Abundance of fertile land, cheap labour and availability of water are driving farmers from Gujarat
to explore Africa, which has 60 per cent of world’s agriculture land, most of the unexplored. While some farmers have already achieved great success in their ventures, efforts are being made to enable more and more farmers to cash in on this opportunity.
Farmer Ghanshyam Herbha of Rajkot
is already successfully farming 25,000 acres of land in Zambia for the past few years. He explored farming opportunities in Africa on a friend’s advice. Herbha, who belongs to the Ahir community, says there is abundant water available in Africa, compared to the unpredictable irrigation in India. He also confirms that the land is more fertile and labour cheaper. Herbha, who stays on Kalawad Road and gets the land tilled through managers, says: “In India, if you sow wheat, you can get 800-1,100 kg of yield per acre under the best of conditions. In Africa, a regular yield crosses 1,100 kg per acre. In India, a farmer can sell good-quality wheat for Rs 300-350 per kg, in Africa, they will get Rs 450 per kg. Getting good labour is a big problem in India. Labourers charge Rs 300-350 per cay
while you can get abundant labour in Africa for less than Rs 200 per day.”
He adds, “If there’s a drought situation in India, the government does not extend much support to farmers, who end up making heavy losses for the year.”
Chandulal Sukhadia is a farmer who hails from Chalala town of Amreli district
. Sukhadia tills a 30-acre farm in Gambia.
Encouraged by the results he got, he plans to lease another 52 acres in the coming year. Sukhadia who hails from the Kadva Patel community says his friends from Surat have leased farms in Guinea and they encouraged him to look to Africa for better opportunities.
He informs, “There are big farming opportunities in countries like Guinea, Senegal and Guinea-Bissau as the land is flat. Unlike Herbha, Sukhadia stays in Africa most of the time and manages his farming business.
Confirming the trend, Parag Tejura, president of Saurashtra Vepar Udyog Mahamandal, says they have been guiding farmers on carrying out farming in Africa.
Tejura says, “An acre of farmland costs Rs 12-13 lakh in India, while an acre of land can be leased for Rs 5,000 for a period of 20-25 years in Africa. This means, a farmer can lease 1,000 acres of land for Rs 50 lakh. He may spend another Rs 50 lakh to level the land and get farming machinery. If he gets yield of Rs 1 lakh per acre, then the investment of Rs 1 crore can yield Rs 10 crore worth of crops in the first year itself.”
Tejura along with Gujarat Agro Industries Corporation Ltd MD K S Randhawa have already met high commissioners of countries like Senegal, South Sudan, Mauritius
, and Guinea for to explore farming opportunities in these nations. They plan to meet high commissioners of 15 other countries.
The Mahamandal is organizing an expo this February where officials and businessmen from many African countries will visit Rajkot. The event will educate farmers on how to go about farming in Africa. Tejura says, “We already have a list of 50 probable farming MoU, and are expecting as many as 100 MoUs to be signed.
For people here, the biggest concern is security in Africa. We will inform them how this is a needless fear.” He adds, “These ventures can be a success if the government extends its wholehearted support. More Indian farmers going abroad will ensure increased export of farming machinery and more foreign exchange inflow.” Randhawa says farming in Africa is a positive proposition. “If the government of that country is ready to sign MoUs and extend amicable conditions, Gujarat government will reciprocate favourably. If they do not agree, the farmers can explore opportunities on their own,” he said.