Nigeria’s Atinuke Lebile is fondly known as the “Cutefarmer”. She is not only a global ambassador but is presently the Program and Membership Mobilization Officer for Youths Professionals for Agricultural Development (YPARD), Nigeria.
She shares her perspectives on agriculture in this interview, first published by Guardian in Nigeria.
I grew up in a family that allows for free expression of oneself once you are determined and legal.
An environment that allows you to always think of how to make life better and easier not just for yourself but for others around you.
My name is Atinuke Lebile, I have utmost interest in Agriculture and its value chain, I’m passionate about feeding the nation and ensuring Food security, I’m the Strategist Officer for Ogunmod Farms and Farmers’ Academy and the Co-founder/ COO of Cato Foods and Agro-allied Global Concepts.
A graduate of Agricultural Science from University of Ilorin, who also works with rural communities to mentor young out-of-school girls on various entrepreneurial leadership skills through her initiative called MAGIC (mentor A Girl Child) and SheAgric Initiative where we empower intending female farmers, empower and motivate women and youth into Agriculture and its value chain to ensure Food security, Poverty reduction and curbing unemployment in Africa.
I also earn a certificate in Business and Entrepreneurship from Purdue University West Lafayette, Indiana USA and being able to undergo training on Building a Sustainable Business with the Enterprise development centre at the Lagos Business School
We collaborate with Harvestplus, Nigeria (harvestplus.org) to also cultivate Vitamin A biofortified Cassava and Orange Maize to curb the ever-increasing rate of Vitamin A deficiency in Nigeria, which is the Major micronutrient we lack, especially in pregnant women and children below the age of 5 and presently the first producer of Vitamin A cassava custard in Africa.
I’m opportune to be global ambassador for A World at School, 2015 Global Alliance for Youth Leadership Fellow, 2016 YALI(RLC)West Africa Fellow and 2017 Mandela Washington fellow under the flagship of Young African Leaders initiative of former USA president, Barrack Obama, 2017/2018 Leap Africa fellow.
I love to be called a Cutefarmer, cos it reminds me of the great work I have to with my small petite pretty stature.
I’m also presently the Program and Membership Mobilization Officer for Youths Professionals for Agricultural Development (YPARD), Nigeria.
Inspiration behind “SheAgric”
The backbone for African agriculture remains women who account for more than 50% of the human resources required for production.
However, these women have over the years been disenfranchised when it comes to opportunities available in the agricultural sector.
Women do not get the same access to factors of production like capital and land.
Worse still is the fact that young women don’t consider agriculture as a first choice profession as the sector has been considered to be men’s world.
I want to use my story to inspire women especially young women that agric sector is not a men’s world, it is only dominated by men.
You can be beautiful and still be involved, even if you don’t want to soil your beautiful nails in soil just like some of us who can and are happy we can, you can still be involved in the various Value chain of production.
SheAgric also is a platform to let the world know that women stand a better chance to excel in the sector as we are the gateways to household nutrition, good and healthy feeding.
I want to see a situation where we have more women in agriculture than what it used to be.
Being a fellow with several notable organizations locally and internationally
This gives me more sense of responsibility.
I have to even exceed expectations so as to open ways for other young African females.
See the most important thing here is that there are still lot of grounds to cover and this scare me most times but I won’t relent or give up.
Giving hope to pregnant women and children with Harvestplus
HarvestPlus is doing a lot of work using biofortified staple foods to combat hidden hunger (micronutrient deficiency) and malnutrition.
My company, CATO FOODS is a private partnering organisation with HarvestPlus.
With support from HarvestPlus, we are using biofortified crops such as vitamin A cassava, vitamin A maize and Orange flesh sweet potato to develop value-added products especially for children under 5years and pregnant women.
Statistics show that 33% of children below 5 years in Nigeria are vitamin A deficient.
145 pregnant women die daily in Nigeria that is about 28% of pregnant women, with half of the deaths attributed to malnutrition.
We work with HarvestPlus to achieve a global mandate of reaching 1billion households in Africa with biofortified crops by 2030.
Currently over 1million households have been reached in Nigeria and a lot is going on to reach more.
Just like many startups, the major challenge is finance.
There is need to scaleup, hence the need to invest in infrastructures that can help scaleup my work as we need to reach more children and women.
Another challenge is access to raw materials which still comes down to finance which can help us empower farmers and farming households.
Bottlenecks around policy implementation and regulation are also experienced.
Other project and activities
We have an outgrower farmers scheme to empower rural farming households.
We have a project called MAGIC (Mentor a Girl Child) through this project we also work with out of school children especially girls by empowering them with skill training to become self-sufficient.
I have a back to school project which provides educational support for rural school children annually. We desire more supports, sponsorship and Volunteers so as to reach more rural children.
My greatest reward is seeing that my daily little efforts makes positive impact in people’s lives.
Our organisation in five years
I look forward to seeing us creating massive impact across Africa by making more nutritious food available, accessible and affordable.
Helping more children attain optimum development through access to essential micronutrients.
We want to influence policies that can help give people a better life through healthy feeding because you are what you eat.
Sure. There has been time I felt like giving up, However, when you look at the lives of children and pregnant women at stake due to the scourge of malnutrition, post-harvest waste and losses that we experience in Nigeria (Imagine about 60% of what ordinary farmers cultivated) and the only direction for me is forward and upward in a better way.
Who and what inspire you to be better
My greatest Inspiration Of all time has been GOD, who never get tired until he feeds the 5000 people with that small boy little resources.
When you look at the lives of Great Women like, of blessed memory Dr Dora Akunyili and Mrs Ibukun Awosika, women of virtue, integrity and honour, Mummy Awosika started career as a carpenter and succeeded in men dominated world, then I know I can be better.
Also looking those wonderful future leaders (Children) dying due to Malnutrition you can’t but do more.
Government and the Agricultural sector
I appreciate what government is doing, nevertheless there is a lot that needs attention and government should pay real time attention better than lip service.
What makes you me woman of Rubies?
Having the heart to touch lives beyond me.
Final word for young women who want to go into Agriculture
Agriculture comes with a lot of risk, patience, dedication, passion, Prayers and determination.
However, inside everyone resides the capacity to overcome any form of challenge.
Be determined to see it through once you start and in the end it will be worth it.
You can have the bigger picture, so dream big, aim high, Infact Dream Global but please start small wit proper planning and mentoring
Advice for women all over the world
Women are high performers, we conceive and deliver better, hence it is imperative for women to get involve in the national affairs. Don’t sit back. Get involved!.
If you feel you can been at women is good for you or that you are a weaker vessel, yo. are still the only one in that dream, we have left you behind.
So please get involved, go out and make difference in your little way.
If you don’t know how to go about it seek for mentorship, we all learn and start small. Don’t be shy or proud to do that.