Tag Archive | "Nigeria Farming"

Nigerian multi-millionare farmer that never went to School

written by Jibrin Abubakar

Mr. Isa Musa Yaro, 42, is a metaphor. His presence betrays his substance. From manicuring finger nails to manicuring about N400 million worth of farmland. The oddities around his life are amazing: He has no western education, no handicraft and no ‘silver spoon’ at birth. Like a phoenix from the ashes, Mr. Yaro indeed has a story to tell.


The self-made multi-millionaire is currently building a N75million irrigation dam in his 124-hectare farm located 32 kilometres away from Abuja and 18 kilometres to Keffi in Nasarawa State.

Though he is not a learned agriculturist, yet he knows his onions. Through experience, he knows the challenges and prospects of large scale farming.

Now he is planning to build primary, secondary and college of agriculture with special bias for livestock farming. His priority is to get as many women in livestock farming as possible. According to him, a family can survive on a special kind of milk producing cow. His slogan is ‘one woman, one cow.’ The youth would also receive same attention.  The preparation for the establishment of the school in the farm is already on course, he says.

“I am planning to build primary, secondary and college of agriculture in the farm. We are in contact with foreign experts who will bring in their expertise. I want these schools to help Nigerian women and youth,” he says.

After spending N15million trying to generate electricity, his hopes seem to have been dashed by government; his effort to also benefit from the much touted Commercial Agric Credit Scheme of the Central Bank of Nigeria did not succeed.

As an employer, he says government needs to create the enabling environment for agriculture businesses to thrive.

A visit to the farm confirms its worth: It has a three hundred thousand capacity fish pond, which would be increased to five hundred thousand by December.  There are fifteen thousand chickens, mainly broilers, which he intends to grow to fifty thousand by year end. There is also the livestock section with a hundred and twenty cows and fifty sheep. Moringa plants (zogalai in Hausa) and pawpaw are also grown in large quantities.

Fielding questions from Daily Trust in his 124-hectare farm named Al-Gulam, he says the agriculture business is not for the lily-livered.  One needs time and patience, adding that he had to sack about 20 farm managers over misconduct.

After spending over a million naira for producing poultry feed, he has resorted to outsourcing that segment as it is not economically wise, given the high price of diesel to power both the machines and the power generators.

Speaking about himself, he says: “I am a villager from Malam madori Local Government of Jigawa State.  I only attended Makaratan Allo (informal Islamic school).  I came from a family of nine. I am the number four child. During the Buhari regime, I decided to travel to Kaduna from my village. When I came to Kaduna thinking of the work to do, I got a job in a bakery.  I was employed as a cart pusher.

“Then the factory stopped functioning. I went back to Kano. I was enrolled into an adult class. But in my life I have never attended a primary and secondary school. The adult education I started was very brief because I had to abandon it. From there, I took the decision to return to Kaduna where I started manicure business, cutting finger nails for people.  I used to trek around the whole of Kaduna. Later I decided to go to Lagos.”

Speaking about his travail in Lagos, he says: “I didn’t know anybody in Lagos. I just took that decision because I discovered that I had wasted the whole of my life with neither work nor money. I just wanted to leave the environment I was used to.  So from Kano, I bought a train ticket. I think it was around N18 then from Kano to Lagos. I was around 18-years old. Now I am 42. I was in the train when I peeped through the window and saw some people celebrating Sallah festival, then tears streamed down from my eyes because everyone was going back to their families but I was setting out, not knowing exactly where I was going to.

“The train arrived Lagos at around 11pm. I passed the night there and in the morning I decided to go to Allen Avenue. I didn’t know anybody there. I just heard people calling Allen Avenue and that was why I decided to go there. I was in the taxi when a saw a security man, who looks like a northerner. I then alighted and went to him. I asked him if he was Muhammad.

“I didn’t know anyone called Muhammad, I just asked him.  He now called one Shuwa Arab man who is from Maiduguri named Muhammad. When he came, he took my bag and we went in. He asked me where I was from. I told him I was from Kano. That time Kano and Jigawa were still together. He asked me who I was looking for. I told him I was looking for my brother called Muhammad from Hadeija. We searched but didn’t see him. He asked me if I could do a securityman’s work. I said yes but only at nights. My plan was to accept the night job so that I could do my manicure work in the afternoon.

“Then he told me the names of places. That day I made twenty naira. It was big money. I had never made that kind of money in Kaduna. I used to make about two naira only.  We ate two naira food that night. In the morning we spent another three naira. I saved the remaining fifteen naira. Then I went out again for my business. On my way,  I met some Hausa people who told me to go where the Hausa people are in Agege, and that I could make more money there. I was looking for the way to Agege.  Governor Raji Rasaki had just completed a new bridge around Ikeja. I passed through it. Then I sighted the airport. There I made forty naira. It was the biggest money I had ever made.

“I was called Yaro (boy) by everyone at the airport.   I was the smallest boy there that time.  That is why I named my companies Al-Gulam (boy) in Arabic because I only understand few words in English. Then our people from the North at the airport now took me to a man called Nelson Okay. He was a commercial manager. I paid N150 to the airport through him, then I was allowed to do my business without hindrance.  You also had to renew the licence every year.  That time I made big customers.
“There was a man who worked with FirstBank. He invited me to take up a messenger work and he said he was ready to sponsor me in school. I told him that my brother stopped me from going. Since I amd registered and licenced to do nail-cutting business at the airport, I always travelled  by air whenever I was going to Kano. The first time I gave my father some money, he rejected it, that until I am investigated to ascertain where I got it. He caused two people to follow me to Lagos to confirm where I was working. That was when my father started collecting my money.  Then I bought a house in my village and married. My wife died in 1993 after giving birth to a baby boy. Since then I stopped the manicure work at the airport and started working in the Bureau de Change segment of the airport.  I made many customers.
“Now I have houses in Lagos, Abuja and Kano. After the 1999 election, it was rumoured that Obasanjo died and there was tension here and there in Lagos. That was when I made up my mind to return to the North.  I returned to Abuja and built a house at zone 4. During the demolition exercise, the house was demolished but I got compensated.  In Abuja, I was also blessed with big customers in the foreign exchange business. I used to have a friend called Bala of blessed memory.  He helped me buy this land. The first part of the land cost me N4million. Right from 2003 I started buying farmlands. Now I have 124 hectares.”
According to him, he returned to farming because he wants to be an employer of labour, and through that contribute his part to the economic development of Nigeria.
“I turned to farming because I want to create jobs for my fellow youth. This is because I have tasted poverty and the experience is quite bitter. So it is against this backdrop that I am calling on government to find a way of economically empowering the youth.  I have 50 workers but we are expanding, therefore the workforce will grow to a 100 by December God willing.  We have fifteen thousand chickens, but by December we hope to have fifty thousand.  We have fish pond that can grow three hundred thousand fish and by December, we are increasing the capacity to five hundred thousand by God’s grace.  We also have 120 cows and 50 sheep for now,” he says.
Speaking about his several efforts, he says: “Because of the N300 million loan I applied for from the Federal Government, when the valuers came they put the value of the farm at N397,500,000 (million). That time I didn’t factor in the dam that is currently under construction. It is a N75 million dam that I am constructing. It would take care of irrigation.
“It was because of the dam that I applied for the loan even though I didn’t get it. Now I don’t need it. The dam will be completed by June God willing. As I said it is going to be for irrigation. Lack of dams for agric purposes is one of the problems we are facing in Nigeria. This should have been the role of government, creating the enabling environment.  The poor is not taught how to be a farmer and they are not supported.”
He says agriculture is a lucrative business. “Every three months, I make N5 million profit from 15,000 broilers. Within this period, I pay about N8 million in salary and poultry feed. That means the turnover is N13 million. Who will say there is no profit in farming? But the problem is lack of trust. And it all started from the leaders. We are calling on the government to quickly find a solution to the unemployment problem in the country. People should be made to farm. This is the only solution to insecurity in the country.
“There are some experts that are working for us on consultancy basis.  Then we have two Chinese experts who were here under the Nigeria-China transfer technology. But they have left for China. The consultants are employed on the basis of an agreement that they get 10 per cent of the profit, but if the chickens die, it is subtracted from his pay.”
He adds that he plants moringa, “which is medicinal as well as nutritious. We have pawpaw plantation. I intend to plant one hundred thousand units, and there are ten ears per unit. We are also planting water melon. We intend to start with three hundred thousand pieces of water melon every three months. We don’t go to the market. People come here to buy them. All you need to do is to provide the information. Big hotels and restaurants also come here to buy our chickens.”
Asked if he had approached government agencies for extension workers and other assistance, he says: “No I have not.  First and foremost, if you want government to help you in Nigeria then you must be hopeless. UN, EU, ECOWAS and government agencies have been here and they asked if I had secured a loan from banks, and I said no. As it is now, I expect to get N150million annually as soon as I finish the dam. With irrigation farming underway, I think the sky is our limit.”
Mr. Yaro also plans to add value to the chain of production by establishing a factory that would mop up excess fruits and tomato paste when the dam is completed.


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Making agriculture work for jobs in Africa

There is a jobs cow waiting to be milked in Africa. It is agriculture and agri-business.

In its initial condition, Africa’s agriculture bears a striking resemblance to its telecom sector in the late 1990s. A decade on, a combination of right policies and strengthened regulatory framework has seen the sector open up to free enterprise, attracting about $60 billion in private investments and leading to today’s ICT boom: 450 million mobile phones in Africa, which is more mobile phones than Canada, Mexico and the United States combined.

As with telecom, the “early movers” into Africa’s agriculture are likely to reap the most rewards. And we are seeing significant interests from Middle Eastern, North African, South African and Asian firms seeking to establish commercial farms and agri-businesses along the value chain.

With only one-fourth of Africa’s arable land (50 per cent of global arable land) currently in use accounting for a mere 10 per cent of global food production, an agriculture and agri-business sector in full bloom is likely to result in even more transformational change in the lives of the world’s bottom billion than ICTs.

This is not some distant, future dream. Even die-hard afro-pessimists now concede that the global tide is turning in Africa’s favour, revealing a virgin market of one billion people, and a potential trillion dollar economy with enormous staying power and no less than 29 per cent of the world’s youth by 2025.

But timing matters, and huge windows of financial and economic opportunity are open to the pacesetters. Agriculture, I must reiterate, is not only Africa’s “next big thing.” It is already its life wire: it is Africa’s leading private sector. Some 70 per cent of Africans depend on it for their livelihoods, and it accounts for about 40 per cent of the region’s GDP.

During my dialogue last week with hundreds of young civil society leaders from 18 African countries, I was not surprised by their optimism about agriculture. Their eagerness to be involved in the sector was as infectious as it was enlightening for me and my colleagues. However, they were very clear as to what must be done by their governments and partners, to make agriculture work for jobs. I would summarize their views in four major areas.

First, governments (traditional, local and national) need to guarantee land rights for farmers, ensuring that large commercial farms – which are bound to employ fewer people — co-exist with the millions of smallholder farms – which preserve and maximize the job opportunities the sector offers, as well as provide the nucleus for establishing small and medium-size agri-businesses along the value chain. Attention must also be paid to ensure that male farmers – often the first to hop on a tractor and the ones most likely in rural areas to manage the money flowing from agriculture — do not marginalise women farmers, who hold the key to food security.

Valorising land and ensuring that Africa’s banking and financial sectors recognise it as one of the most tangible economic assets of Africa is just as important as building and maintaining adequate infrastructure like farm-to-market roads.

Second, young Africans do not want to be the farmers their grandparents were: hoe in hand, tilling the soil in scorching sun all year round, harvesting barely enough to feed, shelter and house their families. Making the sector more attractive to the African youth – seven-to-ten million of whom join the labour force each year – must entail modernising agriculture, raising productivity, boosting incomes, and expanding links to export markets.

Smallholder farmers would need access not only to more productive seeds and other farm inputs, but also to irrigation, research, technology and finance. Seed funding, notably in the form of grants, patient capital or loans from commercial banks guaranteed by some facility or the valorised farmland could make the difference between a farm start-up failing or prospering. Obstructionist policies, such as price controls, food export bans, and restrictions to cross-and within-border trade, need to be eliminated.

As one participant from Sierra Leone put it: “The market is the problem,” he said, complaining about the ban on his country’s food exports to such neighbouring countries as Gambia, Liberia and Senegal.

A third priority must be that of linking farmers to markets, including the sale opportunities that school feeding or food voucher programmes can generate by buying from local farmers. Pilot initiatives like the World Food Programme’s “Purchasing for Progress,” which has sourced about $1 billion worth of humanitarian food directly from African farmers over the last three years, would need to be expanded. Electronic vouchers, provided through “scratch cards” similar to prepaid phone cards and mobile phone-enabled platforms, have offered funding for food purchases for the poor in Liberia.

Connecting African farmers to Internet-based platforms such as the Ethiopian Commodities Exchange, which made deals worth $1 billion in its first three years of existence would be as essential as linking these farmers to giant global retailers like the U.S.-based Walmart, whose foundation plans to plow about $1 billion in Africa in order to have direct influence over its supply chain. So, too, would be an integrated approach to infrastructure development that combines highway or railroad construction with the setting up of vast agricultural plantations under the so-called “development corridor” model.

Devising these and other smarter ways of reaching markets and consumers would help trim the estimated 35 per cent of food supplies lost on the continent during the post-harvest, transport to market, storage, processing and conservation phases.

Fourth, reforms across Africa will work only if global food markets work for Africa and unfair trade practices are ended. The issue of subsidies by developed countries — currently estimated at $360 billion – will need to be resolved. Young African farmers entering the sector will prosper not only if they can trade, but if trade is fair and if mechanisms to promote transparency on existing stocks help prevent speculators from using food as a commodity to make money on the backs of farmers.

Success would require an integrated approach such as that offered within the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) framework – with the strategic pillars of land and water management, markets and infrastructure, food security and vulnerability and agricultural technology. It would also require significant investments. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) says the $22 billion pledged by the G20 at the Pittsburgh Summit barely gets things started. However, while foreign investors and donors can help, African countries which committed in Maputo in 2002 to devote at least 10 per cent of their national budgets to agriculture are those who must step up to the plate.

Mali, which currently devotes 13 per cent of its national budget to the sector, is one of very few countries that have either met or surpassed this target. Too many other countries invest far too little. Cameroon, for example, devotes an estimated one per cent of the national budget to the agriculture sector, although the sector employs 70 per cent of the population and accounts for 40 per cent of the country’s GDP. Without significantly higher investments, the sector will not deliver on the millions of jobs it promises. Much worse: the 2002 World Food Summit warned that business as usual in agriculture could mean that the aim of halving world hunger by 2015 will only be met in 2150.

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