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Advancing agribusiness among women and the youth

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Tolulope Foods and Farms processes cassava in Nigeria – the world’s largest producer of the crop

© Tolulope Foods and Farms

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Across Africa, food production is low and post-harvest losses are high, primarily due to a lack of value addition and best post-harvest handling practices. However, given the diverse potentials of African agriculture, there is no doubt that the continent has the right resources and comparative advantage to scale-up production and move away from primary production to higher-value finished goods. Such a transition would fetch greater returns on the market and create employment opportunities across the value chain.

Considering the vast possibilities of agriculture and agribusiness in Africa, and my interest in the area, I decided to undertake a degree course in agricultural economics at the University of Ibadan in Nigeria. While still at university in 2015, I set up an agribusiness, Tolulope Foods and Farms to process cassava in Nigeria – the world’s largest producer of the crop. The crop is processed into garri, a major food staple in the country, and packaged and sold under the brand ‘Mygari’.

I keenly researched the cassava industry prior to entering the market and conducted academic research in 2016 on consumer perception and willingness to pay for packaged garri. The study revealed that 73% of respondents were willing to pay – depending on the price, quality, affordability and accessibility. Thus, with a passion to contribute towards poverty alleviation through agricultural industrialisation, and an aim to see Africa not only feeding itself but feeding the world, I started my agribusiness.

I achieved success with my cassava business 'Mygari' by Tolulope Foods and Farms which creates direct employment for rural women through cassava processing activities; to mitigate the challenges that impede sustained youth participation in agriculture; and to curb the challenges of food security, nutritional deficiency, hunger and extreme poverty. This initiative has since evolved to improve the livelihood and nutrition status of rural communities, particularly women, children and youth, and has created employment for 50 rural women and helped them to provide their children with access to basic education through enhanced incomes.

Helping other agripreneurs

Over the past few years, I have been actively involved in agribusiness activities, creating platforms to provide training and income opportunities for youths. I have also developed new agricultural processing techniques and promoted their adoption among local smallholder communities. One of my inventions is a low-cost solar dryer, which I developed in 2017 for a community of maize farmers in Ikenne, Ogun State. This affordable technology has helped to add value to maize grains by making to dried derivatives of the crop to be sold to cereal producing companies and feed mills and as such, increase incomes and improve their standard of living. Following my own training with agricultural organisations on good agronomic practices, I have trained 10 farmer groups of 125 farmers in the same. I also formed the first youth farm cluster in Ibara-Orile, Ogun state in 2018. The 10-member based cluster has recorded huge success in cassava, maize, soya bean and sesame seed production from the allocated 20 ha pilot project and expects to expand to 50 ha by June 2019 in order to accommodate more increased youth participation to a 20 member based cluster.

Advocate for youth agripreneurship

Through social media, I advocate for youth agripreneurship, helping to guide and encourage young and aspiring agripreneurs towards existing opportunities across the agricultural value chain. My efforts have not gone unnoticed and in January 2019, I won the #AgTwittercup2018 award for best agricultural advocacy communicator on social media in both the women and individual categories.

Building on my commitment to promote agriculture and agribusiness among youth, I am currently championing the Youth Agvocates Nigeria (YAN) initiative, which organises an annual conference to gather young agriculturists, practitioners, industry experts and professionals to discuss daunting challenges that impede youth participation in agriculture. During such events, participants deliberate and communicate concrete solutions to relevant stakeholders to effect change in the sector.

In recognition of my work towards fulfilling the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of "Zero hunger", "No poverty", "Affordable and clean energy", and "Decent work and economic growth", it is an honour to have been selected as one of the top 12 candidates for the 2019 SDGs and Her competition. The online, global competition, is a joint initiative of the World Bank Group, Wharton School's Zicklin Center for Business Ethics Research, the UN Development Programme and UN Women, and acknowledges women-led activities that are supporting the SDGs through business operations.

Though faced with challenges, such as financial limitations, I remain resolute in promoting youth involvement in agriculture. In the future, I hope to grow my initiatives into an integrated youth farm cluster that is fully mechanised, utilises renewable energy and engages youth who own successful agribusinesses. Through such work, my goal is to promote the African agricultural transformation agenda, as well as the industrialisation of the agricultural sector in Africa.

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