Aderonke Eko-Aderinoye is a young ambitious Nigerian farmer, who left her banking job to start farming business. She was the winner of the Wimbiz Impact Investment Competition in 2015 and also winner of Tony Elumelu Enterpreneurship Programme in 2015. She was the finalist in British Council Enterprise Challenge in 2016.
A graduate of Biochemistry from the University of Lagos, and with over 6 years’ experience in agriculture, Aderonke is the face of Africa’s next generation of farmers.
Aderonke holds a certificate in Agriculture, Economics and Nature from the University of Western Australia with over four years’ of experience in various roles ranging from business development, marketing, electronic banking and customer support in the Nigerian Banking sector.
As the founder of Agrihub Nigeria, she has embarked on an ambitious project to change the farming system for small holder farmers in Nigeria and indeed Africa with Ivory Green City (IGC) agricultural estate scheme, which is a go-to place for new generation small scale farmers providing them with space to grow crops, store, process their produce.
Here, they also acquire relevant training on site for improving productivity and generating sustainable profit-making business.
“If farmers in a village come together and clear about ten hectares of land at once, that will bring down the overhead cost of production for everyone. Profit would definitely be maximised and more ideas would be generated.
In her own words she tells us:
“I discovered my love for agric in a geography class in SS2, or I would say, I received the call to Agriculture then, I tried to study agriculture in university, but was discouraged from studying it because my agric teacher then told me to see the President, Olusegun Obasanjo who he said was a successful farmer but did not study agriculture. He he advised I studied something else as this did not stop me from having a farm in future if that was my overall objective. I started working on my first farm in Epe immediately, growing and processing cassava and oil palm but couldn’t stay there for too long because there was no funding for the farm.
I turned to fashion business to raise money but one of my major deals went bad and I became bankrupt, I got a job in the bank around that time and I proceeded to work in the bank for close to five years.While at the bank, I tried several agricultural ventures and lost quite a lot of money while at it, I realized to run a successful agric venture you need to do it full time.
I won the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship program 2015 and used the seed capital to start afresh.”
What are the challenges you’ve been facing as a young farmer?
Challenges in agriculture are many. But for women, the principal problem is that of insecurity. In 2009 when I first started,that was after my service year, I was managing a farm in Epe, Lagos State. I had to go there by myself. I discovered a lot of discrepancies and in fact uncovered several corrupt practices, which I made known to the owner. One day, the owner of the farm told me she wasn’t comfortable being there alone to work on the farm because of the farm-hands issues. She was afraid that the workers could attack and in fact kill me. And so, I had to stop. But I was not discouraged.
In addition, finance is another major problem in farming. It is not out of place to start small. One can. But in order to become successful, farming must be done in volumes, large quantity. You need large economies of scale for farming to be relatively profitable. There are a lot of peasant farmers all around who depend heavily on subsistence method of farming. And as such, they cannot grow what will sustain them in a long term. But if everybody could be brought to work together, there will be a large economy of scale. For example, if farmers in a village come together and clear about ten hectares of land at once, that will bring down the overhead cost of production for everyone. Profit would definitely be maximised and more ideas would be generated.
Also, there is the issue of storage. Farmers can’t store after harvest because there is no power. Also, there is the challenge of no standards in Nigeria. If you don’t have standards, it will be difficult to sell. For example, I have a basket of tomatoes to sell. I can’t allocate it to a buyer until I take the basket to the buyer. I can’t say there is fifty kilogram (kg) of tomatoes unless the buyer sees what type of tomatoes. So I can’t negotiate before my goods get there. The buyer will first say ‘let me see’ before negotiation begins. But if standard is put in place, it will be easier for farmers and they won’t have to always be at the mercy of the buyers. They don’t have to be at the point of sales all the time.