The harsh economic condition in Nigeria is a reality; however, waterleaf farming has become a money-spinner for some rural women in Akwa Ibom State. Indeed, waterleaf farming has become a financial fortune changer for most of these women.
A major soup recipe, waterleaf is always in high demand all-year-round, as it forms a major ingredient in the cooking of Ukwoho afang, edikang ikong and ukwoho atama, among others by the Efiks, Ibibios and other tribes in the South-South and other regions of the country.
Realizing the nutritional and economic values of waterleaf, some women of Obiobom in Abak Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State have decided to engage in the business of planting waterleaf to fortify their families economically, StraightNews has discovered.
Unlike some people who walk the streets looking for illusive white-collar jobs and some who depend on their husbands for money to sustain themselves and other family members, these industrious women are daily burrowing waterleaf in the rich soil of Obiobom to attract naira and kobo in exchange for their lucrative produce on a daily and weekly basis.
Hear Mrs. Glory Jeremiah, women leader in Obiobom village in Abak “Waterleaf farming is a viable source of income to us. One bed depending on the size can fetch you between N6,000 and N20,000. This is achieved in a period of one month after planting waterleaf. From there on, we make it on a daily and weekly basis,” StraightNews was told.
Collaborating, Mrs. Elizabeth Unyime Udo, another waterleaf farmer, affirmed that waterleaf business is a lucrative one and that they make good money from it. “We use the proceeds to sponsor our children in school, feed our families and take care of our basic financial needs.”
StraightNews gathered from Mrs. Ekpeno Okon, a mother of two also waterleaf farmer that every year they (women) plant in eight acres of with 300 beds. Conducting the reporter round the two large farms in the area, Okon explained that it takes two weeks to grow waterleaf and another two weeks to harvest and sell it.
Mrs. Enoima Charlie Okon says though they do not acquire any special training or attend any seminar, they have been doing the business successfully. “To start the farm, you must clear the land. You have to till it thoroughly to bring out the top soil is buried. After this, plant suckers of waterleaf. Plant them and daily observe the humidity. Pour water and remove weeds,” she explained. On what they apply to the farms for the waterleaf to grow and blossom for harvest, she mentioned the application of fertilizer and poultry waste.
Mrs. Uwem Abraham was quick to inform StraightNews reporter that the venture would not have been possible but for the fact they have been renting the land at N20,000 from one Ima Charlie on a yearly basis. Their main headache is the ravaging of their farms by stray animals: goats and pigs.
However, Mrs. Abraham wants government intervention in an effort to produce more waterleaf and supply to other parts of the country. “Since we are self-employed, I want the state government to assist by providing us with a soft loan, fertilizer, pesticide and borehole,” she requests.
In fact, waterleaf farming has turned the lonely village to a destination of a sort as traders from Uyo, Ikot Ekpene, Abak main town, and neighbouring villages daily flock to the place to buy waterleaf for sale to different customers, StraightNews was told.
Every morning, Obiobom women armed with basins and knives and accompanied by their kith and kin sometimes their children march to their different farms to harvest and sell to anxious-looking customers.
Before arrival at their farms, the customers packing their cars and motor cycles along the macadamized Ikot Ekang-Nkek Abak Road would swarm over the farmers and commence bargaining on how much to sell at least for them to make a profit on reaching their point of destination.
The task of planting and harvesting waterleaf is telling. But the business is lucrative and rewarding in putting daily food on the tables of the hardworking farmers.
Waterleaf, which is botanically known as talinum triangular is herbaceous annual, perennial plant that is native to Mexico, the Caribbean and the leaves are edible. It is also found in the tropical areas of Africa and luxuriates well during the rainy season.
It is known that waterleaf contains flavonoid, alkaloid and saponins, and is rich in vitamins A and C, iron and calcium.
Experts say that waterleaf prevents atherosclerosis that affects arterial walls, serves as anti-diarrhoea, avoids thrombus, serves as an antioxidant, increases the immune system, reduces hypertension, prevents eye cataract and maintains eye health.
They also state that waterleaf prevents cancer, lowers cholesterol, prevents osteoporosis, makes bones and teeth stronger, prevents bladder stones, maximizes brain function, copes with stress, improves mood, helps in beauty treatment, maintains skin health, prevents skin discoloration as well as heals wound faster.