By Smart Emmanuel
When Yusuff Gbenga Adewale made up his mind to go into farming after graduating from Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Ogbomoso, Oyo State, Nigeria, his parents and friends rebuked him, telling him why he should not go into farming with his degree in Agricultural Economics and extension. According to them, “agriculture is a poor man’s business”. Yussuff had to relocate from his parents and his detractor friends to a far distance so as to concentrate his energy on farming. Starting with just a hectare of land he rented, with a sharing formula of 70:30, he began his plantain farm journey, and, today, he is an authority in farming and consulting with a lot of achievements to show for it.
In this chat with Smart Emmanuel, the CEO of Waleagro Services Nigeria Limited detailed how he started, his achievements so far and how he was able to stand his ground despite initial objection from his loved ones.
Below are the excerpts of the interview…
Please tell us a little about yourself
My name is Yusuff Gbenga Adewale. I hold a degree in Agricultural Economics and Extension from Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Ogbomoso and I’m the CEO of Waleagro Services Nigeria Limited.
Why did you choose to go into farming, instead of looking for white collar job(s) after school?
I had always known that there is a huge prospect in farming because of the numerous problems we are facing as a country. Most of the foods we are importing can be produced locally. The question is: why are we not producing them here? My thought then was if I could be part of the people that will solve food problems we are facing, doors of wealth will be opened to me. If I could solve food problems for just 1% of Nigeria’s population, which is about 1.7 million people, then I felt I didn’t need a job.
Tell us about your farm and how you started ?
I am into production and processing of cassava, plantain and cashew. We also setup and offer farm management services for farmers all over the country. I started with one hectare of land leased from a land owner and we have now about 1000 acres of land.
What was the opinion of your parents/family/friends when you decided to go into farming?
I once told my friends to go into farming because I have always known then that the future of this country lied in agriculture. Nobody took me seriously then because of the perception that farming is a poor man’s profession. Now, they want to venture into farming business because of the results I have achieved.
Nobody gave me a chance. My parents were against me going into farming but my conviction was stronger than their distractions. I had to relocate to a place far from family and friends when the distraction was getting too worrisome, but I thank God most of them now want to become farmers.
We know land issue is very dynamic in Nigeria, how did you acquire your land?
I started with one hectare of land leased from a farm owner on a profit sharing formula, where I take 70% and he takes 30% of the profit. That was how I started with nothing. I expanded to selling herbicides and seeds from money acquired. The second year, I was able to acquire two acres of land from land owners.
There are other strategies one can use to acquire farmlands which I have detailed on our website blog www.waleagroservicesnigeria.com/blog
How long have you been doing this-farming/consulting?
The consulting aspect of the farm business started three years ago. It was started because there is a need to inform intending farmers on what they need to know and do to get started on a profitable note. Many who just dabble into agribusiness without the required knowledge have got their hands burnt.
Would you say the demand for farm produce is encouraging?
People must eat. Even if you are on a fast, there is always demand for food. Although as a savvy agropreneur, you should be able to find out where the demand for your food produce is highly concentrated and satisfy it.
What area do you want the government to come in or assist?
Government should provide right policies and low interest loan for young agropreneurs to encourage more youths to venture into the business of agriculture.
What basic knowledge/implements does a starter need to setup?
You need to know your market very well as a starter.
Tell us a few of your achievements so far?
We have provided jobs for over 100 local farmers who work on our farm and processing facilities. We are currently mobilising 2,000 youths in each local government of the federation to venture into agribusiness through Patriotic Agribusiness Network (PAN).
Where do you see yourself/your farm in the next 10 years?
In 10 years’ time, we will be number one in every commodity value chain in Africa.
What is your advice for young graduates out there still looking for jobs that barely exist?
My advice is that, do not despise the days of little beginning. Start small, get knowledge from successful players in the industry and don’t stay small.