The Agri-preneurs will feature biweekly profiles on young Nigerian agricultural entrepreneurs.
By Tukeni Obasi
It is the first week of the fourth month of the transformation year. As with all new years, while certain events and pursuits will be truly transformational in their ramifications, many things this year will be just as they were in years past. This is succinctly captured by the French saying: the more things change, the more they stay the same. In this country, this year finds many Nigerians from the past still working consistently to transform the agricultural landscape.
This week, I have the privilege of celebrating one of Nigeria’s most enterprising young entrepreneurs – Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu. In January 2003, at the age of 21, Ikegwuonu founded the Smallholders Foundation with the aim of complementing the government’s efforts in agricultural development and eradicating poverty among smallholder farmers. Between then and now, Smallholders has reached over 250,000 farmers in Imo State through its radio station on climate change and best practices in agriculture – Farm 98.0 FM. It also has set up several secondary school farms through the Future Farmers Programme across the Southeast and even as far as Oyo State. Through this programme, hundreds of secondary school students have also received career counselling and mentorship to pursue their dreams towards self-employment. Furthermore, through its Seeds Programme, the foundation improves farmers with improved seed varieties in order to enable them improve their productivity and increase their profits.
At this point, one might be wondering: how was Ikegwuonu able to achieve all these? The answer is passion and determination. When Ikegwuonu realised he was unabashedly passionate about agriculture, he quit his job in HIV/AIDS advocacy and began to explore the agricultural terrain full-time. He built the foundation by building relationships with scores of farmers, learning from them and working with them. He then set out planning for his radio show. As support for the radio show grew, Ikegwuonu continued to expand the frontiers of his work, moving it to the next level. He was not afraid to take risks along the way.
As a young graduate, he put his education to good use. He searched for opportunities for young entrepreneurs like himself who were passionate about change and had great ideas but not enough funds or expertise to see them fly. He applied for many opportunities across the globe – fellowships to build his skills and grants to invest in his project. Because he was passionate and determined, he kept seeking out new opportunities and making sure his propositions were in line with his vision and the needs of his target communities. And he allowed the setbacks to serve as a challenge to keep working hard until his dreams were realised.
Last week, I talked about the importance of meeting farmers/small-scale entrepreneurs in their niches. This is something that stands out in Ikegwuonu’s work and is the product of years of working at the grassroots and realising the importance of group and intensive capacity-building to enable farmers improve their productivity through new and existing farmers’ associations. This is why the foundation does not provide long-term loans to farmers’ cooperatives until the completion of a training workshop on farming practice, marketing, banking and bookkeeping. Through these processes, the Smallholders Foundation essentially enables “smallholder [farmers] living in rural communities to choose what commodities to produce, what technologies to utilise for such production, for whom to produce, when to produce and at what price to sell such products”. As a farmer himself, Ikegwuonu understands the terrain. He works hard to make his animal farms successful and manage his enterprises wisely. In doing so, he is able to serve as a legitimate model to other farmers and businessmen looking to expand their practice and when he talks about the media or the field or the market, one can rest assured that he knows what he’s talking about.
I had the privilege of meeting this young man last year at the Youth Employment in Agriculture workshop organised by the Ministry of Agriculture. What struck me the most about him was his simplicity – the way he just quietly goes in pursuit of what he loves without seeking recognition or respect, the way he treats those around him, and his deep passion to improve the lives of everyone with whom he comes in contact. It was then that I understood why someone once called his work a silent revolution. He shared some interesting stories with me about presenting his ideas before international panels and not knowing how they would be received. The big takeaways for me were courage, perseverance and the importance of believing deeply in one’s dream and going to any length to live that dream even in the face of scepticism and blatant opposition. Over the years, more people have come to see firsthand how hardworking, innovative, devoted, and genuine he is, and many with the means have been inspired to supply equipment or other inputs necessary to keep his life-changing goals alive. The impact of this has been tremendous – in the past ten years, hundreds of thousands have benefitted from one man’s dream. And this man was not a public official or some big businessman with a fat bank account; he was a simple 21-year-old with a heart for rural agriculture.
Today, Ikegwuonu is the winner of Youth Action Net/Starbucks Shared Planet Youth Award (2009), the Rolex Award for Enterprise-Young Laureates Programme (2010), the Young Person of the Year Future Awards (2011), and the 21st Century Hope Prize of the Niigata International Food Award (2012). But there is no stopping this ambitious entrepreneur now. This year, the Smallholder Foundation has already begun accepting applications to provide mini-grants for young farmer clubs in secondary schools to expand existing school gardens or set up new ones.
As the novelty of 2013 wears off and many of us sink into our old habits and lifestyles, Ikegwuonu’s story is that silent revolutionary voice tugging at our consciences, reminding us of those dreams that belong deeply to us, inviting us to ask ourselves, “what would it take to see this come to pass?” and challenging us to continue our journey – on sunny days, in the dark, and even in the rain – until we reach the point we can truly call home.
Chief among complaints made by Nigerians in the agricultural sector is the abundance of information gaps, which makes coordination among stakeholders very difficult. This is because many stakeholders do not know where the opportunities are and, as such, cannot exploit them. Additionally, in a knowledge-based field like agriculture, the lack of knowledge on trends and techniques has very costly implications. Finally, symbiotic relationships, which are formed when like-minded individuals are able to connect, pool resources and maximise returns/outcomes, are often difficult to obtain.
In light of this, a group of individuals has taken the initiative to create an online community of knowledge for all stakeholders and key players in the agriculture industry. This serves to provide content management, knowledge sharing, networking and business matchmaking opportunities for existing and emerging agribusiness entrepreneurs looking to share business ideas and innovative technology or invest and/or buy products within and beyond borders. This online community of knowledge is called The Global Farmers Register (globalfarmersregister.com).
Leading the team is a young strategy and business development professional, Simileoluwa Lawson. Graduating from the University of Lagos with a B.Sc. in Geography, Lawson went on to work for Rimsom Associates – an international trade consulting firm with branches in Nigeria. At Rimson, he worked as a brand custodian and later on as a senior associate on economic planning. While at the firm, he worked on the annual trade-related conference – Partnership on Trade Industry and Commerce (POTICO) – which was a collaboration between the US ambassador to Nigeria 2007-2010, the Bank of Industry, and First Bank of Nigeria plc.
Notable among the successes recorded by POTICO is the landmark ACET meeting with the Oyo State Ministry of Commerce and the West Africa Trade Hub which formed a public-private partnership, integrated the ACET cashew processing plant with that of Oyo State, and ultimately created jobs for 2,500 people. Another is the launch of the US Bank of Industry/Agriculture Growth Opportunity Act (BOI AGOA) Resource Centre, which has helped Nigerian businesses better utilise the AGOA resources available to them and access the US market. Finally, with all the experience and expertise Lawson and his partners gained on their numerous projects, it is safe to say that The Global Farmers Register is an offshoot of the POTICO project.
With no previous background in agriculture, Lawson revealed how he became interested in agriculture. “It all started with POTICO,” he said. “We had to research extensively on areas of mutual interests for Nigeria and some developed economies. The focus was on developing the non-oil sector and the research was extensive. At the time, there was not a lot of noise about agriculture, but my team and I were able to determine that it was the largest sector that held the most promising opportunities. Trying to focus on those opportunities, however, became a challenge because people were more focused on discussing the challenges in the sector.
“What I was able to get out of those conferences and the research in particular was that we needed an organised body of knowledge that will cater to all concerned. As we all know, knowledge is dynamic. As such, the best way to get real-time knowledge was to create what I call an agric-business destination that is interactive and inclusive, where individuals can contribute experiences from their wealth of knowledge or share real-time experiences of challenges they just overcame. This was also intended to be an avenue for disseminating information on opportunities in the agricultural space irrespective of political boundary lines between countries. If we share knowledge about these challenges and their accompanying solutions, other people in different regions but perhaps with the same climatic, geographical, topographical and technological challenges can learn from our experiences and avert such problems before or when they surface.”
On how he founded The Global Farmers Register, Lawson said: “I have a constant yearning for cutting edge strategies and also a penchant for generating volumes in business. I strongly believe that we do not have to re-invent the wheel each time in order to create opportunities; if we tweak it well enough, we can cater to multiple needs. That was how The Global Farmers Register was conceived. We started first with a simple register or database as you may call it, but eventually it has evolved into a full community with a database covering over 50 countries, though we have little participation in some countries recorded. We only just recently launched the beta version which has come equipped with so many agric-business tools. We are currently getting ready to launch our inclusive agric financial tool called the timeline matrix, which allows agric businesses to set up virtual value chains and submit them to banks as an automated loan application. We are looking to partner with the African Rural and Agricultural Credit Association (AFRACA) to deploy this around Africa.”
In 2012, Lawson was invited to the UNDP/EMRC forum in Dakar where he passionately advocated for youth engagement in agriculture through integration, information and inspiration. Earlier in the year, he was at the 5th AFRACA Agri-banks Forum in Kigali, Rwanda, speaking on the need to unlock finance for the agricultural sector through innovative ICT systems. His presentation focused on strategies for rural outreach, market access, information dissemination and inclusive agricultural financing. As a business professional, he has seen the opportunities and prospects. Back at home, he manages the Frebay International Company Limited, providing strategy and logistics supports (including need-based assessments and opportunity charts) for businesses, advising them on how to best maximise economic returns with limited resources.
This is why The Global Farmers Register is important and the potential it promises for all stakeholders in the sector is enormous. More will be said about Lawson, agricultural opportunities and challenges for entrepreneurs in a sequel article . As a young Nigerian under 30, Lawson is a testament to the fact that there are passionate Nigerians who are working within and beyond agriculture to make a difference to society. They recognise prospects, create opportunities, advocate change, and put their money where their mouth is. And they continue to serve as role models to other young people who are still unsure of how they can engage with society, exploit their seemingly meagre resources and connect with external opportunities. They remind us that we might not see the big picture yet or believe in a national transformation agenda but in their own little niches and in big and small ways, some nagropreneurs are transforming Nigeria.
First Published in Business Day
By Tukeni Obasi
At the beginning of every year, pastors across the country come up with a declaration statement for the new year: the year of divine favour; the year of manifold blessings; the year of unparalleled prosperity; and so on. While the tendency among some members of the congregation is to sit and expect a magical turn-around incommensurate with discipline and effort or any other human input, others realise that they will in many ways reap what they sow.
No one understands this better than those in the agricultural sector. Farmers understand that one does not simply show up on the day of the harvest expecting a bountiful harvest. They understand the importance of building a good foundation: surveying the soil; clearing the land; gathering resources for input such as seeds, fertilisers, and machinery; planting; watering; weeding, and so on. And so, on the day of the harvest, barring unforeseen circumstances, a dedicated farmer prepares himself/herself to reap the fruit of his/her labour of love.
This is not lost on other agricultural entrepreneurs who, in the face of fear and uncertainty, birth their business idea. They spend time exploring all the implications of this venture, gathering resources and devising strategies. They might spend weeks or months trying to build a formidable team, secure office space, and equip their office with the necessary infrastructure before they finally start up or launch their product in the market. In those arduous start-up months, a lot of effort is made to build the brand, keep the customer satisfied, and be firmly ensconced in the market. When things start falling into place, the entrepreneur enjoys the dividends of takeoff and prosperity.
As the new year gradually unfolds, stakeholders within the agricultural fold are prepared to usher in an era of full-scale transformation. When the president and the minister of agriculture unveiled the Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA) in 2012, the offerings – job creation for millions of Nigerians, value-addition and value-chain transformation in eight subsectors, technological support to millions of farmers – were enough to make many ecstatic. Others were disillusioned stating that Nigerians are tired of the government’s empty promises. And in a very strategic and symbolic move, the ministry designed a programme to reveal the real secret behind this transformation: we will all have to create it together.
To this end, the flagship workshop for the ATA brought over 100 people from all across the country – professors, farmers, processors, technology enthusiasts, researchers, and especially young passionate people from a range of fields – to Abuja to proffer ideas for a sector revamp. They were to bring their expertise to bear in such an important national project, working to create a roadmap, an action plan, and a strategy. Over the past couple of months, a team of people from within the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and different private-sector establishments have continued to work together to steer this plan in the right direction. And they have not failed to connect with the agricultural community, listen to each other, and share their comprehensive reports, the product of hours and weeks of knowledge aggregation.
Many are aware that the transformation will not come easy; rather, it will be the product of hard work, perseverance and dedication. They are aware that while speeches are made in the high places and articles are written in newspapers such as this one, the transformation is not something that will be thrust upon the country. Nor will the country surprisingly happen upon it one day. It is something that everyday Nigerians will create for themselves in their agricultural ventures and pursuits.
For farmers and other businessmen affected by the floods, the transformation will involve gathering the courage to start anew, combining lessons learned from their years of practice with resources acquired from their governments and networks, and labouring night and day to create a vibrant venture. For agricultural educational institutions, it will involve developing a more comprehensive curriculum for students, with an emphasis on innovation and knowledge acquisition, incorporating topics on entrepreneurship and management and leaving students with practicable and employable skills upon graduation.
For graduates who have roamed the streets of Nigeria’s major urban centres in search of jobs, especially in major oil companies, it will involve a leap of faith. This leap will be propelled by a refocus on the meaningful venture of agriculture, and challenge them to explore the world of entrepreneurship. It might lead them to start a poultry farm or a processing unit or an agri-telecommunications company and watch it grow knowing that they are creating wealth and jobs. For policymakers, it will mean a redoubling of policy planning and implementation efforts; making sure that agendas reflect the needs of all stakeholders; sharpening monitoring and evaluation mechanisms; and supervising the takeoff of the agricultural entrepreneurship programme that should be launched in the first quarter of 2013. For the private sector, especially big corporations and financial institutions, it will mean a sustained investment in – or support of – individuals, enterprises, value chains, and research projects.
In like manner, through my BusinessDay column and through the Harambe Farmland web platform, I will be following the transformation and playing my own part to create it. On the column, the first week of every month will be dedicated to showcasing the ways in which Nigerians across the country are creating change or taking very important first steps. It will be dedicated to models in the sector and indeed models for the entire country, especially the young entrepreneurs, and research and policy professionals. These Nigerians will embody the transformation spirit through certain values: honesty, vision, hard work, dedication, innovation and resourcefulness. Other weeks will be devoted to important policy agendas, citizen concerns, lessons from history and the Nagropreneur project. And for those who are looking to join the movement or improve their agri-practice, the information sharing that characterised this column in 2012 will continue with a number of How-To series.
So, dear Nigerians, join me and let us create this turnaround together. Happy Transformation Year!!
By Tukeni Obasi
In the Anglophone North-Western region of Cameroon, when the eldest girl-child in the family gets married, one of her younger sisters is sent to live with her and help her begin her home. This was the story of Patience Mbah Atim, the seventh of eight children in the Atim family.
At the age of seven, she was sent to live with her sister and her husband who raised her like their own. During the holidays, however, young Atim always went back home to help her mum with farm work. Like every child, she dreamt of becoming a lawyer, then a policewoman, then a musician, and even a doctor. But when the time came to apply to universities, she applied to study microbiology and was offered a spot in the zoology department instead. She graduated with a B.Sc. in Zoology and a minor in Medical Laboratory Technology.
Upon graduation, she found herself at a crossroads. She was faced with two options: follow the conventional route and go back home to look for a job or perhaps write some exams to get into the public sector; or take the road less travelled and test the waters of social entrepreneurship. She opted for the latter and not long after, met Valery Colong, a passionate young entrepreneur, and realised that agriculture – not medicine or law or zoology – was where she would spend the rest of her life. Together, they built Agro-Hub, a start-up venture aimed at using technology to drive the demand and distribution of agricultural products.
Shedding light on the relevance of Agro-Hub – which aims to be the leader in sales and distribution of fresh foods in Cameroon – and the current challenges of the traditional marketplace, Atim explained to me last week that Cameroonian farmers have no incentive to increase production because they fear that a surplus in the market will further drive food prices down. They also face challenges related to storage and preservation of their produce before they reach the marketplace. Furthermore, farmers have to contend with low incomes, sometimes subsisting on as little as 1000 FCFA ($2) per day, while middlemen grow disproportionately wealthy off their labour. Having worked with her mother for many years on the farm, Atim understands what this is like. Lastly, she explained, farmers do not have the capacity to sell their products (which are considered substandard) in foreign markets as neither grading nor price and quality control is being enforced within the current market system. Atim’s comments about the state of affairs in agriculture revealed that Cameroon is not just our next-door neighbour but our agricultural counterpart.
In light of these challenges, Agro-Hub’s market development proposal is thus simple. Agro-Hub partners with rural farmers to source products and information for local and international markets. Products are sourced through collection centres or storehouses set up by Agro-Hub in rural communities, and information is gathered and made available to farmers through the provision of SMS-based tools to access and share information about their farming activities and market actualities. The information sourced from the farmers is also used for web advertising of their agriculture products.
It is often common to learn of non-profit agricultural organisations working to improve the livelihoods of stakeholders, especially the farmers. In Nigeria, however, there is now a paradigm shift from agriculture as a development project to agriculture as a lucrative business venture, with many emerging ventures dancing profitably to this tune. Furthermore, there is a renewed emphasis on exploiting the full potential of the entire value chain (not just farmlands and farmers but processors, technology experts, advertisers and marketers, financing companies, public workers). Agro-Hub, which just received a start-up grant from the UK-based Indigo Trust, demonstrates what an agri-tech business venture looks like in practice.
Speaking to their clientele and important stakeholders, Atim said: “Our business will be primarily wholesale to local restaurants and boarding schools, exportation and retail to the public through registered franchises. Sourcing foods directly from the rural farmers allows us to pick from the finest selection of food crops available in Cameroon. Our core values rest in our commitment to quality, freshness, hygiene, and great prices to our customers – as by partnering with farmers, we will be able to pass the savings on to our customers. Agro-Hub decided to register its farmers for free and organising workshops from sweat equity contributed by its members so as to build trust among the farmers. Also to cut down cost, Agro-Hub is making use of the SMS tweet service offered by the partnership between MTN Cameroon and Twitter. Via this medium, updates are sent to farmers subscribed to Agro-Hub on their mobile at the cost of one SMS. This service reduces the cost of reaching farmers to a bare minimum and on the farmers’ part, the cost of accessing information.”
Agro-Hub, which is now well on its way to changing the face of Cameroonian agriculture, aims to increase the incomes of its partner farmers by over 40 percent over the next three years. Atim revealed that her favourite part of her work is working with the farmers. “Each time I am with the farmers,” she said excitedly, “I have this sense of belonging; like I was born to [do this]…and I love the feeling.” But life hasn’t always been a bed of roses, she confessed, detailing some of the challenges she faced along the way, from raising funds for the venture to working with sometimes sceptical farmers to surmounting infrastructural challenges.
However, the entrepreneurial dream and her vision of the future sustained her: “There are moments you doubt yourself [and] what you are doing and if you are walking down the right path…but what keeps you going is your belief in yourself – it is the only anchor holding and preventing you from dropping. And, make no mistakes: No one will believe in your dreams if you don’t believe in them yourself.”
Today, Patience Atim works as the director of operations at Agro-Hub, which now boasts six employees and 88 registered farmers onto its platform. In addition to being an agricultural entrepreneur, Atim describes herself as an activist and a feminist. She believes that for communities to grow and develop, women, who are the backbone of the economy, need to be involved at every stage of local, national and international development. This year, she was identified by the prestigious Moremi Initiative for Women’s Leadership in Africa as one of the most promising emerging under-25 women leaders on the continent because of her demonstrated passion for social change and entrepreneurship and her remarkable leadership skills.
As Agro-Hub continues to grow from strength to strength, Atim’s personal story remains an inspiration for young and upcoming entrepreneurs and sound proof that it is possible to take the agricultural path to economic prosperity by staying determined and courageous, being innovative, and going the entire distance.
By Tukeni Obasi
On August 6, 2012, three fellows at the Harambe Incubator for Sustainable and Rural Development (HISARD) embarked on an initiative to improve the practice of agriculture in a rural farming community in Osun State. The team comprised Rita Oladokun, a student of agricultural economics; and Anifat Ibrahim and Babtunde Olanrewaju, both students of agricultural extension and rural development at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife.
In reality, the journey started a year earlier when the team of young agricultural enthusiasts, after their repeated visitations to Erefe and interactions with the resident farmers, identified the need for a training programme for the farmers on the use of herbicides. Rather than make recommendations to somebody else to meet that need, the team decided to take on the challenge. Central to the trio’s mission was coming up with a means of sustainable agricultural development for the community while taking steps in the agricultural entrepreneurship journey.
Anifat, Rita and Babatunde started working with the Erefe community in June 2011 and eventually developed a permanent interest in the community for a number of reasons, such as location and accessibility, small population size and agricultural activities. Erefe has largely small-scale farmers who grow mostly crops like maize, cassava, tomato and, though less so, cocoa and plantain. A number of them also practice animal husbandry. Some farmers in this community (mostly 40 years and older) usually enlist the help of their school-aged children in several activities, but, by and large, farming is a profession that is not embraced by the young people in the community. Within a month of meeting them, the fellows developed an excellent rapport with the farmers and came back often to assist them on their farms.
However, in deciding to embark on this community service project, the fellows did not immediately assume that they had diagnosed the farmers’ problems by virtue of their interactions with them. Launching an official needs assessment, and putting to use the research skills they had acquired through their fellowship, the fellows carried out research into the factors hindering the growth of agriculture in Erefe. To this end, they designed questionnaires for dissemination and conducted various structured interviews. This exercise, which had the backing of the community leaders, was widely received by the community farmers. The results were telling: the farmers faced a number of limitations to economic prosperity which included poor cultural practices, an absence of storage facilities leading to post-harvest losses, and a dearth of processing and value addition initiatives for their farm produce.
Following this revelation, the trio went to the drawing board and came up with a herbicide training and capacity building initiative to improve the practices of farmers and, by extension, increase their yields, productivity, and incomes. After consulting with their programme managers, they were able to come up with a plan, which included the cost estimate of the initiative in order to determine the project’s feasibility. Harambe Nigeria then secured the funds.
Having completed the planning stage, the team moved into the implementation phase. In an exercise called the Training of Trainers, they went to the OAU teaching and research farm where they underwent training on the application of herbicides in local communities. Another component of the training occurred in Erefe where an expert in herbicide training programme, by name Oguntoye, instructed the fellows on effective communication techniques. The pamphlet that was to be used for the training was then designed by the fellows, first in English, and then in Yoruba, the native language of the community residents. After conferring with the leaders and the community members, a date and time was agreed upon. The fellows purchased herbicides and knap sprayers that were to be used during the training.
And then the much-anticipated day came around. One hundred copies of the training pamphlet were distributed among the audience. Due to the influence of the agricultural extension students on the team, it was decided that the participatory approach of agricultural extension would be adopted during the sessions to enable farmers voice their views and concerns, ask questions and seek clarifications on any issue. For their part, the farmers were delighted to see young people, whom they considered as their children, bridge the knowledge gap in the community. Many of them, as a result of this training, were better able to identify quality herbicides in the market as well as understand the right techniques of application. Light was also shed on other important cultural practices and this was reportedly greatly appreciated by the farmers.
But the farmers were not the only beneficiaries of this exercise. The fellows reported to have received “self-development through this programme”, thus becoming “more grounded on the use of herbicides and, most importantly, on how to plan, implement, and evaluate success in rural community projects.” They are committing to following this project up in the coming months by ensuring the availability and supply of herbicides to the farmers.
As they begin the final year of their undergraduate programme, Anifat, Babatunde and Rita have reaffirmed their faith in agriculture both as a tool for social change and as the wealth engine of the nation. They are part of the emerging cadre of nagropreneurs who are recognising the enormous economic benefits agriculture holds (not just on the farms but in the industries and factories) for those who are ready to plough the field. As they continue to work in Erefe and firm up plans to establish their own agribusiness ventures, their future remains green and lush with endless possibilities.
This article was originally published in Business Day
By Tukeni Obasi
Early in 2011, Harambe Nigeria awarded a grant to one of the winners of its business plan competition, Adesope Samuel, who had proposed to start up a bee farm for the purpose of selling honey. At the time, Adesope was ecstatic and ready to take the agribusiness world by storm. Almost 18 months later, Adesope is all smiles. A proud farmer and entrepreneur, he’s watched his seeds bear fruit and has begun to reap dividends from his labour of love.
The beekeeping project was implemented in March 2011 when a piece of land was acquired, and beehives constructed and placed in the apiary. However, to provide protection for the apiary, Adesope planted cashew and melon on the farm. He revealed some initial challenges he faced with the beehives and how he tackled them: “Out of the 9 beehives constructed, four were colonised, and one of the colonised hives was eventually decolonised due to disturbance from cattle Fulanis. This prompted me to construct iron cage to house the colonised hives.”
This turned out to be a wise decision. By November, Adesope was able to harvest four bags of melon (about 400kg) and three months later, about 40 litres of honey were also harvested and sold, in addition to beeswax and propolis. Adesope, who now sells each bag of melon for N8,500, is very impressed with the growth of his business and expressed his dream to be one of the major suppliers of natural and pure honey in Oyo State within the next five years, and ultimately spread his tentacles to bigger cities like Lagos and Abuja.
The grant Adesope received was used strategically. First, he rented three acres of land for five years, constructed nine beehives and three iron cages as well as two sets of bee kits. Money was also spent fumigating the non-colonised hives, clearing and preparing the cashew plantation and acquiring the cashew and melon seeds.
He also invested in a honey extractor and two smokers. Realising the great dividends mechanization would bring, Adesope has also set out to obtain a mower for cutting the grass at the apiary and cashew plantation. With the remaining funds from the grant, he plans to increase the number of the hives, as well as construct iron cages for the entire hive and thus increase his profits as he goes on.
Adesope is part of the new generation of rising agricultural entrepreneurs who, armed with the right skills and technical knowledge, have made a decent living out of farming (apiculture) by becoming entrepreneurs in their own right. An upcoming and relatively successful entrepreneur, Adesope does not plan to go it alone. For him, it is also important to train others – especially his prospective employees and partners – in the techniques of farming and business management.
“Having an idea is different from implementing it,” he warns. Speaking of the importance of the training prior to setting up an agribusiness venture, he says that the training he received from Harambe Nigeria made all the difference. His words: “The training helped me to start the project earlier than I thought. It also helped me… [develop the habit] of taking and keeping records of all activities in the farm as well as looking inward – within the business – to discover other simultaneous business opportunities.”
One of these opportunities is harnessing the by-products of honey – beeswax and royal jelly. The former is a good raw material for candles, cosmetics and drugs whereas the latter, by virtue of its medicinal properties which contribute to increased immunity, possesses immense pharmaceutical value. This increased diversity will allow Adesope to target a wide range of markets, from bakeries (honey) and food markets (melon and cashew) to pharmaceutical companies (royal jelly) and household manufacturing firms (beeswax) – and so ultimately improve his chances of success.
As revenue continues to come into the farm through the sale of honey and melon, Adesope is hopeful, expecting profits to increase as business advances. Starting out as an agricultural enthusiast, he’s found his niche at the confluence of agriculture and business and he’s already begun to coast ahead. For him, there is no going back.
“The project is at the start-up level, as the actual strategy learnt [from the training] is yet to be implemented – though plans are already underway – as my long-term plan is to package the honey according to acceptable standards and sell with much respect and recognition,” he says.
I recently stumbled upon this video about a female Senegalese entrepreneur and i was soooo impressed by her sass! I was even more impressed by the fact that she is using agricultural products to build a first class beauty brand. When we think agriculture, we often think of just food, when i think of agriculture i think of Opportunity! Agriculture is the gateway into so many other industries, one of which is the beauty and cosmetics industry.
My favorite part is when she says “if enough of us can really get together and try and build a different brand for Africa, a brand that all of a sudden means contributros to the world rather than a subset that is always sucking energy out of others.”
ENJOY THIS VIDEO!
This week we caught up with another rising entrepreneur at OAU to learn more about his agrovision for Nigeria.
Tukeni: Hello! Thank you for joining us today. Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Tunde: Goodday! My name is Babatunde Emmanuel Olarewaju. I am an undergraduate of Obafemi Awolowo University studying agricultural extension and rural development.
Tukeni: Interesting. What is agricultural extension and rural development about?
Tunde: It is about using agriculture as way to improve the livelihood of people in the rural areas. My major concern is the development of agriculture in Nigeria. One of the millennium development goals is to eliminate extreme poverty and hunger. I want to be a progressive change agent that will achieve this in my country by teaching rural farmers how to improve their farming techniques through organized seminars and workshops and also to encourage the youth to see reasons why agriculture should be sustained and practiced in 21st century.
Tukeni: So tell us, what made you develop interest in this field?
Tunde: In the first place, I wanted to be a medical doctor but my vision became aborted by circumstances surrounding my life. But couched in every challenge is an opportunity and I saw the chances of realising my dreams for Nigeria in agriculture given the present problem of food insecurity. Many Nigerians and Africans cannot afford three square meals in a day due to some of these problems. Taking all these into account, I asked myself: Who am I not to proffer solutions to the problems facing our people?
Tukeni: Is that why you applied for the Harambe Incubator for Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development (HISARD) fellowship program?
Tukeni: What has the journey been like so far?
Tunde: Agriculture has opened my eyes to see and know ways to tackle problems of food insecurity. It has been a rewarding experience so far traveling to Songhai and seeing how businesses are run, attending workshops and conferences, reading articles, meeting with rural farmers and working on business plans. With these great interests as a young entrepreneur and Harambe on my side my dream for Nigeria will become a reality.
Tukeni: Certainly! That’s rich! We wish you all the best, Tunde, and we hope to hear from you shortly about your progress in the program.
Tunde: Thank you and thank you for hosting me on the Farmland.
Apiculture, or beekeeping, is one of the more ancient forms of animal husbandry, dating back as far as 2000 BCE. With the support of Harambe, Adesope Samuel keeps the tradition alive. Samuel is a beekeeper in his native Oyo, State. His voice quivers with excitement as he vocalized his plans for his rising business. The first six to eight months will consist of business set-up, the approximate length of time it takes for bees to produce enough honey to harvest. According to Samuel’s market research, honey goes for about 1,500 to 2,000 naira (about 9 to 13 dollars) per liter, and he plans on starting off with 10 liters from each hive, making about 100 liters.
Honey produces two by-products, beeswax and royal jelly, which he also intends to sell as well. Royal jelly possesses medicinal properties, boosts immunity, and used as a topical product as well as a dietary supplement. Beeswax is used for candle making, cosmetics, and drugs.
Mr. Samuel is future-focused when it comes to planning his business. To support the financial endeavors of the bee hive, the apiary will be surrounded with a cashew plantation, covering two acres of land. The hive itself will be one acre of land. Honey produces two by-products, beeswax and royal jelly, which he also intends to sell as well. Royal jelly possesses medicinal properties. It boosts immunity, is used as a topical product as well as a dietary supplement. Beeswax is used for candle making, cosmetics, and drugs.
In the third and fourth years of his business, his ventures will see him into the exportation and importation of cashew nuts to his target audiences–bakeries, alternative medicinal providers and pharmacies. According to Mr. Samuel, bakeries have been substituting sugar for honey instead. He also plans on selling honey to alternative medical providers and pharmacies. But for the first two years, his demand will be limited by the quantity of the honey that the bees will be able to produce which is not expected to exceed 200,000 liters. After that, he feels he can expand into into areas such as Lagos State and Abuja State, and work on the finer details of production such as packaging. And he does not expect to be doing it alone. “During the course, I plan on training more people, so that even if I am no longer doing the business, the business will still continue.” The diversity of his business venture provides greater financial stability.
Before encountering Harambe Nigeria, Mr. Samuel was attempting to envision his dreams, but could not quite get things off the ground by himself. “I had been thinking about the idea. During the process [that Harambe Nigeria took me through] I realized there is a difference between having an idea and putting the idea on paper. Without knowing the details you can. Marketing research, the process showed me that I had to know more. Having an idea is different from implement it.”
“There are many people who do it, but they will not set it up themselves, or they are doing it as part time work. Currently, this thing I have just started, has helped me to see how may business can grow. It has helped me to see about other opportunities, from a small business to without Harambe I would have been able to (The cash award has helped me to research , and starting operation). Before, I was looking at the money to get the land. It has empowered me, enabled me to work extra. Through Harambe, I have been able to network. From what they told me, they go extra mile to get pure honey. It makes me to meet more people, and the exposure is fantastic.”
Stay tuned for our next feature where we will provide an update on Adesope’s progress.