With the current global economic downturn occasioned by the advent of Coronavirus, there appears to be a ray of hope for intending livestock farmers as farming in grasscutters is one business that is not affected by foreign exchange.
Mr Alhassan Akogwu, the owner of Favour Grasscutter Farm, Dutse-Bmuko, Bwari Area Council, FCT, disclosed this to newsmen on Friday in Abuja.
Grasscutters are loved and treasured in West and Central Africa, and their meat is considered to have one of the highest protein level and lowest fat content.
Akogwu, who specialises in grasscutter farming, said he ventured into the business because it was less costly and higher in profit margin.
He said he discovered that the business he started in 2018 had not once been affected by the fluctuation in foreign exchange, but had continued to thrive even in the face of the current economic hardship, occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I opted for grasscutter farming because it is less cost-effective and higher in profit margin as against other livestock farming like poultry, cattle and snails.
“Before I started this grasscutter venture, I was always running into debts, so I call it “a business that dollar does not affect’’.
“I have been into livestock farming for some time. I started with fish farming, but the fluctuation in the price of dollar affected the business and it became an issue.
“Any time the fish feed finished, I could neither sleep nor rest because the price was increasing on a weekly basis,’’ he explained.
According to Akogwu, he started searching for a kind of livestock business that will not be affected by dollar, and came across grasscutter farming, as all that was required to rear it was within one’s reach.
“All it consumes is within your community; you do not have to buy their food.
“When I was rearing fish, if their food finished, there would be tension in the house as we would be under pressure of where to get money to buy feed.
“Meanwhile, with grasscutter, you have nothing to be afraid of because wherever you go you must see and get grass for the feeding.’’
Giving more insight into the business, Akogwu emphasised on training as the basic tool in starting the business.
“Rearing of grasscutter is very easy, but you have to acquire training first on how to take care of them.
“This training is not theoretical, rather it is a practical one done right in the farm because the grasscutter is a wild animal that needs to be handled with caution.
“To start this business, you need to get a `colony’ at the price of N100, 000, which comprises of four females and one male.”
“According to him, a female grasscutter can give birth to two sets of `litters’, and each litter can give you 3-4 young grasscutters.
“These young animals suckle for 49 days before they are weaned, and the female mates again. After this, it is necessary to check if the female is pregnant.
“Because grasscutters are polygamous in nature, their gestation period is five months, they give birth twice a year with a minimum of 4-5 youngsters and maximum of 15-17.
“Meaning within a year, you have up to 50 young grasscutters, and when you sell them according to colony, you discover that you make profit and return on investment.
“Coming down to the marketing and consumption of grasscutters, you do not have any difficulty in selling because there is no religious or cultural prohibition of grasscutter meat, everyone can eat it and it is very nutritious”.
Also contributing, Mrs Elizabeth Akogwu, said farming in grassutters, also known as cane rat, was more profitable than working and earning salary because she had worked in the private sector for five years and had nothing to show for it.
Mrs Akogwu said she realised that apart from the fear of job insecurity, it was time consuming, had no long term benefits, and the take home pay was nothing to write home about.
“My husband advised me that instead of depending on a meagre salary, why would I not join him in the business.
“At first, I was a bit discouraged, but when the grasscutters started reproducing and yielding faster, I was really happy.
“So I want to encourage women to support their husbands when they have business ideas like this.
“Also the single ladies can do it too, you do not have to wait until you are married before you start the business, you can be doing this for your future home,’’ she said.
While also encouraging the youths to explore opportunities in the business, Mrs Akogwu noted that there were lots of benefits with determination and perseverance.
“If our youths can channel their energy into this kind of business, it will be difficult to find hoodlums in the country, because it is cost-effective, less stressful and you can make a lot money from it.
“I believe that one day people will come from other countries to buy grasscutters, and it will be an indigenous meat from Nigeria,” she said.