Sunday, January 4, 2015

Nigerian youths can change the face of agric- Ademoh

Nigerian youths can change the face of agric- Ademoh

23 years old Fatima Oyia Ademoh was one of the 35 finalists selected from over 800   young African drawn from 18 countries that submitted business ideas via the online platform for a youth competition dubbed Agribiz4Africa organized by Syngenta.
The contestants had the option to come up with scalable business ideas in selected crop value chains or develop agribusiness video messaging on how to make agriculture cool! Successful 25 semi finalists received USD 1,000 cash grants to test out their agribusiness ideas in real business situation.
Fatima of the Youth Agro Entrepreneurs, Abuja was the 2nd runner up for the essay idea. In this interview at the African Union Building, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia before the award ceremony, the finance graduate from the America University of Nigeria University of Leeds in UK spoke with JIMOH BABATUNDE on her projects.
Here is an excerpt
On how she got to enter for the competition

I am a member of website called fund for NGO and I got to know about the competition through the website.
The Africa Agribusiness Competition targets youth aged 18 – 30 years and has two parts: an essay (or Business Idea Competition) and video clips (or Agribusiness Messaging Competition) Its objectives were to promote new business opportunities in crop value chains in Africa; raise awareness of opportunities in agriculture; identify wealth creation activities among communities in Africa and make agriculture “cool” for the youth.
So I decided to upload a video on what I was trying to do. The video was about a training program called Youth Agricbiz training, a social enterprise incubator that aims to create the next generation of Agricultural Entrepreneurs in Nigeria.
 It is basically an 18 months training program where youth get training in agriculture and entrepreneurship and business planning.
Why it is innovative and different from other training is that the youth get to earn money while learning through out the 18months program.  What they are earning during the program will provide some seed funding for them in starting up their own businesses afterward.

 On where the fund they earn come from
Those participating in the training actually work on the farm where they partake in both practical and theoretical work, so the farm actually pay them while learning.
Basically at the end of the training program they have part of the money they earned that was kept in a savings account which will only be accessible to them at the end of the program.
The money becomes a seed funding for them. We all know how difficult it is to get funding for a start up business especially for agric business.

On how she came about the idea
I have been passionate about agriculture even though my background is not in agriculture, I believe we have about 60% unemployment among the youth and I believe the youth have a great role to play in improving agriculture in Nigeria and Africa.
And that there is also a training gap in terms of agricultural training and that was why I decided to fill that gap by creating youth agric biz training.

On what Youth Agro Entrepreneur (YAE) stands to do
Youth Agro Entrepreneur (YAE) will seek to rebrand farming as a viable, profitable and honourable profession for a new generation of farmers. YAE will be a social enterprise incubator that will teach youth the agricultural practices and business skills required to support the development of youth-led agricultural enterprises

YAE aspires to become a financially self-sufficient organization which will empower unemployed youth with the knowledge, skills and drive to become consultants and agricultural entrepreneurs.
YAE hopes that this will contribute to alleviating the problems of extreme poverty and high levels of youth unemployment in Nigeria.

YAE research team will visit self-sufficient schools that exist in Africa and South America where they will observe the process and procedure of how hands-on and knowledge-based learning is being practiced and applied. Furthermore, consultants from similar established institutions will be sought to bring expertise and experience to the development of agricultural schools in Nigeria.

On when the training started

It started in 2012  from research grant from the Rockefeller Foundation where I was a winner  in 2012  and after the research grants I started YAE  and I am currently doing the pilot  phase where about five youths  work with me directly and 2000 youths indirectly using different social media platform.
The research on the feasibility of the training centre and developing partnership with stakeholders carried out with the grant finished this year and the pilot phase just started this year, so we are just working with youth now in Abuja.
Basically, the five youth we are working with directly,  we are using them for the pilot phase, with feed back from them, we will be able to improve our curriculum , improve how the training schedule work before we go on expansion.
We are currently looking for funds to fund the expansion phase because we basically running this project with personal funds right now, funds from myself, family members and Ajuma farms.
 On relationship with Ajuma farm
 The Ajuma farm is a family farm in Abuja and has been in existence for almost 32 years and currently trying to go into training because they share my vision and we need to encourage African youths to go into agriculture and they have been so kind enough to allow me use their own farm, because I don’t have the fund to start up a new farm. So I am basically using their farm as a training ground.

She grew up in a farming environment
Yes, my father is an agriculturist, he has a farm which started as a hobby but is now a business enterprise for him, and so I have been very much in the agricultural industry from young age.
On the obstacles to youth farming
 I think it is earning potential because when you talk to youth, what do they want? They want to be able to earn money, they don’t want to earn a livelihood and we are trying to entice with the earning potential using agriculture because I doubt if there is any other training program where you work and earn some form of money.
On Nigeria’s agriculture
With the current minister, I think we are focusing on processing because the value chain is broken. We have farmers in Nigeria that don’t have enough buyers for their produces and we are having processors who don’t have produce to process, so there is a break in the value chain.
I think with the foodstuff processing zones project  the minister is working on is basically to improve that value chain by having six processing zones in the country that can be able to process some of this food.
Example is cassava, we are the highest producer of cassava in the world, but yet we are only able to process about 10% of what we produce and cassava can be used as substitute for several agricultural and non-agricultural goods.
I think we are working a step towards that but I think there are also a lot of things we need to do. We need to include the youth in this.  With the large population of youths in Nigeria, they need to be actively involved in the agricultural transformation agenda.

On the missing gap that needs to be filled
To me, I think I am addressing a gap I see through training, but apart from training need is also finance. It is one of the biggest challenges, not just for youth but for anyone thinking of going to any business.
So we have to make the environment in such a way that it is encouraging for youth in terms of having the training supports, the financial supports and they are also able to compete on the same level as existing players on the field. 
On her take away from the AGRF 2014
One of my biggest carry away from this forum is Africa is looking towards achieving the status of being an agricultural giant and every country needs to rehash some sort of program in achieving that aim.  So we are beginning to look at the importance of Africa.
If you look at the report of ... that the biggest opportunity in Africa is agriculture, so we need to look at ways to push that using the youths as the driving force considering that the continent has the youngest population and we also have the highest unemployment.