I started working in oil palm in 1987. Technology to harvest oil palm was always an issue, as well as power. Harvesting was difficult, especially with older palms, because getting to the fruit was so difficult. I also needed something that could help me prune and harvest without much effort and injury from the thorns on the branches. So I worked with a fabricator to convert a filing machine for harvesting. It worked well, but then of course the next problem I had after that experiment was how to power it. I heard about the mechanical harvester dealer from Malaysia, but the cost to courier the equipment from Malaysia to Nigeria was about half a million naira. Where would that money come from for a young farmer? That’s when I heard about PIND’s work with NIFOR and promoting mechanical harvesters here in Edo State. So I made a trip to NIFOR and found out that PIND left two mechanical harvesters with NIFOR. I arranged to get one of the mechanical harvesters and put it into use, and it worked well.
Even with the SSPE, we can now do things faster. Improved technology reduces the workload, but we still need an increased labor force because better technology means we are now able to expand. The number of my workers is increasing because our area of operation has increased. In my farm, we harvest everything together, and we have new palms getting matured. If this year we are harvesting from 50-60 acres, by the following year, another 10-15 acres are added, then more workers will be required. Even though the workload is being reduced with the intervention of the machines, we still need to increase the labour force because we are expanding. I started by employing up to 4 people, but there are days where we have up to about 12 people working in the mill.
My future plan is to raise capital and begin processing palm kernel oil, and to also be able to make use of the palm kernel in other areas. I could also acquire even better technology to expand my business even more.
“Improved technology reduces the workload, but we still need an increased labor force because better technology means we are now able to expand … I started by employing up to 4 people, but there are days where we have up to about 12 people working in the mill”.
Palm Fruit Farmer.