With innovative agribusiness model, group lures youths back to farming
In Africa, it is estimated that over 200 million people are aged between 15 and 24, making it the youngest population in the world. This age group, according to the African Economic Outlooks, is expected to double in number by 2045.
However, low profitability, poor security of land tenure, and high risks are just some of the reasons Africa’s youth are leaving rural areas to seek jobs in cities, a migration that could see Africa with a shortage of farmers in the future. Given that agriculture is one of the continent’s biggest economic sectors, generating broad economic development and providing much of the population with food, this poses a serious threat to the future of farming and to meeting the demands of a rapidly growing urban population.
Growing youth unemployment, ageing farmers and declining crop yields under traditional farming systems mean engaging youth in agriculture should be a priority.
It’s no news that governments over the years have canvassed the need for Nigerian youths to engage in agriculture in order to develop the nation. However, getting lots of enterprising corporate youths involved in agriculture, going by the tedious nature of farming through old techniques, remains a difficult task.
In what seems like a smart move to attract Nigerian youths to take a second look at agriculture, an innovative agribusiness startup has allayed the fears with an inclusive and trendy model that now woos many Nigerians across the world to invest in agriculture without necessarily being on the farm or raise an implement.
With over 1,000 hectares of land leased from local owners at Gaate in Nasarawa State, the Nigerian Farmers Group and Corporative Society (NFGCS), has offered many Nigerians opportunity to farm and empower people by subscribing to the corporative society’s investment widows.
The NFGCS, which started in 2017, with N1.5 million seed funding provided by KiaKia, a financial lending outfit, now employs over 300 famers, who work on different sections of the farm daily to ensure that crops are nurtured from planting, harvesting to warehousing and eventually sales.
With the subscription, a member has access to land where the farmers work on their behalf to grow high yield crops ranging from maize, cowpea, groundnut, melon, yam, rice, ginger among others. The subscription has also provided funding for the procurement of locally fabricated implements such as dryers, planters, sprayers and also tractors just within its first year of operation of the farm.
The model also hosts ranching facilities for subscribers who are interested in cattle rearing in the most modern, peaceful and profitable way.
Another reason to invest in the farm is the cheap loan from KiaKia, a young Nigerian company that is involved in micro lending. So far, members of the corporative have grown their investment portfolio through loans from Kiakia with very low interest rate of less than 10 percent.
The uniqueness of the model is that it was a vision of some young activists who rather than occupying the streets and the National Assembly, decided to occupy the farms by creating a platform where many can pool resources together to create values; pay people to farm on their behalf, create jobs by so doing, boost food security and also earn profit from their investments.
Retson Tedheke, National Coordinator/Secretary General, Nigeria Farmers Group & Cooperative Society, said NFGCS is model that works because it is thrives on the principles on modern business and investments.
“For instance, if we put the cost of farming one hectare of maize at N280,000, all you need to do to become a member of the corporative from anywhere you are in the world is just to pay N280,000 into your subscription account and we will farm for you.
“After that, you expect return on your N280,000 once every year. Instead of doing it in the farming season, we do it annually because you prepare the land, plant, harvest, warehouse and all that. So, we stretched the timing to have comfort. So, the bulk of the money used in paying workers, to support and manage the farm come from our subscribers”, Tedheke, a repentant Niger Delta militant explains.
Meanwhile, subscribers are not limited to one crop or size of land, but as much as their investment portfolio and risk appetite are.
Considering the experimental ranching model at farm, which has worked, Tedheke informed that some subscribers have over 54 cattle that are reared by the herdsmen, who are paid to do so on same farm without any clash because the model is inclusive.
“The Nigerian Farmers Group is a model that works because it is an inclusive model that brings people together irrespective of their tribe and religion to create a value chain for every single person. It is an innovative project which government should copy to resolve the Farmers and herdsmen prolonged issues.
“Besides, we have been doing our business peacefully here because we leased the land from the locals, employed their children, engaged them in security and do community services. It is difficult to have issues because their livelihood will be threatened”, the agricultural entrepreneur explains further.
Beyond the inclusiveness of the model, the farming technique is research-based farming and has resulted in planting high yield variants, reduction on cost per hectare and improving soil fertility through several tests, including soil texture.
As well, Nigerian Framers Group and Corporative Society encourages local fabricators by using locally fabricated equipment from Enugu, Ibadan, Ilorin to boost its production process aside partnering research institutes across the country on crop trends and innovative techniques.
However, the excitement for Tedheke and the management of the corporative society is that the farm, which is now in its third circle, has fulfilled its financial commitments to the subscribers, especially returns.
“We are in our third farming circle now and all those, who committed their funds to us in the two circles, have been taken care of successfully,” he assured.
The financial probity and profitability has also wooed new investment flow. With the impressive results, KiaKia is furthering its micro credit lending to members, while Apical Limited is partnering with the farm in buildings additional and more modern warehousing and processing facilities in view of rapid expansion of the farm.
Apical’s investment is even more interesting. While signing the investment deal at the farm recently, Joshua Otobo, managing director, Apical Limited, said, “The Nigeria Farmers Group Cooperative has been very instrumental in building out a well organised and thriving farming community in a sustainable way. We identify with their vision and efforts and we are looking to build a win-win partnership in the coming months and years. As an out-growers partner, we look to ensure agro value chain is sustained and improved in partnership with the cooperative”.
All that Tedheke is asking those who consider farming as a dirty job is to invest their money, allow the farmers to do the dirty thing, and smile to their banks at the end of a framing circle.
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