How New Farmers Approach Agriculture As Business, The number of new entrants into farming is rising, despite the grim picture being painted by practitioners. However, young farmers are unperturbed because they see agriculture as business, DANIEL ESSIET reports.
A growing number of young Nigerians are joining a movement of highly educated, ex-urban, first-time farmers, who are capitalising on the booming consumer demand for local foods.
In some states, such as Ogun, Oyo and Osun, their number has grown by 20 per cent since 2015, with a few of them operating farm sizes of between 100 and 500 acres. The farms are critical to the rural economies, as they generate jobs and supply mainstream markets.
One of them, the Managing Director of Niji Foods, Mr Kolawole Adeniji, has become a successful farmer. He is the founder of Niji Group engaged in agricultural machinery fabrication, crops and livestock production, and food processing. He started by producing food processing machines for corporates and supplying farmers. Today.
Passionate about agriculture, food and sustainability, he has not only changed his life, but brought hope to about 100 persons, employed on his farms, spread over 3,000 acres of land in Oyo State. His cassava farm is also a learning centre for young and old farmers and students as it teaches them how to process food.
Once everything on the farm is ready, Adeniji goes ahead and farm. He plans his farm meticulously and build fences, watering points and stock handling facilities sufficient for harvest.
He monitors his progress throughout and assists in terms of budget and purchases for the farm. He is among the successful private sector operators, who are cultivating and processing cassava on a large scale. His firm processes cassava into gari, fufu and high quality cassava flour. He receives requests for cassava-based products from Europe, the United States (US) and the United Kingdom (UK).
He believes knowledge is key to success and guides other farmers. Having been in cassava farming for many years, he understands why farmers fail to have a good produce and what can be done to minimise the risk.
He has started Niji Institute of Sustainable Agriculture (NISA) where aspiring farmers are exposed to intensive agricultural practices. According to Adeniji, an optimistic attitude is his greatest asset.
Another of such is Atinuke Lebile. She is a noted agri-entrepreneur, mostly engaged in farming, processing and marketing of innovative bio-fortified food products. Her story is a success. She grows cassava and her impact has positively encouraged other young farmers to scale up and become a larger part of the commercial food system.
Her passion for feeding the nation and ensuring food security made her the Chief Strategic Officer for Ogunmod Farms and Farmers’ Academy.
She co-founded,Cato Foods and Agro-allied Global Concepts, an agro-processing company dedicated to developing innovative food products from bio-fortified crops, which now partner HarvestPlus, an international food support organisation..
Atinuke works with rural communities to mentor young, out-of-school girls on various entrepreneurial and leadership skills through her initiative called Mentor A Girl Child (MAGIC) and SheAgric Initiative, where she encourages potential female farmers, empowers and motivates women and youths in agriculture value chain to ensure food security, poverty reduction and curb unemployment in Africa.
There is no shortage of success stories when it comes to young farmers making the difficult transition from small to commercial farmers.
Another exciting story is that of Pelumi Aribisala, a young emerging farmer, who owns more than 500 acres of farm land in Osun and Oyo states for mixed farming. He is an innovative farmer engaged in vegetable farming. He also plants maize and cassava. He has created a platform for farmers with the aim of empowering them to make agriculture a profitable business.
According to him, one of the toughest challenges for emerging farmers is they are not recognised as genuine farmers, or taken seriously enough by the larger agricultural community.
Lead Agribusiness and Digital Marketing Consultant, Agritechnovate Solutions Enterprises, Kalu Samuel, is a successful watermelon farmer and business owner. He is the head of an organisation which empowers youth through agriculture.
He plants watermelon and the whole process takes about three months, depending on the climate and the variety of watermelons, as some mature early.
To him, capital is a major barrier for young farmers, who want to start or expand their businesses. He also has to deal with dishonest middlemen, find genuine seeds and pay for expensive inputs.
He is now mentoring youths interested in the agricultural sector. His goal is to change the perception among the youth that farming is for the poor.
Brote Urban Farm Chief Executive, Innocent Mokidi, an accounting graduate from Edo State, comes up as another success story. He started out in 2013 as a poultry keeper with 1,000 birds. Today, he is a proud owner of an integrated farm in Abuja with greenhouses to grow vegetables. The instant success, which accompanied his business has made him a reference point in commercial farming, particularly to youths.
GoGreen Africa Initiative Executive Director, Adeniyi Sola Bunmi is a successful plantain farmer from Ogun State, who produces more than 1000 tonnes of plantains and moringa annually.
He is also the Chief Executive Officer of Natural Nutrients Limited and promoter of the Youth in Agribusiness Development and Innovation (YABDI), an agricultural entrepreneur training arm raising a new crop of agropreneurs.
However, one of the biggest challenges faced by these farmers is lack of access to production credit, mostly because they have no collateral.