Three young Nigerians recently held their counterparts spellbound at the Lagos State Agricultural Development Authority Training Hall, Oko-Oba, Agege, Lagos State, as they narrated how they made millions through farming. The three are Ogbole Samson, a specialist in horticulture and soilless farming; OdeTola Temitope, who is into fish farming, while Olagunju Olaitan is an expert when it comes to poultry.
The three are chief executive officers of their organisations. They are also into consultancy and training and have made staggering amounts of money from the business. At least over 145 young Nigerians have benefited from their training, which was held in three centres in Lagos State.
The training is a joint collaboration between International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and MasterCard Foundation. Incidentally, on the same day, February 1, while the training was ongoing in Lagos State, it was simultaneously taking place in Kano and Kaduna states. According to Samson, who read Biochemistry, his venture into agriculture was programmed by fate. Presently, he just couldn’t imagine his life without agriculture.
It all started when he was deployed to IITA for his mandatory one year NYSC. Before he left there, he had mastered so many techniques in farming and experimented with how to plant yam without soil, only using manipulation of the weather. The young man said that agriculture had taken him to different parts of the world and universities on special funding.
He also started a blog, where he talks about his passion, researches and findings. He said: “I remembered friends supporting and urging me to follow through on my research, that it could be lucrative. I started telling everyone that I wanted to go into Agriculture and by 2016, I started pushing out what I had been doing online.
In that same year, I got my first contract.” He explained that when his client paid his first installment into his bank account, someone from the bank, called him, introducing himself as his account officer. The man asked for a meeting.
“I never knew I had an account officer until that money hit my account,” laughed Samson. “I was invited to the bank to explain what such a huge amount of money was meant for. It was another opportunity to speak about soilless farming and I seized the opportunity to educate them,” added Samson, who has won several awards through his farming skills.
For Temitope, his own story started in the Iju-Ishaga area of Lagos State. He benefited immensely from different training on agriculture organised by the Lagos State Government. He mentioned that the information he gathered at those trainings, was immediately put into practice.
“My initial dream was to become a lawyer and later to aspire to also become a judge. But I have an uncle, who has a passion for agriculture. He kept asking why I wanted to become a lawyer and then I started attending training on agriculture. That was how it all started and today, I have made millions through fish farming, not through internet fraud, but farming.
“I’m now a project coordinator and have received several awards. Let me use this opportunity to encourage Nigerian youths to take farming seriously. Nobody gave me money to start fish farming and the knowledge I got was from training organised by the state government. Please knowledge you gather from training, put it into practice. But most importantly, you need to be sincere with yourself and ask yourself if you have passion for it,” he said.
The third partner, Olaitan, said that her journey into poultry started in 2014, and just like Temitope, it was after she attended training organised by the Lagos State Government. According to her, the lady, who spoke extensively on the challenges of poultry and ensuring there were not too many casualties, revealed that she never wanted to work for anyone and knew that agriculture was one sure way of being self-employed. Olaitan said: “I started boiler production and had about 50 chicks, and from there to 500.
It was a tedious work, but I enjoyed it. If you’re running poultry, at least from the initial stage, you shouldn’t be sleeping for too long. You have to check them every two hours and I never had up to five per cent mortality. “These days, we do 20,000 birds every six weeks, and now, I do more training for those interested in going into poultry farming.
My suggestion for young Nigerians is this; anything you want to do, ensure you have a passion for it.” The Training Coordinator, Young Africa Works-IITA Project, Evelyn We want them to be proud of being farmers. We hope the trainees after this training, will tell others about it. We want to impact the lives of young people and help them to prepare business plans in order to access support and kick start their farming business.”
The Honourable Commissioner for Agriculture, Lagos State, Miss Abisola Olusanya, who described the training as a wonderful initiative, added that agriculture was all about discipline, passion and patience. She added: “If you don’t have a staying-power, it would be better not to start. Before you begin, go online and read success stories of other farmers and also try to partner with those that had already started.” Olusanya said it was erroneous for people to think of farming as meaning only tilling of land. She explained that agriculture goes beyond tilling lands because it covers different levels and has many chains.
“Along this entire chain, anyone can fit into anywhere. If your strength is not in production, you can fit into other parts of the chain. If you want banks to support and grow your farm, you have to do your homework. Agriculture is not charity work; you shouldn’t always wait for the government. That narrative has changed.
“If you want to thrive, you must treat agriculture as a business, so that banks can support and fund it. We need to start teaching our youth that there are a lot of opportunities and a way out of poverty. Whatever you learn, put it into good use.
The impact of this training is what we should be focusing on; with this training, the numbers in production and other chains of agriculture need to change. This training should be a game changer. Agriculture can be challenging, but please don’t give up. It can be frustrating because we can’t control the elements, but it is fulfilling and lucrative.” The Lagos State Coordinator, Young Africa Works-IITA Project, Segun Afolabi, while on his presentation, explained: “The MasterCard Foundation through its Young Africa Works strategy, works with partners to ensure that millions of young people, especially young women, access quality education, financial services, and dignified work.”
He also stated that IITA through an innovative approach to agribusiness training and start-up for Nigeria’s young people within the MasterCard Foundation is seeking to provide the required skills to secure dignified and fulfilling work in agro-food value chains thereby, empowering them for self-employment and employment opportunities. Afolabi further said: “The direct beneficiaries of the project will be 40,000 young men and women, and an additional 242,724 indirect beneficiaries, aged between 15 and 35 years across three states, Kaduna, Kano and Lagos. At least 3,668 youths were scheduled to be trained in 2020 and each year afterward with considered opportunities for youths of different ages and educational backgrounds. According to him, the objectives of the project are: “To strengthen agricultural training available to young persons within Nigeria’s secondary schools; vocational centres, and farmer movements.
Provide youths, particularly young women, with skills needed to better compete for decent employment and develop their own successful businesses in agriculture and agro-processing. “It is also to provide transition vocational training centres into Youth Agribusiness Parks that offer workspace, experiential learning opportunities and collective services to young persons. Develop youth-sensitive loan and agribusiness support programmes in collaboration with financial institutions that recognise the specialised needs of youths as agricultural borrowers. Establish a mechanism that propels the benefits of the Young Africa Works model across Nigeria and into other African countries. “The Coordination Office will be at the Lagos Staten Agricultural Development Authority in Oko-Oba, Agege. The project is going to start with a few selected local government areas in year one within the Lagos Mainland. The uniqueness of the state necessitated Urban Agriculture. The value chains are aquaculture, horticulture and poultry.”