By Dolapo Adeyanju
“I mentioned to my uncle who is a farmer that I would like to go into farming, he rejected the idea and said none of his kids will ever farm again.”
This was a tweet that recently emerged on my timeline and the song on many people’s lips due to their negative perception of agriculture.
However, contrary to this popular opinion that agriculture is “a poor man’s business,” a new face of agriculture is emerging with young agripreneurs showing how profitable a career choice it could be.
Here are 3 young agripreneurs who are channelling their love for nature and agriculture towards building a strong and sustainable food system in Africa.
In 2017, after a failed attempt to become a professional footballer in the Gambia, Velache returned to his home country, Sierra Leone where he stayed with his family in a small town called Moyamba.
While settling in, Velache identified a gross logistic challenge facing farmers in the town and took it upon himself to find a sustainable solution.
With very little resources and no prior knowledge of agribusiness, he established Canaan Farms, an agribusiness logistic firm that caters solely for rural farmers.
Today, Canaan Farms has become one of the agribusiness and distribution agro-allied company to reckon with in Sierra Leone.
Focusing on Pepper, Okra, Watermelon, Onion, and Cassava, the company feeds many hotels, restaurants, and homes across the country. In addition to this, the company has an e-commerce platform that links farmers directly to buyers.
The company, which was selected as part of the Anzisha Prize fellowship in 2019, currently employs 48 part-time and 7 full-time workers.
He said: “I must admit that Anzisha played a huge role in my growth as an agripreneur and many thanks to the funds, efforts are underway to expand our operations to respond better to the current pandemic and create more opportunities for rural dweller.”
Ananda Graff ACCROMBESSI
Recognizing the inefficient agricultural system – which does not support all-year availability of perishable products – practised in Benin and the high perishability of fruits and vegetables, Ananda co-founded Kawan Africa, an enterprise that produces and distributes fresh fruit juice and tomato puree to Supermarkets, Restaurants, and individual consumers in Benin.
To ensure that the puree retains its nutrients, the vegetable is processed using improved technologies which preserve the active nutrients in the fresh tomatoes.
With a masters degree in Food security in view, Ananda does not see herself doing any other thing apart from Agriculture. In her words, “Agribusiness is the only way to work on what I like most.” She is one of the very few actors helping to curb postharvest losses in the fruit and tomato sector in Benin.
Currently, the agribusiness firm has 8 full-time staff and trains an average of 60 people per year and hopes to reduce postharvest losses by up to 80% in the next 5 years.
Based on her vast exposure to agricultural and rural challenges during her internship programme across the six south-western states in Nigeria, Tolulope is determined to bridge the nutrition, poverty and unemployment gap in rural Nigeria by sustainably producing hygienic, nutritious and affordable food for local consumption and export.
This determination birth Tolulope foods in 2015 with focus on cassava processing and packaging. By 2016, the enterprise had expanded its operations to include cassava production and cultivation of other food crops including maize, fruits and vegetables.
Tolulope’s innovativeness and passion for rural farmers led to the establishment of farmers’ field school across Nigeria and the development of a low-cost solar dryer in 2017.
“Realizing the income lost to postharvest annually, I developed the solar dryer to help farmers to add value to their grains, earn more income and reduce post-harvest losses,” she said.
“Aside from this, we engage an average of 50 rural women in cassava production/ processing activities daily and have trained over 200 rural women on quality, hygienic processing techniques which have made their product command better prices in the market and bettered their livelihood,” she added.
She currently presides as the President of the ‘Youth Agvocates, Nigeria’, an NGO targeted at facilitating sustainable youth and women participation in agriculture through advocacy and capacity building programmes.