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Opinions of Saturday, 12 December 2015

Columnist: A.R. Gomda

The lawyer and his farm

Consumers of food hardly know how the source of their nourishment and energy starts its journey from the farmer’s toil far away from their tables.

Farming as an occupation for the unlettered is still an impression held by a section of the population. This impression is gradually fading though; it is not as highly held as it used to be some decades ago.

Most graduates of Agricultural Science from our agricultural training institutions such as Kwadaso, Kumasi and others hardly venture into commercial agriculture.

Integrated farming, as it is in advanced countries such as the USA and others, is responsible for the massive progress made by these parts of the world, with their surpluses sent to those who are unable to produce enough to feed their teeming populations in the developing world. Only a small segment of their populations are engaged in agriculture because of the scientific approach to the occupation.

Various efforts have been introduced by successive governments to boost agriculture, one of them being attempts at making the occupation more attractive so that it does not continue to be a preserve of the unlettered whose peasant approach to the practice is becoming unsustainable and unable to produce enough to meet our needs.

Newfound Occupation

For those who have read between the lines and therefore appreciate the importance of agriculture, their professions notwithstanding, some of them have found in the soil wealth waiting to be exploited.

They are blazing a trail which others might soon find worthy of following. During the recent national farmers’ day, those engaged in the production of food and cash crops including fishing and animal production and excelled in these areas were honoured.

Those who thought out the idea which besides honouring farmers seeks to entice others to reconsider their stance must be congratulated for their initiative.

Ejisu

In the Ejisu District of the Ashanti Region, an Accra-based Lawyer Musa Ahmed, who shares a name with Ibrahim Musa, the national best farmer—no relationship though—made the headlines for his efforts.

He was honoured for the progress he has chalked in cattle rearing. It was an honour which opened the other side of the advances the lawyer has made in the other phases of general agriculture.

Soon after the honour was bestowed upon him, the inner bowels of his occupation were opened up as curious journalists sought to find out more from Lawyer Musa who was born and bred in Ejisu although hailing from Bawku in the Upper East Region.

Genesis

“I picked up the farming spirit from my parents, both of who were farmers in the Ejisu area,” he said, adding, “I used to follow my father to the farm and worked with him and so I had an idea of the occupation before venturing into it.”

His late father, he said, reared goats and sheep; and his mother had a rice farm “and so I have some experience about what I went into.”

“Anytime I am on the farm the birds, turkeys and fowls know I am around and so wait for me to feed them,” he said with the satisfaction of an accomplished farmer.

Having started the farm in 2012 with just 12 cows, today he has some 100 cattle to his credit and as he told DAILY GUIDE, “the challenges notwithstanding, I intend to hit 500 cows in the next four years.”

Cocoa Farm

“My farm is in Old Tafo in the Eastern Region and I intend putting up a village on the 20 acres of land that belongs to me. This done, I would expand the farm. Cocoa farming is a very difficult occupation.

“One has to weed the place and nurse the plants until they grow and start producing. I have interspersed the cocoa trees with plantain, the produce from which I sell and sometimes give out as charity,” he said.

Be it as it may, Lawyer Musa has a big dream of becoming an outstanding farmer. He is already one but for him it would seem he is aiming higher than the notch he has reached now.

For a man with a passion for the farming occupation, weekly visits to Ejisu and other parts of the region where other agricultural activities are based do not constitute a bother at all.

Such visits afford him the opportunities to appreciate the challenges which need immediate addressing. And above all, it is a source of leisure from the hustle and bustle of city life and the stress of appearing in the courts as he manages his law firm.

Salaries

It is important that farm workers are paid salaries, “which I do including allowances each time I visit the farms. I also provide them with maize, rice and cooking oil.”

Farm House

The farm house concept is not alien in our part of the world. What is new is the modernisation of the concept. Lawyer Musa or Farmer Musa has a modern farmhouse on his Ejisu farm with all the facilities that would keep one glued to the place for days on end without boredom.

The idea to construct the farmhouse was borne out of the need to meet his needs and to afford him the opportunity to be abreast with the developments on the farm.

“When I went there was no water and electricity and so I applied to the ECG to extend it to the place and agreed to pay 70% of the cost involved. My request was granted and electricity was extended to the place. I dug three boreholes and put up a three-bedroom house for myself where I put up when I go there on weekends,” he said.

Deforestation

Lawyer Musa has eyes for the environment and recalls how human activities have affected negatively the pristine nature of the forest over the years. “Ejisu used to have a thick forest untouched but today this is no more. There used to be a species of white bearded monkey common to this place when I was a small boy. Today these are no more common here because man has destroyed their habitats. I intend to plant trees to protect the environment,” he disclosed.

Security

Those with the experience of cattle farming will tell you that the most difficult aspect of this aspect of agriculture is the challenges posed by the Fulani herdsmen who are often engaged to take care of the animals, their experience in such areas highly unequalled.

Fulani herdsmen are associated with cattle rustling and other malfeasances. Those who have invested in cattle farming depend on them to take care of their animals.

According to Lawyer Musa, sometimes big cows are replaced with small ones on the blind side of the owner. It is only when the farmer comes on visits as Lawyer Musa does sometimes on weekends that he learns about such developments, if at all.

The malfeasances are so crafted that the owner might never know about them and the repeated play of them could lead to massive loss in production.

“I have an iPad with which I take pictures of the animals. This way I am able to keep track of their growth and find out also when any of them is stolen or replaced. It is therefore becoming difficult, almost impossible, for them to continue such thieveries,” he said.

Protection

“I visit the farm every weekend and coupled with this, I sometimes go there with friends in the Police. I also tell the Fulani that even if they steal my cows and take them to Burkina Faso I can chase them to the place and recover my cattle,” he said.

With a registered pump action firearm and wire fencing, he is assured of double security when he is on the farm.

Last Word

Lawyer Musa is encouraging other professionals to follow in his footsteps because “it relieves stress associated with city life. The trees here provide a cleaner environment, unpolluted.

There is no medicine for managing stress than staying on a farm with largely untouched vegetation. I encourage all professionals to go into farming. They should not be scared. It is like starting class one and progressing eventually to a PhD.”