Africa

Making the most of opportunity – Tolulope’s brave choice in building her own cassava processing/packaging business venture

 

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Photo credit: Tolulope Aina

Aina Tolulope an undergraduate of the Department of Agricultural Economics at the University of Ibadan and a native of Ogun State is the CEO of Tolulope foods processing and packaging company- which is currently into the processing and packaging of Gari and has a brand known as MyGari aside packaging food items as souvenier for events. She developed the interest in cassava cultivation and processing during the one-year practical year training program while she was in 400 Level.

Despite several challenges, Tolulope chose not to back down!  She believes agriculture has revolutionized in this jet age and with the current state of the country, Nigerians especially the youths, should wake up and be that change they want to see instead of waiting for miracles to happen from the government.

INTRODUCTION

My name is Aina Tolulope, a student of the Department of Agricultural Economics at the University of Ibadan.  I am the CEO of Tolulope foods processing and packaging company, a brand that is currently into the processing and packaging of Gari called MyGari. I was born on the 12th of September!

When and where was the start of your journey into agribusiness?

My interest in agribusiness started during the practical year training program at the University of Ibadan for 400 level students. During this period, I developed the interest in cassava cultivation and processing and I decided from that time to pursue cassava cultivation, processing and packaging as a business venture.

Tolulope's Packaged Garri as souvenir for an event

What is your view about agribusiness?

Agribusiness to me differs from the conventional mentality people especially the youths have about the business enterprise. Agriculture generally has upgraded from the use of crude implements to mechanized farming, to agro- processing which helps to improve the value of agricultural products in the local and foreign market. The packaging also helps in adding value to the product. Oh well in this jet age, so packaging is key.

What part of your agribusiness do you find most satisfying and what part do you find most challenging?

The most challenging part has to do with expansion and capital needed for the business- since agribusiness is generally capital and labour intensive. Against all odds what’s satisfying about agribusiness is identifying problems that spring up from time to time, putting in place combating strategies and actually seeing positive results in respect to that.

What challenges did you face while starting up and what decisions and choices did you make to manage the challenges?

Hmmm… That’s a whole lot you know? but let me share a few of them. Initially, financing the business was the first issue, how to convince was next – how do I convince the identified sources to invest in the business? There was a dramatic incident which could have totally discouraged me from starting but I thank God I didn’t let that pose as a limitation, it was when a supposed expertise in the field who I expected to be a mentor was just after how much he could swindle out of me. Well, lessons were learnt and business had to go on. That’s what challenges are called right? (Laughs)….

Photo credit: Tolulope Aina

I chose not to back down, though challenges kept on popping up. The more they kept popping up, the more combating strategies were put in place. But then the beauty of it all is after much effort in trying to make things work out, you begin to yield positive results and those that looked down on you begin to appreciate you, people begin to acknowledge you as a source of motivation to others, a problem solver and a motivation to both young and old, these to me are priceless.

It’s not just about starting a business and keeping it moving, it is how much lives one can touch on the way up the ladder. Above all, focus, perseverance, hard work (with smart work as an active ingredient) and most importantly God’s grace is what has kept this business going.

How have the choices and decisions you made helped in the success of your business?

Choices like how to process the best quality of ‘Gari’, how to make it available for an affordable price, and what packaging material should be used, the form of packaging, size of the packaging, the target market among others. The decisions made were made based on the most cost-effective options that would benefit both the target market and the business. As an Agricultural Economist, I am concerned about minimizing cost, providing the product at an affordable price and still make the desired profit.

Some of Tolulope's packaged food products as souveniers

Do you attend seminars, mentoring programs for improvement in your business? How do you keep yourself informed for improvement in your business and what steps have you taken to improve?

Lol, why not? If I don’t, how then will I keep myself motivated and develop in the field? One of the essential qualities of an agripreneur is good and upgraded knowledge of the business. To me, knowledge is key!

What’s your view on youth involvement in agro-processing, and packaging?

It’s key, in short, this is the future of this nation’s agribusiness. The bulk of food being consumed in Nigeria come from rural sources, others are from import sources with very little from private owned commercial farms. These rural farmers employ the use of crude implements. This is the 21st century, technology has gone way beyond that, where are the youth, the leaders of tomorrow and what are they doing about this? Even rural youth are coming to the city to ride okada.

Tolulope's Packaged Garri Product

The period of glut is accompanied with abundance of some resources and when these products are off season the nation experiences severe scarcity. What is wrong with our storage facilities? What is happening to mechanized farming? Asides from what we hear in the news about government empowering the youths in Agriculture? How many deserving youths have been empowered? How can a nation like ours that is blessed with a favorable climate for the cultivation of various agricultural produce still be unable to boast of being food secure? What is the problem? Is the government doing less or are the citizens ignoring agriculture? The reality is this, the supply of the labour force is higher that the demand for it. Year in year out we have thousands of youths ploughed into this sphere called labour force yet everyone prays and hopes for a good job, please where are these jobs? Youths let’s sit back and think about how we can help reduce these problems rather than add to it. How can we help ourselves to help others?

I apologize if I have somewhat digressed but then, we have to tell ourselves this truth, with the current state of our economy right now, everyone has to wake up and think of how to help revive our nation, the government cannot do it all, we cannot die of starvation by waiting for miracle to happen from the government, let us wake up and be that change we want to see.

What ideas would you encourage the government to implement to ensure youths involvement in Agribusiness?

Government, please help the youths, create avenues for seminars and training for the youths in Agriculture, there is need to reorientate the youths that there is more to agriculture than the use of hoe and cutlass, in short aside from all these ambiguous empowerment programs with little resultant effect on the economy when evaluated,  Identify interested youth, train them, divide them into teams of professionals in various aspects of agriculture, empower them by giving them substantial amount of hectares to cultivate, provide them with required resources, prompt mentoring and put up a structure that can accommodate sales of their product. When the government has agricultural products to sell, sporadic fluctuation of food items by suppliers will reduce. It is a broader concept which I cannot elaborately explain in this interview, but then trust me- there is a lot to be done especially on the part of the government.

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What is your advice to agropreneurs that have the desire go into agribusiness agro-processing and packaging?

In business, if one looks at all the likely problems to be encountered, no one would really start anything. Like I actually tell people from experience, there will never be a perfect time to take a bold step towards achieving one’s goals. You have to take the time (which is now) and make it perfect. Against all odds, you just have to take the  risk, calculated risk and not just risks without a well thought out plans, do not let anyone or anything weigh you down or deter you from achieving your dreams.

Identify persons that keep you motivated and strive towards being a source of motivation to others, be ye never particular about the profit to be made from a business but be more concerned about how many lives you can impact, a problem solver you can be not just for yourself but for the benefit of the entire human race. But then, you can never be too certain about some outcome, therefore, you should never rule out the God factor, do your best and let him crown your effort.

Exploiting Agribusiness Opportunities in Africa: Food Security, Employment, and Economic growth

Photo credit: esoko.com

In various continents of the world, Agribusiness has been known to be a driver of economic growth. In Africa, it has a positive impact as it accounts for 30% of national income as well as a bulk of export revenues and employment. Kenya for example, is a key producer of tea, accounting for 59.6% of total production in Africa. The country is a leading tea exporter and one of the largest black tea producers in the world. With an estimate of 33 million small holder farms in Africa, a vibrant agriculture driven economy can cause increase in yields, increase in income generation, reduce in post- harvest losses and thereby put an end to food wastage. Agribusiness is capable of initiating the agricultural growth that will positively improve the livelihood of Africa’s increasing population. It can fasten Africa’s progress towards development.

In Nigeria for example, over 78.4 million people are willing, able and actively looking for job, development in agribusiness can have a direct impact on this people because an efficient and effective agribusiness will lead to increased employment in agro industrial activities.

Agribusiness does not only cover farmers it covers input suppliers, agro processors, traders, exporters and retailers. It is a term which indicates farming and all other industries, and services, that constitute the supply chain. The business of agriculture is not to be neglected in development priorities, the focus should not only be on urban industrialization, government need to get their role right on building necessary industrial capability and capacity, strengthening managerial capacity and promoting institutional services.

To successfully achieve desired result in agribusiness, understanding and comprehension of the nature of the business and its untapped opportunities is important. Food importation in African countries has to reduce and promotion of local agricultural products has to be carried out adequately. Although there are challenges as regards climate, policies, governance, laws, infrastructure and basic services, the goals to end poverty, hunger, have improved nutrition and sustainable agriculture should be a focus that will ensure motivation. To reduce the incidence of extreme poverty and unemployment, increase in importation, massive migration of rural peasants into the cities, agribusiness needs to be promoted and financially supported efficiently and effectively.

Africa’s projected population by 2050 is 2 billion; the continent has an estimate of more than one- fourth of the total un-fed people in the world. To guide against starvation, rapid rise in food prices, severe malnutrition, food riots, extreme poverty, higher rate of social vices and diseases; there is indeed a crucial need, to exploit the opportunities in agribusiness and make the business of agriculture more productive and profitable like never before so as to achieve improved social outcomes and solve the problem of poverty and food insecurity.

For a better result, Africa needs to take important decisions concerning agribusiness opportunities and act in a better way.

Written by Idowu T.Owoeye

 

Invest In Snail Farming and Get Huge Returns

Photo credit: Google images

Photo credit: shalisha.com.

Snail is called different names in Africa, like — eju, nwa, ìgbín, katantanwa, wɔba, konokono, slak, mulaca. The snail is a small to medium sized ‘mollusc’ that is generally split into three groups which are land snails, sea snails and freshwater snails. Achatina species is a species of land snails that include Arhatina achatina (Tiger Snails), Archatina marginata (Giant African Land Snails) and Achatina fulica (Garden Snail) -which is the smallest of all.

The snails are hermaphrodites, (i.e. they have male and female parts) the individuals mate with each other before laying eggs. They are also coldblooded and can live for several years while growing to 25cm in some species. They have about 90 calories per 100 grams of weight and provide a low calorie source of protein which helps in building and repairing our muscle. They are also good sources of Iron, Vitamin B12, Magnesium, Selenium, and Omega3 -which is really good for the heart. Snails are environmentally friendly, they are most active during the night and they require low capital investment compared to poultry, pigs, goats, sheep, cattle.

Thinking of starting up?

Snail farming business has a very high rate of return and the best time to start up a snail farm is in the rainy season especially from July to October because that is the time snails normally start to breed. You should also note that prices of snails multiply during scarcity between March and December, in the dry season.  

Which is the most lucrative amongst the Achatina species?

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Photo credit: Flickr

The Tiger Snails and Giant African Land Snails are the most lucrative amongst the Achatina species because they grow so big and lay more eggs. When thinking of getting a snail to start up with – that is the- initial breeding stock, you can decide to go for sexually mature snails, weighing at least 100-125 grams as recommended by Freeman (2013).

Note that each of this 2 species is capable of laying 100- 500 eggs in a year. This means that if you start a snail farm with 5 snails this year, you will probably get about 75,000 snails in one year! This is actually going by the number of eggs laid by the 5 snails, the percentage of eggs that are likely to hatch out, and the percentage that will survive after hatching.

Where can I get the snails?

You can get many snails from the forest, uncultivated lands and in the market.  They can also be picked up in the day time after a rainfall. Also, they can be found under wet boards and surfaces, piles of leaves and sticks, wet stones, walls, the trunk of trees.

The best time to get them from places other than the market is in the night. Don’t forget they are always active in the night. So, you can clear a little portion of land in the evening during the rainy season and place some fruits after which you leave the place. After about 3 – 4 hours you can go back to pick available snails. This process can be repeated till you get the number you want to start up with. When buying snail eggs from the market ensure it has not been exposed to sunlight, as exposure to sun has a negative effect on the fertility of the eggs.

How do I keep them safe?

When selecting an appropriate site for housing the snails, consider –climate, wind speed and direction, soil characteristics and protection of the snails from diseases and predators.

Photo credit: Flickr

Snails need damp, not wet, environments and they derive most of their water requirements from the soil. They love to dig the soil to lay their eggs.

A soil that supports good growth of cocoyam, tomatoes and leafy vegetables, is suitable for snail farming. Ensure to loosen the soil by tilling.

Snails are good at escaping from where they are kept, so, for a rewarding business venture, you should endeavor, to construct escape proof housing. You can use a pen house that will be spacious and accessible with a soil deep of 10inch, and trees around it. Snails can also be reared in boxes made of suitable substances like wire gauze (net), wood, straw etc.

In other to avoid flies and ants, the removal of leftover food and cleaning should be done appropriately, also endeavor to control predators and secure the pen with nets, wire and nylon mesh. Note that changing of the soil once every 3 months and allowing them to grow to reach their proper size and weight is also essential.

What should I feed them with?

They are vegetarians and can be fed with wide varieties of foods.  You can feed them with – leaves of lettuce, cabbage, cassava, okra and pawpaw – also fruits like cucumber, mango, banana, eggplant, pear, tomato and paw- paw. Banana, paw paw and pineapple peels can also be given to them. Snails can also be feed with leftover food like rice, fufu and pap but salt intake can make them sick or even kill them. So any leftover food you give them, should not contain salt!

Who will buy the snails?

The demand for supply of snail is very important; no one wants to run at a loss. People that will constantly need and demand for  your snails include; restaurants, pepper soup joints ,canteens, stores, supermarkets, event planners and caterers, shopping malls, institutions, hotels, friends and your darling family members. You can have an agreement with this people on when, amount and number of snails that should be supplied.

Snail business will definitely not give you quick money but in the long run you will be happy about your investment that will give huge returns. Now is indeed the time to start!

Article written by Idowu T. Owoeye

Agribusiness Incubation: A Young Agropreneur’s Story, Post Incubation

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Johnbosco on the farm

This month we bring you a model youth of the IITA youth Agripreneur who was mentored to see Agriculture as a business. Today he has moved on to make for himself a growing and thriving business in plantain, banana and pineapple sucker production and multiplication among others, he distributes his suckers to various locations across Nigeria while he also helps farm setups both in Nigeria and diaspora with their farm management and setup. He also gives training on the production and business aspect of his mandate crops.

JohnBosco has since realized that picking agriculture as a business is the only work of life that is capable of giving massive percentage return on investment with eye-catching cost benefit ratio and higher curve of income, only if seen as a business. He thanks IITA for taking the lead to walk the talk on Youth in Agribusiness in Africa and encourages the Private and Public sectors and the world to rise up and walk the talk with proactive measures to help Youth see Agriculture as a business.

JohnBosco advices young people who have failed before in their agribusiness not to see it as a setback as every time invested in business has an impact and enables us see ways doing business in a particular way would’nt work.

In this piece he reveals how he started and projects he is currently working on in the value chain and discusses challenges faced as it relates to youth engagement in Nigeria.

Q1. Can you briefly introduce yourself? How was growing up like for you?

Answer: My name is Ezemenaka Johnbosco, preferably called Bosco by fans. I come from Anambra state, born and brought up in Ibadan. I grew up as a normal child with passion for business and development, but with no formal foresight of what sector of business I wanted as a child. Now, I’m the C.E.O of AgroBosco – Agribusiness and Consulting, Founder – International Forum for Youth in Agribusiness ‘IFYA’ (a virtual non-formalized platform), Agribusiness Analyst for Aroms Farms Nigeria Limited and Program Manager for McPennin Nigeria Limited.

Q2. Can you please tell us how you came into farming/agribiz? Do you have a background in Agric? If No, Tell us why you considered agriculture?

Answer: I have an Agricultural background in Soil Science and Land Management, Agricultural Extension and Rural Development. There’s no doubt I had the background from a Federal Agricultural University, still I had no clue of what aspect of life I was going to make that money from, even as at my fourth year as an undergraduate. I eventually graduated and as luck would play its role, I found myself in International Institute of Tropical Agriculture as my place of primary assignment as a Youth Corper serving my nation.

I was mentored and spawned to see Agriculture as a business. From there, I gained momentum with a crystal clear vision and goal to my independence and self-sustainability, so I decided to scramble for professional experience in Agribusiness Development, Business and Entrepreneurship, Civic Leadership, Public Management and Leadership.

Picking up Agribusiness as my part of life is simply because Agriculture is the ONLY work of life that is capable of giving you massive Percentage Return on Investment with eye-catching Cost Benefit Ratio and higher Curve of Income, only if seen as a business.

John bosco working on the farm

Q3. What aspect or nature of work in Agriculture do you practise? Briefly, Tell us about your work?

Answer: With practical experience in maize seed production, soybean seed production, cassava production / stem multiplication, plantain / banana fruit production and rapid sucker multiplication using macro-propagation technique and pineapple production / rapid sucker multiplication, this has helped me setup my own company. I give trainings on the aforementioned crops, help clients near and in diaspora set up farms and management, help develop Agribusiness companies in line with their business strategies to meet their business goals, help develop business plans, project plans and proposals with groovy and keen attention in Agri-start-ups for Youths.

Q4. What societal problems are you solving with your work and what solutions are you using? What are the hurdles currently being faced?

Johnbosco facilitating Macro-propagation of Hybrid Plantain

Answer: I have been giving trainings on the production and business aspect of my mandate crops to Youths and Farmers for self dependence, sustainability and enhanced income. Since commercial banks hardly finance Youths to start their venture, I’m working on providing Agri-finance with the Co-Founder of International Forum for Youths in Agribusiness – IFYA through ‘crowd-funding’ (micro fund raising through our members on the IFYA virtual platform) to set up Agri start-ups (maximum of $26,000 USD with an approved business plan).

Q5. What do you think about youth participation in Agriculture?

Answer: Youth participation is Agriculture is just the tool-box for significantly increasing food security, reducing world poverty and unemployment to ALARP level. Statistically, Youth make up the highest percentage of world’s population density with significant physiological and morphological capacity capable of deactivating the world time bomb. There’s no two ways about using Youth as a veritable tool.

Q6. What are the challenges of youth engagement in agribusiness as it relates to what you do, How do you think it is affecting Agricultural Entrepreneurship in Nigeria?

Answer: There are numerous challenges faced by Youth engaged in Agribusiness. The primary and number one challenge is ‘change of mindset’, others are secondary. Youths should have their mindset changed about Agriculture, the Private and Public sectors should help Youth see Agriculture as a business. A proactive concept and programs with strong Monitoring and Evaluation should be developed in all continents to tackle this and not just financing start-ups for Youths. Special regards to the IITA’s concept of Youth in Agribusiness, as a model in Africa. I tell you this; if you give a Youth $1 billion for an Agribusiness venture without having his/her mindset changed about seeing Agriculture as a business and the prospects attached to it, then you just poured water into a basket. I know there are so many programs and concepts about changing the mindset of Youths towards seeing Agriculture as a business, but the world has to rise and walk the talk with proactive measures. More regards to IITA for taking the lead to walk the talk on Youth in Agribusiness in Africa.

Johnbosco at the IITA youth Agripreneur incubation plot

In Nigeria, this has greatly affected negatively, considering the teeming Youth population moving into Nigerian labour market quarterly, and then you can figure out how devastating this is in Africa, having Nigeria as the most populous country in Africa. Just figure it out! Example: My friend ‘A’ is comfortable working as a freelancer with a bank and receiving a limited token as salary, while my friend ‘B’ quitted his freelancing ICT job for just a commodity in Agribusiness and now making fortune with unlimited revenue and profit generation.

Q7. What advice do you have for young people engaged in agriculture?

Answer: My advice for young people engaged in Agriculture is to see it as a business. Only then will they realise the fortune that awaits them. In business, every time invested has an impact. Failing is normal in life, but they should NEVER see ‘fail’ as a setback in any of the value-chains of Agribusiness they are into, but rather see ‘fail’ as a finding of ways that don’t work.

Q8. What do you think government should put in place to improve the agric sector in Nigeria? Suggest Advice

Answer: Nigeria government should; 1. Take Youth as a tool-box for development of the Agricultural sector. 2. Work on changing the mind-set of the Youths through Non-Governmental Organizations and private sectors who are walking the talk and proactive, and embracing these organizations with resources needed. 3. Significantly reduce the interest rates on loan and to make it easily accessible to the common Youth. Government should be proactive about the aforementioned using aggressive and diplomatic Monitoring and Evaluation framework base approach.

Here is a Youtube video of Johnbosco talking about Plantain Macropropagation in Nigeria.

Contact him via boscowjay@yahoo.com or Blog

Why our stereotypes of African agriculture are all wrong

Image REUTERSMike Hutchings Why our stereotypes of African agriculture are all wrong

Photo credit: REUTERS Mike Hutchings

From newspaper editors to TV anchors to bloggers, the default symbol of African agriculture is an African woman holding a hand hoe. This imagery highlights the drudgery African women face in farming. But it also conflates family farming with the broader agricultural enterprise.

As I argue in The New Harvest: Agricultural Innovation in Africa, farming is only a small but important part of the agribusiness value chain. The value chain includes resource data processing, input provision, production, aggregating (covering bulking, cleaning and grading), processing and packaging, retailing and recycling. Making the value chain work efficiently involves connecting farmers to markets.

As noted in a recent report by the Tony Elumelu FoundationUnleashing Africa’s Agricultural Entrepreneurs, the sector “accounts for 32% of Africa’s gross domestic product, and employs over 65% of its labour force.”

Taking the value chain approach, the World Bank has estimated that Africa’s agribusiness market will reach $1 trillion in 2030. This estimate does not include auxiliary industries that will arise from the expansion of the sector.

For example, efficient markets rely on effective information flow. New firms such as Gro Intelligence are emerging to fill the data gap. Similarly, the expansion of rural energy, transport, irrigation and telecommunications infrastructure will also spur the rise of support industries.

From newspaper editors to TV anchors to bloggers, the default symbol of African agriculture is an African woman holding a hand hoe. This imagery highlights the drudgery African women face in farming. But it also conflates family farming with the broader agricultural enterprise.

As I argue in The New Harvest: Agricultural Innovation in Africa, farming is only a small but important part of the agribusiness value chain. The value chain includes resource data processing, input provision, production, aggregating (covering bulking, cleaning and grading), processing and packaging, retailing and recycling. Making the value chain work efficiently involves connecting farmers to markets.

As noted in a recent report by the Tony Elumelu FoundationUnleashing Africa’s Agricultural Entrepreneurs, the sector “accounts for 32% of Africa’s gross domestic product, and employs over 65% of its labour force.”

Taking the value chain approach, the World Bank has estimated that Africa’s agribusiness market will reach $1 trillion in 2030. This estimate does not include auxiliary industries that will arise from the expansion of the sector.

For example, efficient markets rely on effective information flow. New firms such as Gro Intelligence are emerging to fill the data gap. Similarly, the expansion of rural energy, transport, irrigation and telecommunications infrastructure will also spur the rise of support industries.

Too much focus on farming

This is one of the ways the long value chain of agribusiness serves as a driver for industrial transformation. Few other sectors offer Africa such a broad range of opportunities for technological innovation and entrepreneurial development. There are templates for business models that can be readily adopted. The key is to define agribusinesses as learning opportunities from the outset, as demonstrated by the work of the Africa Atlantic Holdings.

Past efforts to promote agribusiness were not successful partly because of the narrow focus on farming. This approach also failed to appreciate the importance of investing in basic rural infrastructure without which neither production nor markets can function. In addition, the focus on farming precluded consideration of the role of higher technical training in agribusiness.

The general policy prescription was that farmers did not need more than primary education to function. In many cases, agriculture is more complex that manufacturing, where many functions can be automated and products can be generated just in time. The complex process of plant or animal growth demands more versatile knowledge sources and husbandry that cannot be readily automated.

The focus on farming also created biases in the provision of incentives such as credit, insurance and technical support to farmers. Urban enterprises, especially those involved in manufacturing, have access to a wide range of enabling incentives. The same is not true of agriculture, especially where it is perceived narrowly as farming. Agribusiness needs to be supported like other ventures. Farmers need to be viewed as entrepreneurs and innovators, not simply as producers for downstream operations.

A bright future for agribusiness in Africa

The good news is that young people in many parts of Africa see great potential in agribusiness. But it needs to be put on par with other sectors. Because of a long history of neglect, young people venturing in to agribusiness lack access to capital. But even more critical is the lack of mentors who can guide them through the early phases of their start-ups.

In addition to mentorship, young agripreneurs could also benefit from investment in adequate infrastructure. They already know the power of mobile technology. But what they might need most is access to broadband, which also helps link them to knowledge centres given the absence of extension services. Today, the cost of broadband is prohibitively expensive, despite the fact that it is essential for dynamic business operations.

One possible way to resolve this could be to provide “broadband grants” in the same way the US government provided “land grants”. Private enterprises can also purchase broadband and donate it to selected agribusiness start-ups as part of their corporate social responsibility.

There are many opportunities for leveraging the growing interest in agribusiness to expand the sector. These opportunities are diverse and lie not only along the full value chain, but also in farms of all sizes – small, medium-sized and large. The starting point should not be driven by opportunity or ideology or dogma about farm size. There are many enterprises that do engage in agribusiness but if given an opportunity they could diversify into the sector. This could be enterprises that are seeking new opportunities.

In China, for example, coal-mining firms are starting to diversify into agribusiness in light of new restrictions imposed on the sector to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. In Africa, some oil companies might also explore moving into agribusiness given the uncertainties in the sector.

Agribusiness in Africa needs to be nudged towards a tipping point from which it can take off. The push will need to come from a collaboration between government, business, academia and civil society. It will require a collective effort.

Modernizing African agriculture

One additional way to promote agribusiness is to recognize individuals or organizations that have made outstanding contributions to different sections of the value chain. Many of the existing prizes tend to focus on production, thereby reinforcing the narrow farming image. The newly established Africa Food Prize, with a judging panel chaired by former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, could serve as a role model in emphasizing the agribusiness approach in its awardees.

The good news is that African governments, as illustrated by the case of Nigeria, are starting to appreciate the importance of agribusiness in long-term economic transformation. But appreciation is not enough. We not only need heads of state and government to serve as champions, we also need policy consistency. The two are important because of the long-term nature of agricultural transformation.

In one of her signature appeals for the modernization of African agriculture, the chairperson of the African Union, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, said that hand-held hoe should be in the museum, not in the hands of African farmers. The quickest way to consign this symbol of drudgery to the history books is to shift our thinking from traditional farming to agribusiness. That is the root of Africa’s coming prosperity.

Originally published here http://bit.ly/1TYa2i2

HOW MUCH ASSISTANCE ARE FARMERS REALLY GETTING FOR THEIR AGRO-STARTUP

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We are all saying poverty and hunger can be eradicated in Africa, to be particular in Nigeria, but little had been done to help the farmers that are actually going to make this ambition come true.

Are farmers really getting the desired help that will make this goal achievable or are farmers ignorant of what they should have done to get help?

It is saddening to see that almost 95% of these farmers are peasant farmers (trying to feed their immediate family). They use traditional farming method to work so that they can have something to eat and sometimes sell in order to feed their families and to pay some bills.

Taking a deeper look, if social entrepreneurs, agricultural supporting agencies, NGO’S and government ministry in charge of Agriculture are actually fulfilling their promises – relating to supporting these rural farmers financially and educationally while offering advice to these farmers – then things would be much more better.

Imagine a farmer who owns very large hectares of land, with only cutlass and hoes to work with, the inputted effort will be less and eventually his energy will not attain much. Compare a farmer who has farm equipment available to him for farming and wealth of information regarding what he has to do, the input will be encouraging, directly or indirectly he will make positive impact in his immediately environment, his family will have food to eat, proceeds gotten from what had been sold will be used to pay bills.

Remember also these individual farmers represent their families and the resulting effect will be obvious because each family will have food to eat and poverty will be reduced. Now imagine these 95% peasant farmers being supported and monitored to make sure the funds and support provided are meeting the target, poverty will be reduced to the minimal level. Through government and farmers cooperatives, information are disseminated to these farmers.

More so, the organization in charge of this fund must liaise with local government of each state to register farmers that are going to appropriately use support that they receive when these funds are disbursed, making sure the funds are used for what it is meant for.

If farmers are actually ignorant, then they can get help – that will be a serious issue speaking from their perspective. I will suggest organizations and NGO’s rendering help to farmers should always make their presence known in each local government, encouraging them to get list of camps (villages where farmers have their farms) so that they can have their sign post and also once in a while organize outreach and seminars for farmers in those enlisted camps.

Thus, if this can be done the goal to reduce poverty and to wipe out hunger is not out of reach. Organizations must do more and farmers should always ask questions, they must be proactive in their work and also be passionate about making the goal to feed Africa achievable because wiping out hunger starts from them.

Written by Oladapo Emmanuel

Oladapo Emmanuel is an information Technology Professional, a web 2.0 and social media expert, a blogger, writer, multi-talented individual and a social activist keen to social development for a better society. He is currently a student of Adekunle Ajasin University, Ondo state.

Hello Tractor’s Jehiel Oliver Speaks About “Tractors On Demand” For Nigerian Farmers

Hello tractorsFarming is fun.

Nah, I lie, it’s not. Not in Africa, it’s not. I have been on a farm here, and this I know for sure; FARMING. IS. HARD.
So when a startup surfaces introducing technology smarts into farming to make it suck less, it gets my attention.

Hello Tractor is a startup trying to do this. The startup is making tractors available to farmers, on-demand. If I was a farmer and can’t afford to buy a tractor, or maintain one – because doing both are insanely expensive – I send a coded service request to an SMS short code and, within minutes, get a tractor, or any other farming machinery I want.

That is only half of it though, another layer of the business are the kinds of tractors on Hello Tractor’s rotation; Smart tractors, Jehiel Oliver, Hello Tractor co-founder, calls them.

“What makes it smart is that it is retrofitted with a GPS antenna and it is also designed for data transmission within environments with little to no internet penetration,” he told me.

Jehiel Oliver was an investment banker before founding Hello Tractor. He brought on Van Jones as a co-founder months later. Both are citizens of the United States, but are also very passionate about farming in Nigeria and Africa.

Hello Tractor was one of the 11 startups that pitched at the Seedstars Lagos pitch event in where, MyQ, a startup from Abuja, Northern Nigeria won the top prize.

I caught up with Jehiel to talk about Hello Tractor. Our interview:

Gbenga: Great play at the Seedstars Lagos pitch, a little sad I couldn’t watch you guys pitch.

Jehiel: No worries. I was proud to see MyQ take home the top honors. They are a scrappy, hardworking bunch that definitely deserve to be recognized

Let’s jump right in. Who are you guys?

There’s five of us, plus our general council. Three of us are here in Nigeria; our general counsel and our head of farmer outreach are Nigerian. The rest are African American. We are looking to build our Nigerian staff up IMMEDIATELY!

I can see why that is important.

It is most important

But you and Van. Tell us about your background.

Jehiel Oliver on the farm, stress testing a Smart Tractor. Photo: Patrick Otigbah

Jehiel Oliver on the farm, stress testing a Smart Tractor. Photo: Patrick Otigbah

I am from Cleveland, Ohio. Grew up in a low-income community, but was surrounded by great people (family and friends) that supported me throughout my childhood. I went to Florida A&M University (an HBCU) and studied Economics and Business. I worked in investment banking and private equity after college for about five years then started consulting in financial sector development contracting with DFIs [Development Finance Institutions] and multilateral institutions, which is what exposed me to agriculture initially.

I went to grad school at Cornell and studied Economics. I continued consulting until I founded Hello Tractor while on a project at IRRI in the Philippines. This was 2013.

I brought Van on board in early 2014. He was still working on his MBA at Chicago Booth. He did the Chicago SNVC competition and helped us get first place. We had a great working relationship so I decided to bring him on, the rest is history.

I read about that – SNVC. Really good play you guys.

SNVC is probably the most competitive social VCish competition. It gave us a great platform to tell our story to business leaders from around the world. It’s a powerful platform.

Let’s talk about Hello Tractor. This is one of the things I imagine is part business, part campaign. Please explain it like to a 5 year old.

We developed a “smart tractor”. A low cost tractor that comes with attachments to help farmers throughout crop cycle – irrigation pump, plow, tiller, trailer (for transport of goods), ridger, etc.

What makes it smart is that it is retrofitted with a GPS antenna and it is also designed for data transmission within environments with little to no internet penetration. We use the data for all sorts of fun stuff. We pair the smart tractor owner with farmers texting for tractor services (e.g. #001 for till). We also provide value added analytics to agriculture industry stakeholders. We just hired a data specialist for this work.

Makes sense?

We are on our way there. Okay, a salvo of questions coming through; who pays for this? What kinds of data do you collect? Where do the data reside and what are these used for? Why are they important?

The smart tractor is purchased by farmers, we coordinate affordable financing to facilitate this, they repay the loan with the money made from providing the tractor services. The Software as a Service (SaaS) is free for the first year, this gives us an opportunity to prove the value to the smart tractor owner, maintenance on-site, the virtual booking platform, etc.

The key data points for us are farm location, plot size, crops grown and time of planting, we then cross this with data within the public domain (weather, soil quality, etc) to build farmer profiles. These profiles are attractive to a variety of stakeholders including input manufacturers, food processors, etc.

This clears up a few things. I still have a few questions here, but I’ll get to those later.

Okay.

Your beta. So there were talks of your pilot roll out in Nigeria last year, but the news on that sorta pattered off. And then another report had it that Hello Tractor was already in Ghana. Please help clear that timeline mixup. Did the beta happen or there was a change in direction?

The beta happened, we are now into our first sales cycle for Nigeria with approximately $6.5 million in the pipeline. Our first order to come online is with Notore Chemicals, who has ordered 300 units. We are in beta in Ghana right now.

That makes sense. Why did you start out in Nigeria?

First of all, the market here is huge; the largest untapped mechanization market in the world. Secondly, Nigeria is a dope country with amazing people. The energy here is electrifying.
Entrepreneurship is alive and well, and this is something we want to key into.

Nice. Do you have data here, for the bit about Nigeria being the largest untapped mechanization market?

Tons of data; Nigeria ranks 132 out of the 188 countries surveyed on global mechanization rates. There are approximately 6.5 tractors per 100 square kilometers of arable land in Nigeria, the global average is around 200. The US is at about 250.

FMARD estimates Nigeria needs 750,000 additional “large horsepower tractors” to get to global standards. I can keep going, it’s a BIG issue.

The Nigerian government puts a lot into Agriculture. At least they claim they do. Do you work with the government? How is that relationship?

We currently work with state governments and are looking to expand our work to the federal government once the agriculture minister is confirmed.

Government is critical in all agricultural markets, farming would not be where it is in the US without the government involvement The US farm bill is one of the largest pieces of legislation. Same for all major agricultural markets globally. Nigeria is actually far behind when it comes to government investment in agriculture. I suspect President Buhari will change this.

What challenges are there in working with the government?

The pace is different. Also, there are many layers of bureaucracy. Motivations can be different as well. At times, politicians confuse themselves with business people, which complicates things.

How many states are you in currently and which ones are in your expansion plans?

We have seven states in our crosshairs at the moment.

If I was a farmer and needed to get one of these smart tractors, how do I get it? Like a step-by-step guide.

Farmers simply text for tractor services (i.e., #001 for till). The nearest smart tractor owner is provided that request along with the farmers phone number and requested service. The smart tractor owner drives the tractor to the farmer’s field, provides the service and is paid upon completion. The service is priced at one-third the cost of manual labor and is 40 times faster.

What is the going rate for smart tractor services?

The tractor service is determined by the market. We don’t interfere with that because tractor service is hyper-geographic, ever-changing, and impossible to predict.

How does Hello Tractor make money?

We sell smart tractors and then we sell our software platform that provides the SMS booking, maintenance scheduling, etc. Lastly we are building out our data platform. We just hired an agricultural economist to lead this effort.

You are looking to monetize that platform as well?

It’s going to be our biggest revenue stream once we hit critical mass.

I am wondering where all these link up; you have the private owners who rent out tractors, individual farmer-owners, and then the government. Why do you need the government still?

The state buys tractors and subsidizes for individuals. It’s a bit complicated honestly. They work through cooperatives. In some instances, state government will have tractor hiring services as well but this is less common.

That clears up a few things. Which leads me nicely on to other challenges to your operations asides the government bureaucracy?

Financing. Banks are expensive here, so for our buyers that require financing, we have to do a lot of work to structure appropriate loans on their behalf. We are in the midst of this work now. We are also bringing money from abroad to provide buyer financing directly. This is by far the greatest challenge for us at the moment.

What has been your biggest surprise in and about Nigeria?

It’s just an incredibly complex country. Unfortunately, the narrative of the country is defined by a small group of bad Apples but the overwhelming majority of people I interact with, on a daily basis, are absolutely amazing.

Nigerians are so warm and welcoming. I travel a lot and in this regard, Nigeria stands out as one of the top countries I’ve had the pleasure of working/living in.

Complex paints it pretty nicely. What are your growth plans over the next six months in Nigeria and Africa?

Bring manufacturing of our machinery to Nigeria. We have already begun work on this, establish Nigeria as our West Africa hub and export to surrounding markets. We already launched in Ghana and hope to spread to other West African countries within the year.

The goal is to empower smallholder farmers throughout the region with timely and affordable mechanization services along with other agriculture inputs

Jehiel, thank you for your time.

Anytime

Originally posted here

Check this out! ORYZA2000, a computer program that simulates growth and development of rice

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IRRI ricetoday oryza model, a big hit in global rice research

ORYZA2000, a computer program that simulates growth and development of rice under a wide range of environments, has been cited by scientific papers at least 16,616 times as a tool for rice research and crop management. Developed at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), ORYZA2000 has become an important tool in modern agricultural research.

“In China, hundreds of research groups, students, and government agencies are using ORYZA2000 and/or ORYZA rice model for different purposes,” says Tao Li, the scientist-crop modeler at IRRI who currently leads the Crop Modeling Team. “ORYZA2000 appeared 16,616 times as research tool, reference or citation in scientific papers. We believe it has become one of those IRRI products that widely served rice and rice-related science research. It is a great achievement for all ORYZA developers and working teams for the past 20 years, including Bas Bouman.” Bouman is director of the Global Rice Science Partnership, which IRRI leads.

The ORYZA model has become widely popular because users are confident of its output predictions that include yield, water and fertilizer use, and environment impacts on a variety’s performance. User communities are growing quickly not only in Asia, but also in America and Africa.

ORYZA2000 has undergone several updates since its release in 2001 (v2.0 in 2004 and v2.13 in 2009). The latest version, called ORYZA v3, was released in 2013. “We’ve added new accompanying tools and more functions with every update,” says Tao Li. “We also made it very user-friendly. We learned that a lot of users use it for large-scale predictions such as environment assessment and regional rice monitoring, so we provided tools to easily organize input information, manage simulations, and organize outputs for analysis. ”

ORYZA and ORYZA2000 simulate growth and development of rice under a wide range of environments. The tool has been used to test hypotheses before conducting field experiments, extrapolate observed data from field experimental site to regional scales over different time periods, and provide information for decision-making on crop management, food security, climate change adaptation and improvement of the sustainability of rice production systems.

The ORYZA Team is now working closely with rice breeding. “We are in the process of developing ORYZA’s capacity to pinpoint parents and select breeding lines that have high potential for improvement and stress tolerance. This can shorten the conventional process of breeding by high throughput screening based on genotype and environment interaction” says Tao Li.

Next in the development pipeline, ORYZA 4 will include a genetic information module. It will be ready in a few years and is expected to help reduce the time to develop and release a rice variety by 3 or 4 years.

Originally posted here

If the youth can farm, Africa’s agriculture will be transformed.

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Africa is currently endowed with a large population of young people with 65% of the population of Africa being below the age of 35. These figures present an enormous opportunity that, if leveraged, could turn around the continent’s food fortunes and drive its economic growth.

During the just concluded Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Nairobi, US President Barack Obama announced a US$1.0 Billion fund for African youth & women. The youth are privileged to be experiencing unprecedented good will from governments, private sector and the donor community.

10 million youth enter the labor market annually. Two out of three inhabitants of sub-Saharan Africa are under the age of 25; Poverty, poor health, hunger and lack of education limit the potential of these youth to increase productivity and agricultural incomes.  With 40% of the total unemployed being youth and 70% of these living in rural areas, it is time the youth stepped up to their place in Africa’s agricultural transformation agenda.

This week, over 300 Youth agriculture entrepreneurs will gather together with private sector and academia at the Olive convention center in Durban South Africa for the CCARDESA Youth in agriculture summit for Southern Africa. The summit is poised to revolutionize and unlock agribusiness opportunities for the youth in this region.

AGRA sees the value and, in fact, the critical need of investing in empowering youth to strengthen and sustain the foundation for African agricultural transformation in the future. This summit provides a great opportunity to increase the understanding of the specific needs of young people, improving the capacity of youth to profitably engage in activities along the agricultural value chain, to improve youth employment and business opportunities along the value chain, increase small holder farm productivity and improve access to markets and financing, and to improve the policy environment for youth participation in agriculture and agribusiness.

Our intention to boost youth engagement and opportunities in agriculture is gaining traction. AGRA is supporting the development and deployment of ICT applications to improve input and output markets through its mfarms application in 17 countries. The number of mfarm beneficiaries over the last 4years is slightly over 73,400. This week, AGRA will also be supporting the development of more ICT solutions for agriculture through a hackerthon that will be running on the sidelines of the summit. The youth are willing to farm, but only if they can generate returns quickly. This therefore presents an opportunity for innovative solutions in financing and access to markets. That way we can have youth engaging in farming in new ways as well as working in the surrounding industries in terms of inputs, services and value adding agribusiness.

You can read the original post on AGRA WEBSITE

Five (5) Reasons to join the Songhai Farm Tour in August

Market gardening Session of Songhai Farms

Market gardening Session of Songhai Farms

The 5 days tour to Songhai Farms Porto Novo Benin Republic being organized by Hadur Travel and Tours will hold August 2nd to 6th 2015. Are you still contemplating on signing up for the tour? Or are you just coming across this information for the first time. Take a few moments to read about why you should not miss this tour.

Why Songhai Farm?

Songhai farm center is one of the largest NGO farm projects empowering Africans, a pride to Africa. This center is an integrated farm that uses all its waste produce to generate more income. Center Songhai is a chain of agricultural research centers established by a Nigerian American for the promotion of the study of sustainable farming techniques. In 2008, Songhai was recognized as a Center of Excellence for Africa by the United Nations and Economical Community for West African States this is simply amazing. Its decentralized development model is being replicated in various countries of the continent: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d’ Ivoire, Congo, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Malawi, Togo, Zambia, and Uganda.    The farm has roughly about 15 sections, which can be broadly classified as: aquaculture, bio gas, animal production poultry, mushroom, marketing, food processing, mechanic, machine fabrication and lot more.

Below are 5 cool reasons why you should join this tour

  1. You get expert technical knowledge and skills needed to begin or grow your own farm in 2015 and beyond make extraordinary produce this year. This training session features On site practical learning from farm experts in chosen sections of the farm. Three days of intensive learning from experienced, professional and practical farmers. Learn about poultry, fish farming, Bio gas, mushroom growing all you need to get your own sustainable farm going. Get professional answers to all your farm related questions
  2. Eat healthy fresh African meals daily. Nothing can be as healthy as taking fresh, clean meals on a daily basis. The Songhai tour affords you the opportunity to eat freshly made meals in neat and homely environments harvested right from the farm. The taste of fresh juice…oh how refreshing.
  3. Increase your well of knowledge on agricultural income generation. The tour to Songhai helps to broaden your knowledge and thus open ones eye to farming techniques that will boost your farm income and teach new skills like farm management, value addition and marketing that will go a long way to help boost your agribusiness when you get return to your farms or business plans if you are an intending farmer.
  4. The testimonials from past participants on this tour are yet another reason to consider. Read below what a few had to say

“A visit to Songhai is never a wasteful experience. There is always something to learn and I have learnt a lot that will surely be used to improve my business.”-Abdulsalam   Jibril 

“Every hour and money expended on this tour has been fully rewarded. I  will recommend it to friends. “-  Ibikunle. O

“Agro business Tour can never be completed without Songhai visitation for a systematic integrated farming.” – Chief Lamidi T.A Ololade

“Wonderful, thrilling and new knowledge and view about agriculture and nature. This is an experience to the next level.”  Omotoso  Adewale

  1. Leisure and relaxation: The tours are spiced with leisure so you will have the opportunity to visit Cotonou after your study – a few hours of site seeing and relaxation will do no harm but much good.

So what are you waiting for let’s learn, partner and tour Songhai farm together…you’ll never be the same!   This fantastic exposure on the farm guaranteed to boost your produce in year 2015. Our 2015 tours are a must aside from our agro tours to Songhai farm we have tours Israel agro study tours as well as tours around exhibitions  like Agrictech Isreal and  Agritech Africa

Don’t wait a minute more, call today to book your seat. Please download the tour enrolment form  SONGHAI STUDY FORM

For registration procedure and fee follow this link –

For further details and inquiry call Text or call CEO on 08033134108 or Bukky on 08086762144, you will get response in no time.

Visit:   http://www.smarttravelsuperfan.com/?p=745 for more information and testimonials from past participants

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