5 rich farmers in Nigeria and the lessons to learn from them
Nigeria, which is home to more than 180 million people, is under pressure to produce more food. By 2050, it is expected to become the third most populous country in the world. After the discovery of oil in commercial quantities in the 1950s, Nigeria’s prosperous agricultural sector suffered a precipitous decline as successive leaders and investors switched focus entirely.
The Government of Nigeria and the African Union Commission are finding it as a surprised how many young people do not want to go into the farming despite its very promising prospects. High youth unemployment is one of the biggest problems currently affecting the youths of Nigeria and when the typical Nigerian youths can’t find viable jobs in their communities, they begin to migrate from rural areas in search of opportunities in bigger cities or different countries. Similarly, rural youth recently reported that access to information, lack of credit and negative perceptions around farming are the leading reasons why they are leaving small farming at such alarming rates. Youths have many innovative ideas but are often excluded from planning and policy processes relating to the future. Unemployment for youth is a growing concern, and yet most of them don’t want to get into the business of farming. What could be the reasons behind this? The ability of rural youth to engage in productive agricultural and non-agricultural activities has social and economic benefits for both the young people and the economy, but many youths in Nigeria have negative awareness and views of farming.
All that being said, there are peculiar individuals in Nigeria who have foresight and are able to correctly analyze the prospects and benefits of agriculture and farming, and are making significant investments in agriculture which is paying off, for them, and for the nation at large. I will be telling you about some 5 rich farmers in Nigeria, and about one or two lessons that can be leaned from their faith in agriculture in Nigeria. As you read, please pick the lessons from their stories.
- Rotimi Williams – Kereksuk Rice Farm
Rotimi Williams, an ambitious 35-year-old Nigerian entrepreneur, is a rice farmer and former journalist. He owns Kereksuk Rice Farm in Nassarawa State which is the second largest commercial rice farm in Nigeria by land size. His farm, which is situated in Nasarawa state in northern Nigeria, currently sits on 45,000 hectares and employs more than 600 natives of Nasarawa.
Every successful entrepreneur starts from spotting a need in the market, after which they go on to either search for or build a product or service that can solve that problem. Their ability to find an innovative way to build a successful business that prioritizes the satisfaction of prospects over and over again consistently forms the framework that ensures that goes on to guarantee their success.
Kereksuk is currently producing about 8,000 metric tons of quality paddy rice for major milling companies all over Nigeria every year, with a current effort to expand the project and double output in progress. Rotimi Williams seeks to contribute to the nation’s economy by helping to reduce the need to import rice through the availability of quality rice made in Nigeria.
Rotimi has often described himself as a social entrepreneur and has attributed it to the inspiration for the number of initiatives he has pioneered; such as the out-of-poverty initiative, which targets secondary school children to spur an interest in agriculture, with provision for education to empower them up to tertiary level, as well as the engagement and empowerment of over 100 Fulani women in rice farming. In an interview with Forbes, Rotimi said: “Frankly, my experience working alongside indigenes [natives] of Nasarawa state has been exceptional. I have learnt over the years that if you approach people with respect, even more so while one seeks to set up a business venture. Having a healthy sense of community makes all the difference in attaining one’s set objectives. I lean heavily on the wisdom and cultural approach of the indigenes to carry out farming on such a large scale in Nasarawa.
- Engineer Kolawole Adeniji – Niji Farms
Engineer Kolawole Adeniji is the founder, President and CEO of NIJI GROUP. Kolawole Adeniji started Niji Group as a local startup known as Niji-Lukas in 1991 and has transformed into a conglomerate with six subsidiaries that operates in different fields including Agricultural Machineries and Equipment Manufacturing, Farming, Food Processing, Agribusiness Education, Farm Mechanization and Hospitality.
Kolawole Adeniji is an expert in design and fabrication of agricultural machineries and agro-processing equipment. He has immense competence in troubleshooting food processing plants. His commitment to placing a trade mark of international acceptability through controlled hygiene and food safety won him the 2015 Business Initiative Directions (BID Group), Century International Quality Era Award – Gold Category, Geneva, Switzerland.
Kolawole Adeniji is a lead innovation implementer for International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), HarvestPlus, ILRI, USAID, AATF, IDH and GIZ. He has worked with major states (Akwa Ibom, Oyo State, and Ebonyi State) in Nigeria and the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) and is currently involved in Agribusiness Consulting for African countries such as Congo DR, Ghana, Cameroun, and Liberia in revamping their agricultural sectors.
NIJI FARMS is an integrated farm with expertise in cassava cultivation. Niji Farms is a member of Niji Group of companies. The farm was established in 2012 with response to the need for stable supply of raw materials for Niji Foods Processing Plant. The farm began operation in a 500 acre land and over the years has metamorphosed into one of the major cassava farms in Nigeria.
- Prince Arinze Onebunne (Jovana Farms Ltd.)
Prince Arinze Onebunne is the successful managing consultant and CEO of Jovana Farms, located in Mushin, Lagos. Onebunne specialises in the farming of animals such as grasscutters (grea, rabbits, quail, antelope, guinea pigs and fish, and so on. His high-profile level of animal farming has taken him to over 30 states in Nigeria and to other countries as a seminar facilitator, advocate, training personnel and empowerment speaker. The founder of Jovana Farms is also at the vanguard of modern fish and livestock farming in Nigeria, which is considered a fast growing and lucrative subsector of the nation’s economy today. With his vast experience and engagement in training and mentoring prospective animal farmers, he earns millions of naira not only from sales of animal products, but also from consultancy charges. Onebunne also carries out feasibility research, site survey and farm construction projects, as part of his professional services.
- Wahab Iyanda Folawiyo (Folawiyo Farms Limited)
Folawiyo Farms Limited, located on Yinka Folawiyo Avenue, Apapa, Lagos, was incorporated on October 4, 1985. It carries out integrated agricultural production, with branches in several states in Nigeria. It is owned by renowned business tycoon, philanthropist and the Baba Adinni of Nigeria, the late Alhaji Wahab Iyanda Folawiyo. In matters concerning agriculture, Folawiyo Farms stands tall in all aspects. They are into livestock farming, fish farming, flour milling, agro-chemical production and distribution, agricultural consultancy, development and engineering, production and supply of agro-pesticides, farm tools, fertiliser services, horticulture, and so on.
Folawiyo’s journey to greatness began back in 1957 when he founded Yinka Folawiyo and Sons Limited, an import and export business empire that includes holdings in shipping, banking, construction, agriculture and energy. It is therefore not out of proportion to say Folawiyo’s business concerns traverse the entire length and breadth of the Nigerian economic terrain.
- Olusegun Obasanjo (Obasanjo Farms)
Chief Olusegun Obasanjo is not only a retired army officer, former head of state and politician, he is also a successful farmer. He owns Ota Farm, which is also called Obasanjo Farms. The large farm was formally opened on October 8, 1979, a week after Obasanjo handed over power to a civilian administration on October 1, 1979. At inception, the farm took off as Temperance Enterprises Limited (Farming Venture). It later became Obasanjo Farms Nigeria Limited. Obasanjo Farms indeed took off in grand style, indication that Nigeria’s former president meant serious business. This probably accounts for the growth, expansion, sustainability and consolidation witnessed in the evolution of the farm, considering how it started and where it is now. The farm took off with two layer houses containing 100, 000 birds each and five broiler houses of 12,000 each, in addition to two feed mills of three tons per hour each. The large farm, which has up to 7,000 workers started with four bulldozer operators. Today, Obasanjo makes up to N34million daily from Ota Farm, which has branches in Ibadan and Igbo-Ora, Oyo State. This is no small earning for the former president whose farm has played a significant role in the development of agriculture and food production. Obasanjo also uses the farm complex at the Agbe L’ Oba House, Ota, the Ogun State headquarters of the farm, to hold political and diplomatic meetings.
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