Nigerian women have continued to create spaces for themselves in men dominated sectors of the economy. Even in the oddest enterprises, where women are least expected to be found, their entrepreneur mettle has pushed them across the bridge, to take position among men.
As the federal government continues to push for economic diversification, and to point at farming as the alternative to the oil-based economy, the response from Nigerians, particularly graduates, is growing. In many areas of farming, including animal farming, there has been an increasing number of graduates, among them women.
Tekedia had a brief chat with Ekene Aleke Obayi, a graduate of archeology and tourism from the University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN), who turned a herdswoman, pursuing a cattle rearing enterprise. She explains on the push behind her effrontery to pursue a career in the cattle rearing field perceived as men’s.
How did you find yourself in the business of cattle rearing?
The idea is from my husband’s family. It is a family business. My late father in-law was a cow dealer, both native and breeded cows in Umuezedike Nguru Nsukka. All the male children of my father in-law, except the first son, are doing the cattle rearing business. So that’s how the idea developed.
At what point did you decide to join the business?
My husband is also a cow dealer. After my National Youth Service Corp. (NYSC) in 2017, there was no job. So I decided to follow my husband to farm. I started learning the business from him. I used about three years for training. My own cattle rearing started early this year, on 3rd January 2020.
Do you face challenges dealing with the animals because you’re a woman?
No challenges at all because it is just like other domestic animals. The more you train them, the more they will be closer to you. For example, when they are hungry, I take them to the bush to eat, when they are thirsty; I take them to the stream to drink. During the rainy season, they will stay within my community because we have a lot of land mass, but in the dry season, I will take them from place to place. Like from Nguru to Obimo.
You said all the males in your husband’s family except one are herdsmen; is the business lucrative?
It is a lucrative business because if you buy a cow for N100,000, you will sell it for like N110,000-N120,000, depending on how you bargain with customers. But you can buy some while they are little. The little ones is from N40,000-N50,000, depending on their size. Small ones from 6-7 months are between N40,000-N50,000. After one year they will be ready for sale. But if you’re buoyant enough, you will allow them to grow big enough to give birth. The more they give birth, the more money you will make.
Does being a herdswoman have any effect on how people look at you?
Yes, because people see it as male job, but I’m trying to prove them wrong because what a man can do a woman can do it better. But many praise me and make people patronize me very well.
So far, what has been your biggest challenge in this business?
I would say financial problem. I need N10 million and above to push this business. I have bigger plans I want to implement. That’s why I’m seeking help from the federal government, state government, my governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, Ohanaeze NdiIgbo, my local government chairman. I want them to support me so that I will expand this business. I have only 10 cows now but wish to have 100 and above. Because I don’t have many, I keep them in the bush, they have ropes on their necks, I will tie them there where they will be eating until the morning. But if I get the funding that I need, I will create a cattle ranch which will create employment opportunity, tourist center and training center for my fellow women and others as well.
What advice do you have for people, especially women about cattle rearing?
People are seeing this business as dirty job, but I’m advising people, especially my fellow women to join me in this business to make money and prove them wrong.