From a spark to a flame: Nigerian youths farming with business in mind
Shimave Felix, a 25 year old agripreneur, was not the kind of young person anyone would ordinarily listen to a couple of years ago. He did not have the air of a local youth leader. Today, Shimave is respected and an example in his community in Zango, and his influence is growing fast. The young population in Nigeria’s North-Central region (sometimes called the “Food basket of the nation) is generally disinterested in agriculture. There are many challenges that make agribusiness unattractive, such as: a lack of inputs, an unavailable market and certain missing skills. So young people make statements like “…tah!, better make I go town go dey wash people motor get money than to farm” meaning “better to work as a car washer than to farm”.
Young people make statements like: "Better to work as a car washer, than to farm"
But not for Shimave! His new journey began in 2013, when he joined 2SCALE field coaching sessions on good agricultural practices (GAP), including rice nursery management, use of improved seed, transplanting of young seedlings and water management. Shimave took the lessons seriously and applied them on his one-hectare rice farm. His yields increased to about 3.1 tonnes of rice per hectare, compared to less than 1 tonne per hectare before. He expanded to three hectares of land and soon became a model for other young people who had left Zongo Village in Benue for the state capital, Markurdi, where they’d hoped to find jobs. When the youths returned home and saw the drastic changes in their friend’s farm, they wondered how he had done it. When they began to ask him to share his secrets with them, Shimave saw the opportunity to organise them into groups. Since then, three youth cooperatives have been formed under the umbrella ‘Zongo Youth Association’.
These young farmers then pooled their resources to jointly cultivate a total of 100 hectares of rice farm. Yet, despite all their newly acquired technical skills, the young producers still came up against obstacles: they were not organized enough to be able to sell at competitive prices and they could not access money to buy inputs. Being young farmers, no one was initially willing to give them loan. The young farmers for example organised a business meeting with Mikap Nigeria Ltd, Nigeria’s leading rice marketing company selling locally produced rice, to discuss their issues. They were however disappointed as Mikap decided not to organise inputs like fertilisers on credit.
Rice business is gradually starting to boom and Zongo youths are now trickling back to the village to enter agribusiness.
The young entrepreneurs did not give up after their first disappointment. The coaching sessions continued and ABC coaches trained the young farmers on inter-personall skills, like: how to build good business relationships and improve their negotiation skills. This allowed them, later on, to make deals with local input dealers on mutually agreed terms and discounted rates. The Zongo Youth Association started doing business with Olam Nigeria Ltd, which offers good prices for their paddy rice and even provides them with better inputs (improved seeds, agrochemicals and fertilizers).
Rice business is gradually starting to boom and Zongo youths are now trickling back to the village to enter agribusiness. Shimave is carefully leading his association to stimulate young farmers’ confidence, through coaching in hard and soft skills development. He now leads about 60 young people. But unlike their predecessors they are doing it with business in mind, which they have learned through the several coaching sessions on economic analysis, crop budgeting and production efficiency.
Above story shows how Youths in agribusiness often struggle with weak linkages and relations to input- and output markets, and consequently with a lack of trust and access to credit from local banks. It as well clarifies how agribusiness coaching supported young Nigerian rice farmers to seize their market opportunities. You can read the full story in the ‘Not by technology and money alone’ booklet. Interested in iCRA's service delivery model for agribusiness coaching? Find more info here.