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



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.


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.


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.


Agriculture should be viewed as “agri-profit” since business is all about making profit. Once you have a chosen agribusiness venture, your key profit drivers need prioritized strategies to ensure growth. In making your business more profitable that is increasing sales and revenue as well as decreasing cost and having savings, you should choose and focus on effective agribusiness growth strategies.

Agribusiness strategies transform subsistence activities of low productivity and low value addition to commercially oriented, innovative and modern agribusiness. It will enable you invest your resources technically to trigger profit and growth, and change your thought of just producing to producing to solve  problems and meeting market needs. When you choose to implement agribusiness strategies, it means you choose to allow your produce/product find a positionand meet competitive demands in the market.

Core values that will drive these strategies include:-

  • Efficiency which will be driven by the aim to reach higher competitiveness.
  • Innovation which will be driven by the aim to be impactful.
  • Positivity which will be driven by the aim to sustain performance.

The prioritized strategies include:

Putting Markets at the Center of all Production, Processing, Product Development and Packaging

  • Collate, update and provide relevant, timely and accurate market information to your customers and potential customers.
  • Be specific about your target market and the agribusiness you are into, so as to ensure optimum use of your resources in a particular direction.
  • Promote your produce and products by value addition, for example increase the quantity of your produce or products and still sell at the same price. This definitely doesn’t mean your business will run at a loss. Don’t forget I said agribusiness means agri-profit.
  • Be informed on agribusiness marketing, you can do that by using the internet appropriately and attending organized seminars and programs on agribusiness marketing.

Joining Vibrant Agribusiness Organizations and Forums

  • Connect, network, collaborate and share ideas with people of like minds.
  • Be part of a collective action that will lead to increased bargaining power.
  • Be active in the organization, dialogue and share information that will establish favorable business relationships with other agribusiness managers. This act can spur a member to refer you for business or link you with people that need your services.
  • Be part of organized seminars and programs by the organization or forum. There will be an opportunity for you to market and promote your agribusiness.

Improving on Quality Service to all Customers and Potential Customers

  • Treat all your customers well, definitely loyal customers should be well recognized but all customers deserve a great treat.
  • Satisfy your customers beyond their expectation, they will be motivated to continually patronize and refer you to other people.
  • Motivate steady customers by acknowledging their loyalty and by rewarding them; this can be with a discount, extra produce/ product or gift item. They can also be appreciated with a thank you message or call.
  • Provide concise information of your agribusiness services to all customers and potential customers.
  • Issue receipt to your customers, even if your agribusiness is small. Look at your agribusiness as a dressing that needs to be addressed appropriately. So step up and start issuing receipt.
  • Promote your business on different media (facebook, whatsapp, bbm, twitter,instagram). You can read on digital marketing for more information.
  • Be informed on climate, diseases, market trends to guide against low quality of produce/products and loss, through various means like paying attention to agribusiness news, joining interactive groups and platforms on social media.
  • Be informed about credit services, be part of a mentorship scheme and have a model farmer.

Read And Apply These Strategies To Your Agribusiness And Make Your New Profit Level A Reality. SUCCESS!

This blog post was written by Idowu T. Owoeye


OPINION: Livestock Mechanization, Reproduction should not be an exemption PART 1


p1040870As agricultural mechanization gains daily popularity among Nigerian farmers and key agricultural stakeholders, what comes readily to mind at the instance of mechanized farming – as some prefer to call it – are tractors, plough, harrow, planters, automated feed conveyors/drinkers, automated feed millers to mention just a few.

Crop production – one of the two components of agriculture in Nigeria – has been greatly favored as regards the use of modern technology in implementing its operations. As at today, there is virtually no activity in the crop production value chain that is tedious to achieve with available modern technology; pre planting, planting, post planting, harvesting, processing and storage have been catered for. No doubt one’s mind swing swiftly toward crop production at the mention of the subject, “mechanized farming in Nigeria”.

On the other hand, animal production – the co-component of agriculture in Nigeria – apparently suffers more at the instance of mechanization. Vast majority of livestock farmers/producers still employ crude methods and techniques during production. Does this imply that animal production is yet to be mechanized in Nigeria? Emphatically No!

We are all witnesses to the gigantic infrastructural automation projects by some prominent key players in Nigeria livestock industry. Livestock mechanization in Nigeria has conveniently seen to ease of feeding, water supply, identification, medication, vaccination, slaughtering, evisceration, processing and packaging. Though this worth our applause, we could have given a resounding applause if only livestock reproduction has been fully mechanized in Nigeria.

Your guess must be as good as mine, Artificial Insemination? Of course, Artificial Insemination!

Artificial Insemination nonetheless, is today a toothless and clawless lion, living in the glory of successes recorded beyond the borders of Nigeria, which explains the less than 5% overall success rate of A.I in Nigeria in the last one decade. Livestock reproduction is far beyond Artificial Insemination, it includes effective estrous synchronization, accurate ovulation detection, semen evaluation and pregnancy detection. Today one can even scan to know the number of fetuses expected, the ratio of expected male to female, age of fetus (es) and the estimated date of delivery. In summary, livestock reproduction can be segmented into pre-insemination, insemination and post-insemination. It is unwise however, to isolate insemination, or prioritize insemination over other processes in the reproduction chain.

In Nigeria, A.I has been in practice since 18th century but its effect has not been significantly felt in the livestock industry. In 2015, a state government in the Northern region of Nigeria embarked on a livestock multiplication project; numerous cattle, sheep and goat were inseminated artificially with less than 15% success rate. I heard recently how a PhD in Animal Physiology recorded a zero result during a pig multiplication project in a state in Southwest Nigeria.

Yet the problem is not A.I in itself, there are expertise all around us. Our reproductive veterinarians and animal health scientists readily possess this skill. But then how can one ascertain the viability of the sperm cells in the semen at the point of insemination? Are the sperm cells motile? What is the percentage concentration to suggest how many female animals should be inseminated? Was the female animal at the peak of ovulation? Can one confirm the success of the insemination shortly after insemination? Was the animal actually pregnant? Should the process be repeated?

The above questions can only be answered with the use of modern animal reproductive technological solutions.

One would wish all these were abstract or theories but then I have been privileged to use some of these technologies here in Nigeria on animals in Nigeria; pig, goat etc. These devices/solutions are here with us and very affordable to farmers. Government and livestock agencies should assist the awareness at all level for easy localization of these animal reproductive solutions for rapid multiplication of our indigenous livestock production.

Until household and large scale farmers can breed and improve livestock production with efficacy can we wholly proclaim the mechanization of animal production in Nigeria.

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Tapping into opportunities in agribusiness industry

Agribusiness is usually a vertical group containing multiple operations that can include, but not limited to farming. ADEMOLA ALAWIYE writes on how to make a living from the sector

There is a variety of business activities involved in getting agricultural produce to consumers. The activities include the growing of the food, its processing, packaging, its distribution and marketing. The term agribusiness encompasses the businesses found in any of these activities.

With a remarkable rise in urban populations across the country, the need for fresh foods to cater for these people is inevitable. Trends toward industrialisation have left fewer entrepreneurs to concentrate on food production. It is, therefore, a good sector for one to make profit, while at the same time contributing to the world’s food supply.

The rise in food prices and the increased demand for consumables have created viable opportunities in the agricultural sector. Agriculturists say shrewd entrepreneurs can make enough money in farming business. They note that farming incomes will rise dramatically in the next few decades, faster than those in most other industries.

This, they say, is because of the rise in the prices of agricultural produce and the market for such items. Experts say the present day economy does not need more bankers, but more people in the agribusiness sector. According to them, the world has got a serious food problem and the only real way to solve it is to get more entrepreneurs back to agriculture.

They explain that agribusiness opens a lot of opportunities for entrepreneurs who wish to invest in the sector. These opportunities can help entrepreneurs to create wealth and provide jobs for the unemployed. Experts say technology, service jobs and finance have been the basis of the economy for over 20 years. They maintain that farming is becoming the economic equivalent of most sectors that drive any particular economy.

On how the farmer can help to create jobs, experts say there is a possible renaissance in farm towns. According to them, the flow of money in agribusinesses will prompt farmers to seek where to invest. An investor in the sector, Mr. Wale Ashiru, says farmers will put their money in new industries that will create uses for their crops, like biodegradable plastics, other kinds of biofuels or similar agricultural products.

He says, “When this is done, you can be sure that the end result will be more jobs. Agriculture is a dynamic sector and it is the most critical story in our economy and has the potential to affect the future of the world positively.”

Below are some important steps that will help an entrepreneur to make enough money in the agribusiness sector, according to experts:

Create your own distinctive market

Experts say it is important for an entrepreneur to create a niche for himself in the sale of a particular produce. They note that the entrepreneur should attract a niche market with the crops that he chooses to sell. For instance, they say that the entrepreneur could sell organic produce and vegetables as well as hard-to-find varieties of edibles to local grocery stores. He could also sell some of these produce to restaurants as fresh or canned products. According to experts, this does not imply that the entrepreneur must grow fruits and vegetables on farms, but can have a nursery on his property, where varieties of vegetables and other crops are planted.

When customers know that they can always get some selected produce from you, they will always patronise your farm, experts say. This will lead to increased returns and will provide the entrepreneur with enough funds.

Supply fresh produce

Adigun notes that you can sell a fresh produce basket several times monthly. This, he says, can be sold as a subscription service. The idea is to have the produce fresh and attractive to your customers. Experts say your subscription service should be filled with a variety of the fruits and vegetables you grow on your farm.

They note that you can charge your customers a percentage of the subscription fee upfront and the balance in the middle of your growing or harvest season. For more income, experts say the entrepreneur can also offer similar subscription service with fresh-cut flowers from his farm as well as other items of interest to his customers.

Give room for varieties

Allowing customers to visit your farm and pick their choice fruits at specific prices will also increase your income as an entrepreneur. Experts say the prices should be affordable and the produce must be fresh and attractive. Produce to be sold may include vegetables, fruits and a few tuber crops. Offering customers free boxes or bags to carry their items will also endear them to you and will make them want to visit whenever you open your doors.

Provide good and affordable produce

This is vital for the success of any agricultural business, experts say. The ability to provide quality produce for the market will attract buyers. However, the produce must be affordable; otherwise, you will give buyers the option of looking elsewhere for alternatives.

Develop your skills

Improving your skills in farming is also vital. You should know the current chemicals and fertilisers that will boost production. This may not be easy to know unless you improve your skills. Experts note that entrepreneurs in agriculture must update themselves with current skills in the business.

They also note that the entrepreneur should offer seasonal tours of his farm for a fee, as this will also increase his earnings. They say he should consider including a demonstration and food as part of the package.

Sourced from here

Photo credit – Flicker MCG Funds