Kyenpiya Deshi had no thought of becoming a grape farmer until local demand for the grapes in her back garden pushed her to go “commercial”. Now this lecturer in plant science is growing all kinds of fruit to satisfy huge local demand.
Many people find it hard to believe that grapes grow well in Kyenpiya Deshi’s garden – until they see the picture of her holding the big bunch of big grapes that has gone viral on social media.
A pioneer grape grower in her area, Deshi realized the potential in grape farming when people began stopping by to ask if they could buy her fruit. Since then, her hobby has grown as she and her husband source grapes from “outgrowers” they have provided with grape seedlings, to satisfy fast-growing local demand.
“We have not been able to meet the market demands, it’s crazy,” she explained.
Motivated by her late farmer parents, Deshi has had a strong interest in farming since she was young. Now, with a PhD in Plant Physiology, she loves to watch things grow, a passion that has helped sustain her career as a lecturer in the Department of Plant Science and Biotechnology at the University of Jos.
Her love of plants led her to establish her “hobby garden”, which has grown beyond all expectations.
“Whenever my friends travel, they bring souvenirs of new plants to try out. And sometimes – it’s funny – I just love to watch things grow,” she explained.
In addition to grapes, Deshi grows a wide variety of vegetables and fruit including strawberries, apples, raspberries, blackberries, passion fruit, pomegranates, Irish potatoes, rosemary and thyme. She also grows fresh roses. And her farming doesn’t stop at plants. She is also breeding rabbits, sheep (specializing in rams), chickens and catfish – all for sale.
“My husband and I share gardening as a hobby in common. We spend most of the day in our garden, it is part of what has made our marriage successful. We just eat from the fruits in the garden while we tend the garden.”
Demand for their grapes has taken off in part thanks to social media as more and more people become aware of a local source of grapes – and other fruit.
“We have just three stands so when they start fruiting, our friends and family book even before harvest and when we post it on social media other people want to buy too but sadly we cannot meet with the demand,” she said.
Deshi has discovered that climatic conditions in different parts of the country favour the cultivation of grapes – an indication that there could be an untapped grape-farming venture in many peoples’ back yards, or patches of farmland. Currently, most grapes consumed in Nigeria are imported from South Africa.
Deshi’s grape business venture also goes beyond selling the grapes as fruit, to selling seedlings, as more and more people recognize the potential to make money from agricultural activity.
“I get orders from people at different parts of the country, people are beginning to try it and it’s yielding results,” she explained.
“There is a huge opportunity in farming in Nigeria and I hope that young people can tap into these opportunities. There is so much money in the ground,” Deshi said.
“People come to buy and it’s a very big source of motivation because you get free money even from your garden.”
She says spices and herbs can be grown in pots. “My spices and herbs are inside pots and it brings income too”
One kilogram of grapes can sell for 2000 naira and one vine can produce 25kg, according to Deshi. That means her vines can bring in 50,000 naira (121 US dollars) per harvest. She can plant 50 vines on a relatively small plot of land. That’s an income of 2,500,000 naira (6,000 US dollars), she explained.
Apart from the exotic fruits and vegetables, Deshi has set out to plant all the trees referenced in the bible in her garden. “Currently I have all the trees referenced in the bible except 2, and I am hoping that very soon I will have all of them.”
Deshi has also begun encouraging youths in her environment to engage in farming by gifting them seedlings and helping them to market their yields. “The market is bigger than we have imagined, even after encouraging youths around me by gifting them seedlings, my husband and I help them market yet, we have not been able to meet the market demands.”
Following her discovery of “wealth on the ground”, Deshi strongly believes Nigeria could not only establish local grape cultivation but expand into other exotic fruit that could be consumed locally and even exported across Africa.
With thanks to Africa No Filter who made this series possible.