focused on what he is doing. I’m particularly happy that he is training other youths on tomato farming. This is one of the ways to prevent the youth from going into crime and criminal ventures. At least, those that acquired the knowledge from him are productively engaged now. We want other youths in the community to get involved in positive things that will fetch them income and keep them away from criminality,” Omole said.
Lawal Omotunde said the people of Imesi-Ile were very accommodating and friendly. “Apart from giving me land free, the people of this community have been very nice to me. They take us as one of them and my workers and I enjoy great hospitality here.”