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close this bookBetter Farming Series 26 - The Modern Farm Business (FAO - INADES, 1977, 55 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentPreface
View the documentIntroduction - What have we learned during this two- year course?
View the documentPart 1 - The modern farm business
View the documentPart 2 - What a modern farm business does
View the documentPart 3 - What can a farmer do to earn more money?
Open this folder and view contentsPart 4 - The farmer's expenses
View the documentPart 5 - Can a modern farmer succeed by himself?
View the documentConclusion: Farmers are responsible for the future of their village
View the documentSuggested question paper
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Part 3 - What can a farmer do to earn more money?

A better choice of crops

The farmer should produce what sells well. He must choose crops that bring in a lot of money.

For example:
Bikai farms 1 hectare.
He plants yams.
He works hard and well.
He harvests 8 000 kg of yams.

To feed his family, he stores 2 000 kg of yams
To plant the next year, he keeps 2500 kg.
So he stores altogether 2000 plus 2500 = 4 500 kg.
He can sell 8 000 less 4 500 = 3 500 kg.

Bikai lives a long way from the town.
He sells his yams at the village market.
Not many yams can be sold in the village; there are few buyers.
Yams are not dear.
Bikai sells 800 kg at 8 francs, and 1 500 kg at 7 francs

So Bikai sells 800 kg plus 1 500 kg = 2 300 kg.
He still has for sale 3 500 kg less 2 300 Kg = 1 200 kg.
But nobody buys them.
There are too many yams for sell at the village market
So Bikai's 1 200 kg of yams go bad.
Thus Bikai earned:

800 x 8


6400 francs

1500 x 7


10500 francs

16900 francs

Bikai farms 1 hectare. He has enough food, he can plant the following year, he has earned 16900 francs.

Another example:

Nled farms 1 hectare. He plants 1/2 hectare of yams. And he sows 1/2 hectare of up/and rice.

He harvests 4 000 kg of yams and 600 kg of paddy (that is, rice with its husks).

To feed his family, he stores 2 000 kg of yams To plant 1/2 hectare next year, he keeps 1 200 kg. He also keeps 15 kg of paddy for sowing.

So he stores: a total of 1 200 plus 2 000 = 3 200 kg of yams, and 15 kg of paddy.

He can sell:

rice: 600 kg less 15 kg = 585 kg
yams: 4 000 kg less 3 200 kg = 800 kg.

Nlend lives a long way from the town. He sells his rice and yams at the village market. He sells all his yams at 8 francs per kilo. He sells all his rice at 35 francs per kilo.

So Nlend earns:

sale of paddy:

585 x 35 = 20 475 francs

sale of yams:

800 x 8 = 6 400 francs.

Altogether, he earns 20 475 plus 6 400 = 26 875 francs.

Nlend farms 1 hectare. He has enough food, he can plant the following year, he has earned 26 875 francs.

Bikai and Nlend each farm one hectare.

They put aside part of their harvest for food and for planting.
Bikai earns 16 900 francs. Nlend earns 26 875 francs.
Nlend chose his crops better. He grows rice. Rice stores well. Rice transports well. Rice sells well. Nlend thinks before planting.
A modern farmer thinks before deciding on his land use.
Nlend says to Bikai: "The modern farmer produces what sells well."
Bikai and Nlend are good farmers, but Nlend earns more than Bikai.
You must think to make a better choice of crops.
Choose crops that bring in a lot of money.
You must produce what sells well.

Producing more by increasing crop yields

In Africa crop yields are often not very high. By working better, you can greatly increase crop yields.

To increase yields, a farmer must do better all his work on the land, and do it at the right time.

For a good yield, the most important work is:

· sowing at the right time

Sowing done at the beginning of the rainy season has every chance of yielding a good harvest; sowing done late in the rainy season will not yield a good harvest. The sowing date is certainly the most important thing in getting a good harvest.

For example, at Anie Mono, in Togo,

cotton sown on 15 June yielded 1 494 kg;
cotton sown on 1 July yielded 1 106 kg;
cotton sown on 15 July yielded 886 kg.

For example, in northern Cameroon,

cotton sown on 1 June yielded 800 kg;
cotton sown on 1 July yielded 400 kg;
cotton sown on 1 August yielded 100 kg.

Sowing at the right time is very important for increasing yields.

· weeding

Weeds grow very fast.
If they are not removed, they take all the food away from the plants, yields are low, and the farmer does not earn much.
Weeding must be done often, at least three times a year.

· sowing selected varieties

For many crops, there are better varieties of seed which have been selected by research institutes. These improved varieties give a better yield.

For example:

Traditional varieties of coffee yield 500 to 700 kg per hectare. The new varieties of selected coffee introduced in Ivory Coast can yield up to 2 000 kg per hectare.

Local varieties of groundnuts often give a maximum yield of 800 to 900 kg. Selected varieties can yield up to 2 000 kg per hectare.

Selected breeds of chickens grow faster than local breeds. If you want to breed chickens that earn money, it is better to buy selected chicks.

· using all the necessary pesticides

Some plants, such as cotton or cocoa, have many diseases. If you do not use pesticides, the plants become diseased, produce much less, and sometimes die.
It is absolutely necessary to use all the pesticides advised by the extension worker.
A farmer who does not use pesticides can Jose half his harvest.

· applying fertilizers

Many fields are now farmed every year. Each year, these fields become a little poorer. There are no longer enough mineral salts in the soil to feed the plants. The soil must be given back its mineral salts; for that, you must give it manure or fertilizers.

Selected varieties of plants demand a lot of food, for they produce a lot. They need more mineral salts to grow well. So it is often necessary to apply fertilizers.

The farmer who does all his work well, who applies fertilizers, gets big yields. He has a bigger harvest, and earns more money.

Yields must be increased.

Producing more by increasing the area farmed

The farmer who increases the area farmed has more work to do.
How can he do this additional work?

· First of all, he should do all he can to waste less time.

The farmer should work for more hours a day. He should not spend whole days or even weeks in doing nothing. He should use his free time during the dry season in preparing work for the next crop season.

· The farmer should organize his work better.

He should plan well ahead the different jobs he will have to do in each field. He should prepare his tools and the materials he will use. By organizing his work and planning what there is to do, he will be able to do much more work; he will be able to farm bigger fields and increase the area cultivated.

· The farmer should also work faster.

To work faster, the farmer can use two means:

· Work with machines, that is, work with animal power, for instance, till the soil with a plough and two oxen.
· Work with other farmers, that is, do work in common.
· To increase the cultivated area, the farmer can work with machines.

There are still many farmers in Africa who work only with their own strength. They have few tools, some use only a hoe and a machete. By using only a hoe and a machete you cannot work quickly, you can only farm small fields, you do not get much harvest, you do not earn much money.

Modern farmers who want to cultivate bigger fields use machines and animal power. In that way, the work is done much more quickly.

A farmer who has a pair of oxen and a plough tills his land very quickly. He can also weed with a cultivator drawn by oxen; weeding will be done much faster and the farmer can weed more of ten. The farmer can also have a seed drill drawn by a donkey or an ox. With this seed drill, the farmer will do his sowing quickly, and above all can get it done in good time.

Machines are dear.

One farmer by himself does not have enough money to buy a spraying machine for cotton or cocoa, a pulping machine for coffee, a seed drill for rice.

But several farmers can get together to buy these machines.

· To increase the area cultivated, a farmer can form groups for joint work.

Work in the fields is long and difficult. Sometimes the work must be done at a given moment, in a very short time, such as, for example, sowing at the right time. Often farmers do not manage to get the work done in good time, because they are alone. In order to do all these big jobs in a very short time, they farm small fields; they don't get much harvest.

If farmers get together to do certain difficult jobs such as clearing the land and grubbing trees, such as sowing and weeding, such as bringing in the harvest, they get on much more quickly, and they can farm bigger fields.

Farmers can also get together to buy and use machines that cost a lot; they can form groups for joint use of their machines.

For example, a group of farmers can buy a winch for clearing the land and grubbing trees in the fields of all the farmers in the group. A group of farmers can buy a seed drill with which all the sowing of all the farmers can be done quickly and at the right time.

By working together, you work faster.

Better selling of produce

The farmer who has cultivated big areas, who has done all the work in the fields well, gets a bigger harvest. But it is not enough to produce more. You must also sell well, which means:

· selling all the produce that is not used by the farmer and his family; there should be no produce left unsold and going bad.

· selling at a good price.

The farmer who wants to earn more money must sell: all his unused harvest, at a good price.


Often farmers store on their farms a large amount of foodstuffs which will not be eaten, such as yams, taro, cassava. If farmers do not use these yams or taro by eating them, or selling them, it is useless to produce them, and to try to increase the yields or the areas farmed.

The farmer should make more effort to sell everything that can go bad or be wasted. He should apply himself to marketing his produce.

Trying to sell produce is just as much work as weeding or harvesting. The farmer makes an effort to till the ground; in the same way, he should make an effort to sell better.


What can a farmer do to sell his produce at a better price?

· He should choose crops that are easy to sell and fetch a high price. We saw on page 17 that Nlend chose to grow less yams and some rice as well, because Nlend sold his rice at a better price. Farmers should do like Nlend, and think before choosing their crops.

They should also choose the best varieties.

For example, in countries where arabica coffee grows, planters should grow arabica rather than robusta, because arabica sells at a higher price per kilo.

For example, Mono cotton has little by little been replaced by Allen cotton, which sells at a higher price.

For export to foreign countries, banana growers now grow the Poyo variety, which sells at a higher price than the Gros Michel variety.

· The farmer must pay great attention to the quality and presentation of his produce.

· To have high- qualify products, the farmer must harvest at the right time.

You must not harvest long before the produce is ripe. Nor must you harvest when the produce is too ripe. Often the harvest must be gathered in several stages; for example: to harvest coffee berries, you must go through the plantation four or five times, every fortnight, to gather the ripe berries only.

· To have high- quality products, they must be sorted.

Sorting means taking out everything bad, taking out everything rotten or mouldy or damaged. Produce must be sorted before selling.

· Products must be graded in several classes.

Products are not all of the same quality. They must be separated into different heaps containing products of very good quality, products of medium quality, products of low quality. The farmer can get a better price for products graded in several classes.

· Products must be well presented and packed.

A well- presented product sells at a better price. The farmer should especially pay attention to packing his produce well in sacks or cases. Then the goods do not get damaged and are protected from dust, rain, mud.

For example:

Mawem has 200 kg of rice to sell. In the village, rice sells at 25 francs per kilo. In town, rice sells at 45 francs per kilo.

Mawem plans to carry his rice to town and sell it there. He finds a lorry. The lorry can carry 1000 kg. The carrier asks 6 000 francs for the job.

Mawem has 200 kg to be carried. So for the transport he spends per kilo 6000/200 = 30 francs per kilo.

Mawem has not earned any money by selling his rice in town. He has in fact lost money. He sold the rice in town for 20 francs per kilo more than he could have got in the village. But he has spent 30 francs per kilo for transport. So he has lost 30 less 20 = 10 francs per kilo.

Mawem thinks what to do. He gets together with his brothers Nack and Nlend. Between them, they have 1000 kg of rice to sell. They take the same lorry. It can carry 1000 kg. The carrier still asks 6 000 francs.

Mawem and his brothers have 1 000 kg of rice. Transport costs them per kilo 6 000/1000 francs = 6 francs.

Mawem and his brothers have made money by selling their rice in town. They sold the rice in town at 20 francs per kilo more than the village price. They have spent 6 francs per kilo for transport They earned 20 less 6 francs = 14 francs per kilo.

By selling his rice in town on his own, Maurem lost 10 francs per kilo. By selling together with his brothers, in a group, Mawem earned 14 francs per kilo.

Protection against dishonest dealers

Many dealers are not very honest. They often try to cheat the farmer when they buy his produce.


A bad dealer can cheat the farmer in these ways:

· on the weight of the harvest;

The dealer uses scales which show less than the true weight. In this way, the dealer can cheat the farmer of 5 or even 10 kg on a sack 80 kg. The farmer by himself cannot check whether the dealer is cheating him.

· on the quality of the produce;

Often the dealer says the harvest is of poor quality. He buys it at a lower price.

· on the price;

The dealer knows that the farmer needs money and is ready to sell even at a very low price. The dealer takes advantage of the weakness of the single farmer; he won't buy the produce except at a very low price.

· on the reckoning:

Some dealers make mistakes in multiplying the number of kg by the price per kg. A farmer who can't do his own reckoning cannot defend himself.

To defend themselves against cheating dealers, farmers should gee together in a group. Together they will be stronger and can defend themselves.