BusinessDay
NigeriaDecides2023

Aminu Nyako: growing a thriving dairy farm in Northeast

Shunning the alarming state of insecurity, terrorism, internal displacement, poverty and farmer-herder chaos ripping Nigeria’s northeast apart, Aminu Nyako, chief executive of Sebore International Farms is leveraging technology to grow a thriving venture in agriculture.

Sebore is one of the pioneering farms working with the Central Bank to democratise opportunity in Adamawa State.

It rides on innovation, technology and relationships with dairy farmers to provide consumers with dairy products made from high-quality raw milk sourced from Adamawa’s magnificent natural environment, while also creating an expanding market for local dairy farmers, ultimately creating wealth, alleviating poverty, and establishing an incentivized system that provides a viable alternative to banditry and all other forms of criminality.

For Nyako, his farm has continued to positively impact the local people and transformed the narratives of the Northeast. His agricultural value chain system affects dairy farmers’ lives, combats insurgency, and generates economic growth both locally and nationally.

Launched in 1982, Sabore International Farms focuses primarily on dairy, horticulture, and agricultural extension services. Its mangoes and dairy products are well-known. And it has been licensed to become an export processing zone since 2001. It is one of Nigeria’s only privately owned agro-processing free trade zones, which sits on 15,000 hectares of land.

While noting that he became the CEO of Sebore International Farms four years ago, Nyako highlighted that the goal was to reposition the farm for future prospects and innovation.

“The development of our dairy business became of key interest to me because the dairy space within Northeast Nigeria, Adamawa State, in particular, is such a rich resource base,” he said.

With the knowledge that the lifestyle of the local people has always been around cattle, one of the chief goals of Sebore is how to change that innate wealth of the people to bring about prosperity and improvement in means of livelihood. “And I think that’s what we’ve been focused on and that’s what we’re doing.”

Speaking on how he delved into this line of entrepreneurship, Nyako expressed: “I chose to go into agriculture because it’s the sector with the greatest opportunity for growth; and if harnessed properly, presents an opportunity for wealth generation.

“For any country to become a developed society or a prospering society it must find a way of making her agriculture make sense. It means that you have to make it attractive economically, you have to be able to put science within it.”

He explained that by science he meant that inputs should equal output, and technology should be able to bridge financing gaps, and productivity gaps among others. For too long, subsistence farmers were left within the agriculture space to do what they have always known without innovating in the right direction.

The CEO stated that Nigeria has been growing at a whopping 4 percent birth rate for the past couple of decades and is on track to hit 210 to 220 million.

“Nigeria is a growing country and if you leave the factors of production (land, water, and its people) constant, then your agric doesn’t grow that much. For a country that has also had its poverty rate increased because of low GDP growth in the past couple of years, you need people that have this sort of thinking to enter the agricultural space, and to be able to innovate their way through or solve their way through,” he said.

On the roles of private equity in conjunction with the CBN in funding agricultural business in the country, Nyako hinted that they help provide long-term financing. This ultimately curbs most of the risks of defaulting that are otherwise prevalent in existing short-term financing.

As one who has a background in economics, the Sebore International Farms boss affirmed that agriculture, when not fully mechanised, is a very risky venture.

It needs a precise growing environment (temperature, humidity) for maximum productivity and because not a lot of research has been put into weather and climate in Nigeria, the risk for farmers becomes very high, he said.

Nyako says the CBN has played a tremendous role in extending long term finance to the private sector.

Read also: FrieslandCampina, others boost cattle breeding with ‘Value4Dairy’ Consortium

He noted that it has also supported agric businesses with monetary and favourable fiscal policies. “I think that is very key in giving farmers the levity of time to bring innovation and science into Agriculture,” adding that more funding is required because serious players that currently exist within the agric space need to be given a lot of support to be able to bring the sector to its full potential.

Meanwhile, Sebore International Farms believes that its business is built on economic inclusion hinged on pro-poor growth policies. That is, being able to ensure that their local farmers share in the gains of agriculture.

“It is very important to us that whatever we do within our farm actually extends to the communities where we operate, so much so that they share in the gains made by the farm,” Nyako said. “That is one of the reasons our dairy operations integrated local dairy farmers and gave them access to a ready market to sell their milk at favorable prices thereby improving their means of livelihood.”

Currently, the farm collects milk from over six thousand dairy farmers daily. This opportunity for guaranteed milk off-take from the local community has given farmers economic security in terms of source of livelihood and access to finance which enables them to solve other challenges.

Today, Sebore International Farms boasts about 2,500 liters of milk daily from the various farms they collect. “We are in the process of increasing our milk processing capacity to 150,000 liters daily and hope to commission the factory by the end of the first quarter of 2022.

“We have invested heavily in improving our capacity for milk collection and hope to grow our farmer base to over 20, 000 by the end of 2022,” Nyako said.

With the dairy collection programme designed towards achieving a seamless fit between their collection procedures and the general routine of farmers, Nyako is proud that it has fostered a sense of dignity of work for the local community as they now feel connected with the brand.

And while they continue to leverage technological advancement in power generation through renewable energy in processing and transporting of fresh milk products, Sebore International Farms is charting a new course for the northeast and Nigeria at large.

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