• Sunday, May 19, 2024
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‘Aggregation is the gateway to success in Nigeria’s agric sector’

‘Aggregation is the gateway to success in Nigeria’s agric sector’

OLAMIDE ALABI- JACOBS is the chief executive officer of UMèRA, an agribusiness that focuses on livestock and crop production. In this interview with ANTHONIA OBOKOH, she spoke on how she delved into the agricultural sector and how she has successfully grown her agribusiness.

What aspect of farming are you involved in?

We are into livestock production; broilers for meat and they are raised organically without any vaccines, antibiotics, or growth hormones. We also raise layers for egg production, cattle, and fishery.

We just started working on the first phase of our cashew plantation that will be sitting on 20 million square meters of land.

What was your motivation to become a farmer?

My father owns a poultry farm and cashew plantation which I had to work on. At first, it wasn’t really an enthusiastic idea but when I started working on it, I enjoyed it. I would travel at least twice a week to visit the farm. I enjoyed it so much I decided to start mine. Sometimes we love things that we least expected. It’s best not to frown at opportunities because we never know what we would love.

Read also; How Africa can leverage tech to boost agriculture, create jobs – stakeholders at ASA

What value are you bringing to the agricultural sector?

Aggregation! My vision is to see as many people as possible come together to achieve greatness in agriculture. There is a misconception that farmers are poor, they appear so because like every other business numbers matter, and it not easy for one man to farm on more than one or two acres at a time. The scale is necessary. Mechanization is something that most of the farmers don’t have access to, in order to scale up. This is why aggregation is key. Recently at UMèRA we launched a project called the Nutty Park Cashew Plantation. So far we have had over 100 people invest in this project and we are working so hard to make sure that this project is the best cashew project on the continent.

Are you satisfied with Nigeria’s agricultural narrative when compared to other emerging economies?

I think we are getting better daily. We lost focus on agriculture in the past but I will say that I’m impressed by the ongoing developments in the sector. At UMèRA we launched the nutty Park Cashew Plantation recently and we have over 100 investors, which is impressive and we are expecting hundreds more to invest. Simply means people are interested in agriculture as long as it adds value with safe investment packages. I believe agriculture is a single aspect of life that we cannot do without. Of what value is money if you cannot find food to buy?

What are the major agricultural challenges you have identified and how best can we solve them?

There are areas of agriculture that need scaling up so we don’t need to import some agricultural produce.

Recently, there was a corn crisis in Nigeria and it really affected poultry farmers negatively. The government also banned the importation of maize during the crisis and later gave permission to a few companies to import. This inconsistency in policy-making goes a long way to damage businesses.

Maize has no alternative when it comes to some aspect of animal husbandry and even if we have an extra million acres of land it won’t be enough. This is why aggregation is the gateway to progress in agriculture.

Do you think anything has changed so far in Nigeria’s agriculture?

According to the President of the African Development Bank, Africa is still importing $34 billion worth of foods yearly and this must be minimised, so I applaud the government for banning some food items. This has given rise to rice farmers, poultry farmers and hopefully it will give rise to maize farmers too.

How do we change the perception of youths towards agriculture?

It is only people who live in cities that probably think that way. A lot of young people definitely farm. The problem is a lot of young people would not want to give up city life for life on the farm. I think the orientation is already changing gradually, because of social media. Young people are getting more interested especially through aggregation. Just last week I trained some youths on investment opportunities in the sector.

Some stakeholders are investing in farm estates; do you think this is the right step to ensure food security?

I have people investing in my farm estate; the Nutty Park Cashew Plantation. And yes it helps to scale up food production that makes economic sense and not just the regular subsistence farming.