To overcome poverty, Ogbomoso-based entrepreneur, Debo Thomas, went from selling matches to building a successful cashew business. He is one of the young Nigerians who has found agribusiness lucrative, despite the many challenges of living in the rural area, DANIEL ESSIET, reports.
Ogbomoso, Oyo State-based agro entrepreneur, Debo Thomas, can best be described as the flower that blooms in adversity. His is a quintessential rags-to-riches story, a compelling tale encapsulating struggle, hard work and undying optimism that led the man to where he is.
His life is a tale of perseverance and survival. If you look at Thomas, you would find it hard to believe that, as a little boy, he sold matches in the market. This is a man whose picture at every point signifies heart-breaking struggles he went through. But he is thankful that they made him what he is. If that were the end of the story, it would be pretty depressing.
Born to a financially-strapped family, his parents could only afford him a secondary education. The idea of doing business sparked only after he realised his parents did not have the funds to sponsor his education when he gained admission.
He decided to fight his battle. With the N14,000 they gave him, which he realised would not pay for his first semester, Thomas decided he would put the money into multilevel marketing business.
The multilevel business turned out a success. He made a lot of money; thereafter, he went into poultry business. He started with 5,000 birds. As he had no prior experience, within days, all the birds were dead. He had to start from the scratch. He learnt the way of dealing with life in a hard way. The hardship taught him the value of perseverance and made him think beyond the situation. He started selling used computers, travelling to Lagos to replenish his stock. His motivation: He saw a market need that wasn’t being filled.
With nothing, he went into agri- land brokerage. He was selling acres/hectares of land.
From the commission realised from sale of farm land, he started planting cashew on a few acres. He proceeded into cashew-cassava cultivation, yam planting, cattle rearing, and then agro-advisory services. He had to learn everything from tilling the land to sowing the seeds.
Wanting to waste no time in laying the foundation of his business, he bought more land over the next few years and hired labourers. After five years, he has built a cashew farm enterprise on 500 acres, adding value while creating jobs and boosting the income of farmers and the community. The business has grown and become profitable. The business is known as Hastom Foods and Farms.
To him, everything was a challenge. He had no clue about farming, but wanted to be in a position to support Nigerians who are interested in absentee agro business. We are the pioneer of absentee farming in Nigeria, giving people the ability to invest in agriculture in the comfort of their homes while getting records of the progress of their properly-managed farms.“
He believes the agric sector has a huge opportunity, and is about start-ups’preparedness to take risks.
Thomas shares some characteristics with successful agro entrepreneurs: a passion for farming and an understanding that there is no substitute for hard work. He said: “I have learnt to identify opportunities and build on them.”
For him, the future belongs to the rural areas. Harnessing this potential, according to him, has become all the more urgent given that Nigeria still spends billions of naira on food imports.
He is campaigning that agriculture and rural development become priority by transforming rural areas into economically-prosperous areas. He says the focus is agric entrepreneurship.
His message to aspiring entrepreneurs, is: “Don’t stop dreaming big or taking risks.” He continues to see opportunities just about everywhere, and is bullish on the entrepreneurial climate in Nigeria. In what sectors does he see the greatest opportunity? He thinks cashew processing is a huge industry for entrepreneurs.
He has an incredible vision for his business and hopes to grow his farm. For him, the journey to impact has just started and he encourages others who have chosen the path of entrepreneurship not give up. “No matter how long the road might seem, if you persevere, it will all work out,”he said.
He believes that there is a reason behind the peaks and valleys in life.
His belief in turning every situation into an opportunity has brought him to where he is.