He was just ten years old when he first tried his hand at farming. Although that first attempt did not work, the love for farming had already taken root and today, at just 17 years old, Buba Saho from Gambia is a thriving poultry farmer.
“I started [farming] when I was in grade 9 but didn’t tell any of my classmates,” says Buba Saho, who is considered as one of Gambia’s youngest broiler farmers. “No one knew about it until I was in grade 10.”
Since 2019, Saho has been farming chickens in the Manjai Kunda region, west of Banjul. His business venture left many perplexed because of his age. “My goal is to feed every Gambian,” Saho says.
Some bumps along the way
He started his business with 50 chicks after receiving financial support from his family. Only five chicks died. This was a good omen compared to other poultry farmers who usually have more mortality on their first trial.
About three months into the business, his father gave him a 15 000 Gambian dalasis loan to expand his production from 50 to 250 chickens in a six-week cycle. It meant more challenges for Saho, who is no stranger to resilience.
At the age of 10, he first attempted farming with rabbits. They were consumed by cats due to poor infrastructure. In 2020, a disease infected and killed all of his chickens. This setback has taught him the value of veterinary services.
“I’ve always known that things don’t always go as planned in business, which is why I’ve been putting money aside for rainy days,” explains the founder of B-Saho’s Poultry Farm.
While his business was in recovery, something else more menacing happened: the Covid-19 pandemic. “Sometimes suppliers didn’t come through for almost five weeks,” Saho explains the impact of the hard lockdown restrictions on people’s movements.
“[With] business … you have to build it one block at a time if you want to last,” he says.
Constantly gaining knowledge
To gain more insights about developing his business, he spends most of his spare time indoors watching YouTube tutorials to garner more knowledge about poultry and other forms of farming.
A year later into the business, Saho revealed his secret love of being a poultry farmer to his best friend. He got the least anticipated reaction: discouragement. “I don’t even go out in my neighbourhood to play football. Most boys don’t talk about farming; they talk about football and other stuff.”
It was not the first time he has been discouraged from being a farmer. Saho recalls an instance that occurred during his class at the Ndows Compressive Senior Secondary School, when a particular teacher asked them what they want to be when they grow up. He announced with confidence that he wants to be a farmer. “My classmates started laughing,” he recalls.
Even though the teacher was impressed, the experience revealed how farming is underestimated as the go-to career. In the eyes of many it is only seen as a job for the poor.
Saho remains determined to overcome the stigma. “I don’t care what anyone says because I know where I’m going,” he says and specifies that after his input costs, he generates a profit of 70 000 Gambian dalasis.
Preparing for the future
“Right now, all the money I make, I invest it back into the business.” With his profit, he was able to purchase a freezer for 20 000 Gambian dalasis and constructed a chicken coop worth 7 000 Gambian dalasis. He now plans to invest in equipment to make processing easier.
Saho is currently in grade 11 and intends to pursue an agriculture-related course at university prior to purchasing land in Brikama, one of Gambia’s largest cities.
“Knowing that I am feeding my family and Gambian citizens makes me happy,” Saho says, adding that his proudest moments are when his uncles from Europe come to visit. They are usually impressed with his project and its growth. “I like farming and everyone knows that about me.”
ALSO READ: Life is sweet as bees and livelihoods buzz in Gambia