Ugu (also called fluted pumpkin or fluted gourd) is a tropical vine grown in West Africa as a leaf vegetable and for its edible seeds.
It is is traditionally used by an estimated 30 to 35 million people indigenous people in Nigeria, including the Urhobo, Efik and Ibibio but it is predominantly used by the Igbos who cultivate the gourd for food sources and traditional medicines.
How profitable is ugu farming business in Nigeria?
The pumpkin leaves are one of the most consumed vegetables among the Igbo tribe, and Nigeria as a whole. This has lead to its high demand among families. It can be used as a medicine, for cooking soup, yams and many other things.
The ugu farming business is so lucrative that you can be assured of 100% of your capital withing a few months of setting up the farmland. Apart from selling the ugu leaves, you can also make money from selling the seeds as well.
Depending on your locality, an ugu seed can sell for anything between ₦30 to ₦50. Now imaging having up to 500,000 seeds, that means you will be making over ₦200,000+ from the seeds alone.
For more information on ugu farming, you can refer to this post on InfoGuideAfrica.com.
How to start a successful ugu farming business in Nigeria
Below are the basic steps you need to follow to start a profitable ugu farming business in Nigeria:
• Selection/preparation of farm site
For an optimal ugu production, it is advisable that you go for a sandy-loam soil. The next step to take after selecting the farm site is to clear the bushes of all weeds and stumps.
Tilling will go next after the clearing to aid germination and penetration of roots. Addition of manure to the soil can be done after tilling for a bumper harvest.
• Get your ugu seeds ready for planting
Drying of the ugu seeds should be done under the sun for a day or two, do not allow the seeds to over-dry as it can negatively affect the viability of the seeds.
Avoid exposing the already germinated seeds to the sun as the heat of the sun’s heat can kill them. While drying can help in preventing the seeds from decaying or being eaten up by pests, it can also kill already germinated seeds.
• Planting of seeds
Planting can be done in the early hours of the morning or late in the evening. 2-3 seeds should be planted per hole or about 4-5 cm deep. You’ll also have to place the seeds straight in the soil, with its tip facing downwards.
The seeds should be about 500cm-1m apart, with the hole properly covered. 10,000 ugu seeds can be planted per hectare, or 4,000 in one acre of land.
Irrigation of the farmland
Irrigation can be carried out on the farmland every two days, both in the morning and evening. Please note that for bountiful harvest, farmers should carry out intensive irrigation during the dry season. What this means is that if you’re considering running your ugu farming business in Nigeria, you’d be needing an artificial water supply.
• Weed/pest control
Weeding should be done very early to reduce competition between the ugu plants and the unwanted weeds. Most times, when the plants become deficient of Nitrogen, you’d notice their leaves turning yellow.
I’ll advise that you carry out manual weeding to avoid harming the already growing ugu leaves. Also, using of herbicides on the plants might not be successful due to the crawling nature of the plants.
Another reason to be careful while weeding is to avoid trampling the plants, especially during the second weeding when they’ve grown to an extent.
About the pests and diseases, most insects that affect the ugu plants are usually airborne, while the insects are boring ones like the caterpillars. You can control the insects and diseases by mixing pesticides and fungicides in small quantities and applying them on the growing plants.
• Harvesting your ugu
Harvesting can be done once the spines are long enough, and the leaves broadened well enough. Some people suggest that you can start harvesting two weeks after planting, but it all depends on how you intend selling the leaves and your buyers.
Cutting of the leaves should be with a sharp knife, I’ll also advise that cut the spines or stem a little bit away from the base.
The demand for ugu is far more than the supply, so you won’t have issues selling your farm produces. You can sell the leaves to restaurants, hotels or eateries around your locality. Alternatively, you can also locate the traders in the local markets and sell to them at wholesale rates, while they sell to the direct consumers.