sustainable agriculture

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

OPINION: The increase of labor-saving machinery and the present state of Nigerian Agriculture, a challenge or not a challenge?

Agricultural machine working in the late evening. Photo credit: Flickr, Ookpik Prod.

Agricultural machine working in the late evening. Photo credit: Flickr, Ookpik Prod.

The introduction of the increase in “labor-saving machinery” for farm practices is indeed a requirement for improved output and productivity; however its implication on agricultural development with the present state of the country should not be overlooked.

According to the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), Nigeria has over 84 million hectares of arable land of which only 40% of the 84 million hectares is cultivated. Cultivation of the 50.4 million hectares of land, – which is capable of being plowed to grow crops and has huge potential to be productive – is one of the diverse ways in which increased output can be achieved other than focusing squarely on increasing labor-saving machinery in the country.

Increase in mechanized agriculture will definitely replace human labor – in a case of a country with abundant labor the importation of labor saving machinery will not only affect the physical environment negatively but it will create more rural unemployment and may not really cause a reduction in per-unit cost of food production.

Even though improved mechanization will help increase farm output, there are over 78.4 million people in Nigeria  that are within the working age population, these persons  are willing, able and actively looking for work. The striking effect on the quantity of output per worker if “labor-saving machinery” increases cannot be overstated, for example, one man operating a harvester will accomplish in a single hour what will be required by hundreds of men using crude implements. But in a situation, of few land ownership, scarce capital, and high rate of unemployment the importation of labor-saving machinery could increase the problem of poverty and unemployment, and be anti-developmental.

Do we need to ask ourselves how many hectares of land have the potential to be productive? How many have been cultivated on? How sufficient is the capital of the present day Nigerian farmer? How many hectares of land are owned by individual Nigerian farmers? Where does most agricultural activity occur in Nigeria? What is the state of the rural area? It is a known fact that good roads, adequate storage facilities, incentives to farmers, improved farm income and access to credit will attract more youths to agriculture than the increase in labor-saving machinery.

We should focus and fix our most severe agricultural constraints to attract both young and old to agriculture and exploit other opportunities for significant and sustainable land expansion before facing the challenges of labor-saving machinery.

This blog post was written by Idowu T. Owoeye

email; idowuowoeye6@gmail.com

When Nigeria begins to do what it says it will do in the Agricultural Sector

Photo credit : pintrest.com

Photo credit : pinterest.com

The business of agriculture which is simply agribusiness cannot cease to exist since agriculture is a necessity for survival. A country that does not invest in its agribusiness is definitely investing in another country’s agribusiness. A quote of Ralph Ransom says “Agriculture and the business created by it not only give riches to a nation but gives the only riches the nation can own”. It is a known fact that the agricultural potential of Nigeria cannot be overemphasized, thus Nigeria should be fed with what Nigeria produces. This is the way forward if indeed we want sustainable growth and development as a country.

In this effect, agribusiness would be less of just a discussion and more of proper implementation of ideas that will enhance agricultural growth and development in the country. Just imagine an  agribusiness value chain from an input supplier that supplies seeds, fertilizers, equipment, machineries, feed concentrate, containers and sack; to a farmer that produces crops, livestock  and other produce used to sustain life; to a  manufacturer that processes the agricultural produce into fruit juice, cocoa drinks, milk, coffee and tea, chocolates, sweets, cornflakes, bread, jam, butter, cakes, tomato puree, foot wears, clothes,  tissue paper, soap and  furniture; to food stores, supermarket, shopping malls and  wholesalers  who stand as  marketers and  distributors.

If Nigeria’s true focus is now on the agricultural sector as stated, it will not only be food secured and meet the needs of its over 178.5 million teeming population, it will create employment for its over 78.4 million labour force population i.e. those that are within the working age population, willing, able and actively looking for job. It will provide incentives and educate over 80 million of its dedicated farmers about modern agricultural techniques and methods. It will decongest its urban areas by making the livelihood of its over 5.9 million rural unemployed youths, attractive. It will provide solutions to mitigate environmental challenges, and put an end to food wastage by ensuring the provision food processing and storage facilities. It will adopt its research policies, and be more practical about science and technology. It will grow its industries and be disciplined about the implementation of designed agricultural plans.

Indeed the way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing. Nigeria will change the economy of many countries if it begins to do what it says it will do.

This blog post was written by Idowu T. Owoeye.

email: idowuowoeye6@gmail.com

Nigerian Engineers Join Forces With IITA To Halt Devastation By Weeds

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Efforts to control weeds in cassava farms received a boost with Nigerian engineers joining forces with experts from the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) to seek sustainable solutions to tackle the menace.

The team of engineers drawn from members of the academia, IITA, public and private sectors are exploring mechanical weeding options used elsewhere in the world with the hope of adapting them to African cropping systems.

The team intends to build on present motorized weeding equipment already available in the market by studying their limitations in the African farming context, understanding those limitations and modifying the equipment for maximum efficiency.

At a meeting in Ibadan to kick off the collaboration on 13 August, Project Leader for the Cassava Weed Management Project, Dr Alfred Dixon described the partnership as key milestone that would redefine mechanical control of weeds in crops such as cassava in Nigeria in particular, and Africa in general.

“For us to maximize yield in Africa, we need to mechanize weeding. And the challenge before us is to innovate options that will take off drudgery from farmers, and make the farms weed-free so that the crops will grow and express their full potential,” Dr Dixon said.

Accounting for between 50 and 80% of the total labor budget of cassava growers, weeds are major disincentives to African farmers. And with traditional agriculture still predominant, women and children bear more the brunt of weeding investing between 200 and 500 hours annually in clearing weeds on a hectare of cassava to prevent economic root losses in Nigeria. The drudgery involved in weeding places a hard-to-bear yolk on women, compromises productivity, and more importantly, put to jeopardy the education of children of ages 5-14 years as most are forced out of school to assist their parents.

Dr Dixon said unless solutions to weeds are made available, African farmers will not increase their farm sizes and enjoy the gains of agricultural growth. “They can plant only what they can weed,” he added.

Prof  Olawale John Olukunle, Head, Department of Agricultural Engineering, Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA), commended the IITA Cassava Weed Management Project for welcoming the proposal to jointly work with the Nigerian experts; and praised the Institute’s efforts towards addressing the problem of weeds in cassava and other African crops.

Launched early this year, the Cassava Weed Management Project is confronting the problem of weeds on several fronts including the use of best-bet agronomic practices by combining improved cassava varieties with proper planting dates, plant populations, plant nutrition options and also focusing on intercropping and tillage research. The integrated weed management approach of the project also includes the use of herbicides that meet globally accepted conventions and safety thresholds appropriate for smallholder farmers.

The project intends to widely share knowledge to farmers on cassava weed control so they can make informed and better choices in controlling weeds on their farms using labor-saving options.