“I decided to suspend my academic quest to start grass-cutter farming after completing my Master’s degree in Political Science because I saw some people in my department spending over seven years to acquire doctorate degrees and still struggled to find jobs,” Mr. Chinedu Eluwa told Sunday Telegraph.
Chinedu’s case is a typical example of what many Nigerian graduates go through in searching for jobs after spending years and resources in acquiring university education. He subsequently decided to suspend his quest for a doctorate degree to go into grass cutter farming in Chinedu hails from Awo- Omamma in Oru-East Local Government Area in Imo State.
After graduating with Political Science at Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Anambra State in 2018 he went for his M.Sc. also in Political Science at the Madonna University, Okija in Anambra State which he finished in 2014. Once he completed his masters he initially toyed with the idea of securing an office job while he did his doctorate.
But after failing to set a decent job he opted to concentrate on his animal husbandry full time when he became fed up. He explained: “I decided I would be better off if I invest those years trying to secure a doctorate degree growing my grass-cutter farming business, and I haven’t regretted that decision. Yes, I will someday go back for my doctorate degree but not now. I need to spread this gospel of self-reliance so that more youths can take a cue from me. “I want them to see and use me as an example that an individual can start from where he is, with what he has, to where he/she wants to be.
To start a grasscutter farm, you need one colony that comprises one male and four females for N79,000 to breed, cages, drinking and feeding trough, supplementary feed and a farm house, these are the basic needs. “A four decker cage can cost between N50, 000 to N150, 000 depending on the location and welder.
Drinking and feeding trough sell for N1, 000 apiece. Pelletized supplementary feed goes for N250 per kilogramme and for the farm house, an empty room in your house can be used to start off.” The interest to venture into grasscutter farming developed when he visited Ibadan to attend a one-day seminar on the in 2011 after failing to laud a decent job.
“When I first saw them at Forestry Research Institute of Nigeria, Ibadan (FRIN), I realised that not many people were into the business and as such, I could be amongst the leaders in the industry if I started on time.
“Today, I thank God that I have made a big mark in the industry. Today, not only am I the first National President of the Grasscutter Farmers Association in Nigeria (GRAFAN), I am also the Chairman, Board of Trustees,” he enthused.
When he first started the business on March 20, 2012, it was like a hobby, he said: “Sincerely speaking, I didn’t take the time to document my earnings until last year because all along it was more like a hobby to me. From January to November 16, 2016, which coincided with my birthday, I generated over N12, 510, 000 selling breeding stocks, my e-book and my coaching programmes.
“When I came into the business, I didn’t calculate what the industry was worth. What I calculated was the number of people that will go through me as the gateman into the mine to mine the gold I discovered.
But today, the grasscutter farming industry is worth over N1billion bearing in mind that there are only four countries actively involved in the domestication of grasscutters – Nigeria, Ghana, Benin Republic and Togo.” Speaking on his challenges,
Eluwa said: “We know that the cost of purchasing breeding stock is quite high which is why we are currently working with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to access the Anchor Borrower Programme so that our members can get breeding stocks at reduced prices. “The uniqueness of this rodent stems from the fact that it has no religious or cultural discrimination against it.
Both Christians and Muslims consume grasscutters which is a delicacy any day anytime. Grasscutters are doctors’ recommended white meat. Virtually all our health conscious senior citizens have switched to white meat. Imagine the joy of having your own steady supply of white meat at your backyard. “Profits from breeding and selling grasscutters are fascinating. Imagine selling five rodents for N79, 000 when they are less than 2kg. They make good companions.
The value chain of grasscutter provides employment to all participants.” The Director of Research Planning and Protocol of GRAFAN, Mr. Peter Akparanta, enumerated what a young breeder may likely encounter and suggested ways that the government can support Small and Medium Entrepreneurs (SMEs).
He said: “SMEs in Nigeria do not have easy access to funds to scale their businesses causing them to stagnate and die or remain perpetually small. Also, it lacks adequate trainings to grow their businesses. Most of them can’t afford these trainings and they are also challenged with adequate and proper staffing.
“The government is trying, but they can do more. Knowing full well that small businesses form the bulk of enterprises in our society, they should bear the responsibility of ensuring that small businesses succeed so that they can keep the money and jobs flowing.”
Akparanta, who is also the editor of the Nigerian Yellow Pages, added: “Government needs to create and run more free business trainings and encourage the SME’s to go through these trainings. They should make certificates from these seminars collaterals for accessing customised individual SME loans. Government needs to seriously encourage small businesses to access funds to scale their businesses.”
According to him, the market is huge in the sense that people want grasscutters, “But the market is not coordinated and that is what we have come to achieve, saying that people need to know where to go to, when they need grasscutter meat.”
Akparanta, who has been in the business for a very long time, also warned of its health hazards for those that patronise road side grasscutter sellers. “There is the problem of buying from the roadside; it is not hygienic, it is not properly processed, it could be deadlier in the body than you think, but because people need it, they still go for it anyway.
“So we are doing something that can be scientifically accepted, hygienically prepared, trying to produce what people can be sure of. We want to provide more viable and important alternative, how it is properly processed and then create awareness. The market is there but the market does not know where to go for it.
So, we want the market to know where we are. “Grass-cutter is a popular delicacy in Nigeria, apart from its popularity as a delicacy in Nigeria amongst all the rodents that are domesticated, grass cutter stands as the most profitable.
Now imagine where you sell a male and four female grasscutters for N79, 000 per colony after three months for female and four months for male. I don’t think there is any rodent that is sold at that price. “Apart from it being a popular delicacy, which we locally know as bush meat, it is the most profitable rodent that is being domesticated in Nigeria and West Africa.”
Mr. Peter Adegoke, who is GRAFAN’s National Treasurer, spoke on the sheer size of the value chain: “We want to grow, process and export, there is value gain to it. The skin is also something that is highly in demand in the market, the skin and bones are raw materials for other pharmaceutical products. It can be processed into all these chains of products like shoes, bags and other leather items.”
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