My name is Lawrence Afere and I am 32 years old and live in a semi-urban community in Akure, Ondo State, Nigeria.
In 2007, when I graduated from the university, I shocked my family with the news that I was not going to use my business management degree to get a high-paying job in the big city. Instead, I want to pursue social entrepreneurship in agriculture in my hometown Akure, a low-income community in southwest Nigeria.
It was a difficult decision because my parents and siblings were not happy that I was returning home. They expected I’d get a job in the city and then be able to support them as well.
My family thought I must be bewitched. After all, who would willingly choose the hard labour of farming over a high-paying job? But I told my parents, ‘Please dad, please mom, I need to do something different with my life.’
And that is exactly what I did. Today I am the founder of Springboard (www.springboardnig.com), an organization that combines organic farming with entrepreneurial training to create jobs and promote sustainable agriculture. It offers young people a practical agriculture and business skills.
Participants are also placed into groups and provided with inputs and farm land which they are responsible for cultivating. After harvesting, each group gets 80% of the profit, with the remaining 20% being reinvested into the sustainability of Springboard.
On our farms, we grow plantain, banana, corn, pineapple, and vegetables. And we also rear goat and chicken. We supply the produce grown on our farms to consumers through our weekly Farmers’ market and online channels. We also supply directly to Institutional buyers, Fast Food companies, caterers, hotels, and wholesalers.
Currently, I have over 300 youths within my network of organic farmers. The core of the network is to produce fresh, local, healthy, organic and affordable food that nourishes Nigerians and the environment.
I gather youth and adults (women and men) from all backgrounds and abilities and provide training and support for them to contribute meaningfully to society by growing and producing organic food, caring for the land, and bringing fresh affordable produce to communities.
One of the major goals of my enterprise (Springboard Nigeria) is to process and add value to every produce grown on our farms. This will help us maximize revenue for the business, enhance livelihood of our farmers, improve food security and reduce post harvest losses.
For example, mid last year, I took a loan from friends and an Institute in Germany (BWB) to construct a factory where we process the plantain grown on our farms into organic plantain chips. Selling plantain chips has really helped us to generate more revenues than selling unprocessed plantain.
A bunch of plantain is sold for $1.3 and the same, when processed into chips, is packaged into 50 pouches of Plantain Chips and sold to distributors for $21.
This gives us a margin of USD 0.15 per pouch and Usd 7.5 per Bag of 50 pouches!
Currently, we supply our chips to over 80 stores in Nigeria. In the last 6 months, we have supplied over 30,000 pouches of the Springboard plantain chips to our customers including the US Embassies in Lagos and Abuja, Nigeria.
Yes, there are several producers of plantain chips in Nigeria, but we distinguish our chips by our organic farming approach, creative packaging, distribution strategy and pricing.
My next plan is to begin to process and package dry fruits (Mangoes and Pineapple). I will use the Usd 5,000 to do the following:
|1.||Mini Industrial Solar Dryer||3,100||July 2016|
|3.||Technical Assistance||350||August 2016|
|4.||Working capital + Marketing||500||November 2016|
|5.||Licenses and Trademark||550||July 2016|
I plan to start with Mangoes and Pineapples because they are fruits that experience most post harvest loss in my community and Nigerians enjoy eating these fruits!
My indicators for success in my enterprise are:
- Increase in the number of organic farmers within the Springboard network
- Increase in the number of conventional farmers switching to organic farming
- Increase in the number of youth having interest in the Springboard training and project
- Increase in the number of consumers preferring organic food to inorganic
- Increase in the number of Schools and communities partnering with the Project
- More agro dealers (sellers of farm inputs) selling organic farm inputs
- Government’s reduction (and finally stopping) in importation of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides
- Reduction in the rate of rural youth unemployment, rural-urban migration and crime
- Creation of a new mindset in rural youth, parents and people about rural entrepreneurship, organic farming and agri-businesses
- Reduction (and eventually stopping) in food importation in Nigeria
My country, Nigeria, has great prospects in sustainable agriculture and food production.
The country spends billions of dollars importing food that we can grow and produce. We have over 80 million hectares of fertile land with about 40% utilization. And over 30 million youth are unemployed. I strongly believe that my Enterprise will help transform the agriculture sector.
This is why I am creating a vibrant Food Movement in Nigeria. And this will help displace food imports, grow our economy, create job opportunities and also very importantly, help to put healthy nutritious local food on the tables of Nigerians!
Blogpost and picture submitted by Lawrence Afere (Nigeria): lawrence2012[at]iiseconnect.org
The content, structure and grammar are at the discretion of the author only.
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