University of Ibadan

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.

ASSAN UI Honours Oldest Living Nigerian Animal Scientist

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The third American president, Thomas Jefferson, once said that‘Nobody can acquire honour by doing what is wrong’.This statement foregrounds the universal fact that there are rewards for doing great things, irrespective of the background of the doer. It is in consonance with this that the executive council of the Animal Science Student Association of Nigeria (ASSAN), University of Ibadan chapter, has deemed itappropriate and imperative to honour one of theirs through a personality lecture. This man’s existence has left indelible marks in the sands of time and the executive council has decided to connect town and gown, through this lecture, to discuss important and pertinent concepts in the livestock sector.

The honoree in person of Professor Gabriel MojisolaBabatunde is the oldest living Nigerian Animal Scientist. He is an astute academic, a sagacious savant, a repertory of great intellectual knowledge and experience. He was born on September 14, 1938 at Akinmorin, AFIJIO LGA in Oyo state. He is a teacher who believes in the strength of His student to achieve what he or she might have purposed. He has the following Academic qualifications to His credit; B.Sc (hons) Agric, second class upper division, (London), M.Sc; PhD (Animal Nutrition, Monogastrics) Cornell University, Ithaca, New York (1967). Also to his credit are post graduate and diplomas and qualification, as an IAEA trainee on use of radio isotopes and radiation in Animal Science and Veterinary Medicine from Belgrade, Yugoslavia (1970). He is a recipient of many scholarships and fellowship prizes, like college scholar (University College Ibadan (1961-1963), department of Agriculture Prize, Rockefeller foundation scholarship for higher studies in Cornell University. He is a member of many professional bodies such as American Registry of Professional Animal Scientists (ARPAS) SINCE 1974, Nigerian society for animal production, American society of animal science, agricultural society of Nigerian, science association of Nigeria, Nigerian institute o f animal science  to mention a few.

He was appointed professor of animal nutrition (monogastrics) in the Department of  Animal Science, University of Ibadan in 1976/77 session. He is the first Editor-in-Chief of the Nigerian Journal of Animal Production, Head of Department, Animal Science U.I (1977-1980), Dean, Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry (1980-1982), first Rector, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Bendel State University (1982-1984), first Dean and Deputy Vice-Chancellor, University of Agriculture, Abeokuta and many other achievements. These and many more are the reasons why a man like this is worth being celebrated.
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The personality lecture aims at creating viable platform that would extol the great works of Animal Scientist wrought in the nation, and where important issues as it pertains to the livestock sector would be discussed with solutions proffered to them. A common saying goes thus ‘iron sharpened iron’ inspiring the executive council of ASSAN to plan this lecture also to create a viable basis for interaction and networking among the ‘who is who’ in the sector, expose students of Animal Science o professionals in the field and provide an intellectual platform of self-expression and all round development outside the confines of the lecture rooms. Bearing in mind that corruption and social vices are on the increase, the lecture is targeted at proffering solutions to Nigeria’s age-long problem of quality animal nutrition, distract the young ones from corruption and other social vices which are seemingly alluring and expose them to legal alternatives which they can channel their energy to.

The lecture will be attended by great men of timbre and caliber, to chair the programme is Senator Adegbenga Kaka, Mrs. Mope Omotosho (ASAN president), as the mother of the day, Dr. AkinwumiAdesina (Minister of Agriculture), as keynote speaker, Professor Julius Okojie (NUC executive secretary) as keynote speaker and the guest speaker will be Professor Onwuka (President, Nigerian Society for Animal Production).

It is on this note that the executive council of the Animal Science Student Association of Nigeria and the entire Department of Animal Science invite the general public to her 2014 Personality Lecture, with the theme ANIMAL SCIENCE: PROSPECTS ANDOPPORTUNITES which will hold on September 29, 2014 at First Bank Building, Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry, University of Ibadan. The time is 12noon.

It is imperative to mention at this juncture that this eminent scholar was a distinguished member of the Animal Science Student Association of Nigeria (ASSAN). ASSAN is the student body of the Premier Animal Science Department in Nigeria’s premier university which stands tall even among its equals, and has been named the Nigerian Institute of Animal Science’s Centre of Excellence. The ASSAN, University of Ibadan Chapter has a rich cultural heritage as there is an admixture of tribes from different zones in the country, hence the reason why she remains the best platform for social interaction and cooperation amongst her members and other student of the university.

It therefore follows that the department of Animal Science is an enviable department, which has a reputation of producing distinguished individuals who have carved out a niche in their chosen professions. The likes of the first black professor of Agriculture in AFRICA,  Late Emeritus Professor V.A. Oyenuga, ,Professor G.M. Babatunde (honoree and oldest living Nigerian Animal Scientist), Senator Adegbenga Kaka (Ex-Deputy Governor, Ogun State and senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria), Professor Aletor (Vice Chancellor, Elizade University), Mr. Agbato (MD/CEO, Animal Care Ltd), Mr. Sunday Omoyiola(former Regional Manager, FIN bank), Mr. FisayoSoyombo (General Editor, thecableng) and a host of others. Animal Science department has staff strength of over 50 and about 300 students, some of whom have distinguished themselves in quiz competitions and scholarly writings. The lecturers are well learned and vast, and encourage a cordial staff-student relationship- a powerful which has proven to foster excellence.

This post was contributed by OlaDokun Samson -President Animal Scientist Students Association, University of Ibadan. For more info on this event kindly contact him 2347062612622