…Africa Should be the Food Bank of the World
…It Difficult to Convince Graduates to do Farming
As the world go through these challenging phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the most important thing in human lives is food which is the essence of survival and that goes to show how important farming is to every society and country but sadly, this industry has been neglected due to the emergence of Oil, technology and other forms of businesses.
Picking Nigeria as case study, lots of people especially the youths, have ignored the agricultural industry all for the office jobs which are not even available and this is really weakening the economy especially at this crucial period of the pandemic. But there are young minds who are looking for means of creating a buzz around the Agric sphere like Farm Funds Africa, and we at brandafriq.com were at their office to have an exclusive interview with the company executive, on the potential of the industry during these difficult times.
Read excerpts below;
What is Farm Funds all about?
Every time we hear this question, it excites us because Farm Funds for us is just not another company but a mission, It’s our lives, it’s our story with the co-founders. Farm Funds is beyond any just Agri-tech company, it’s a mission. We understand right now that Africa can feed the world. Africa right now should be the food bank of the world. Sadly, we are not maximizing its full potential and so for us at Farm Funds, we decided that it is time for us to bridge the gap and build a platform that can be the food bank of the world. We started out as an agri-tech company, meaning that we started out by creating a bridge between the farmer and farm funders. What it means is that we know that there are two kind of challenges farmers go through in Africa which are funds and training and so we built a platform that can enable farmers access funds and whatever it is that can make their farming smooth, and training to grow and scale their farm businesses, so we know they are amazing people like people watching who have enough funds stacked somewhere but will like to plug into agricultural space but don’t know how it works and there farmers who are experienced but need funds so, we create the bridge to mend both that means the farmers and the farm funders. However, the lats few months, we have been able to even pivot and scale farm funds even beyond just an agri-tech company to play in the Fast-Moving Consumer product (FMC) space, which are products you get to buy every day.
What type of farmers do you work with, are they local or mechanized farmers?
The truth is that we work with grassroots farmers who do not understand how they can even use technology to drive their farm businesses. We however work with people who wants to understand for instance, we are rolling out a project called the school-to-farm project and the idea is to see that when you finish higher institution, we train you on the career of farming, we show you the technical part of farming which is how to grow and the business side because the challenges most of our farmers have is that they understand the technical part of farming that is, they know how to plant maize but they don’t know the business side of farming which is where to sell to, what rate should we sell, when is the best time to sell, what kind of specie will sell more etc, so we are training people beyond the technical part of farming to also the business side of farming. So right now, we are funding grassroots farmers these are people that already have been farming like my mother, you call her a grassroots farmer and she can’t even write good English but she understands the time and season to plant and harvest. Farming has seen to be the most profitable industry not just in Africa but in the world so it’s an industry that should not be overlooked. The challenges in Nigeria and Africa is that it has been labelled as a known educative industry where it is only for grassroots people but things are changing and as you can see, I’m a farmer dressed in corporate outfit.
You talked about training; do you go to schools to train/talk to students about agriculture?
We have not started doing that because we believe that is the essence of them going to that school in the first place. I strongly believe that for those going to school of Agriculture, they do practical, however, our focus is not literally on the students because its until they graduate they can practice so our focus are on the corpers and graduates of the first 2-3years of them struggling to get a good job. So, we train people that want to build a career in agriculture, work with them intensively and also create the funds when we certify them okay.
Back to the grassroots, how do you convince them to key into the tech aspect of farming?
We don’t need to convince them because we understand there is a pain for them and when we approach these farmers to offer help, they jump at it because it’s something they have been looking out for and also praying about. They all want expansion, it’s not a luxury problem, it’s a pain problem that African farmers already have, so, we are not trying to bring luxury to farmers but to help them solve their immediate pain. Convincing is not what we have to do, in fact, we have problems servicing these farmers, we have more farmers than we can even service. It will shock you that we do more convincing on the graduates to come into farming than the grassroots farmers.
Doing well so far, how have you been able to manage the farmers, the company and your investors?
I will say, we have an amazing co-founder and he makes this job easy for everyone because we know our strength the truth is if you do business in the African environment, there is no statistics to even measure rather, we try as much as possible to do our best for instance, before we can fund a farmer, there is what we call a Check-list, the farmer must meet our guidelines. Or example, he must have a minimum of 6 years’ experience in farming in that niche that is, you must know the pro and coin of that aspect of farming you are into because we don’t really fund capital project, we just provide the things needed to boost your niche and we have supervisors that go round to monitor the growth of the business. So it makes the area of managing the farmers easy for us and for the areas of investors, we lots of amazing investors who believe in us and as such, they are our friends and as such, we ensure that we need to safeguard their investments and that is where insurance come to play. We have a robust relationship with Leadway Insurance to ensure that all our farms are comprehensively insured. So, we insure the farm, we insure the farmer, so, to a large extent, we have been able to mitigate all risks that is involved in this space.
Aside the money that goes into the business, what are the other benefits for the farmers?
Now, for us at Farm Funds Africa, we cover the entire value chain and what its means is that we don’t leave the farmers hanging sometimes, funding the farmer can also be a challenge because when the farmer has too much capacity and cannot manage it for example, let’s say a farmer who does 1000 birds per quarter and we give the capacity to 10000 birds, how do you sell, so we don’t just fund but also off-take meaning at maturity stage, we come and buy back from you, so you are sure of market so you don’t have to worry because your own is to go do the technical aspect while we come to buy back from you and go and go to help you sell from growing to processing to selling because we have all the facility for best preservation for farmers, so the farmer is just lounging. See, we understand the pains behind this because myself and my co-founder, we have been farmers for years plus which is why we can help solve the pain these farmers go through.