The Business of Agriculture and Funding – What Works for Young People?

06 Jan 2017 by John Agboola

It is no longer in doubt that the theory of survival of the fittest exists not only in human existence but also in businesses, be it small or large. 

Businesses need funding to survive but not everyone knows the necessary and the right procedures to follow in order to acquire the needed funding to start-up an enterprise.

The word funding and finance has been the most pronounced word in the mouth of smallholder farmers, prospective agriprenuers, business starters, processors and everyone along the value chain but very few institutions, organizations and individuals have critically looked at the prospects of funding for young people to start-up their agricultural endeavours and ensure economic development through their funding opportunities.

According to the survey done by the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS), it was revealed that 1.5 million Nigerians became unemployed in the first quarter of 2016 which invariably shifted the 10.4 percent figure of last quarter in 2015 to 12.1 percent as at May 21, 2016. The question that comes to mind is, are the unemployed young people not aiming at starting up an enterprise on agriculture, fashions, communication among others? 

While I was deeply in thought, I got the right answer to the pending question in my mind that, the challenges and difficulties in getting funds will always serve as barriers to starting up a business and will always push young people away out of their vision to be self-employed.

Development is a must for everyone and making it happen is the responsibility of individuals, organizations, donor agencies and different stakeholders. As part of its commitment to using agriculture as a means to achieve economic development in Nigeria, one of the fastest growing agricultural company, AgriHUB Nigeria, organized a two weeks workshop program which focused on Agricultural Funding for Economic Development with partners such as Agroprenuer Naija, YPARD Nigeria, Team Funding and Abira.

The two-weeks event was held in Lagos with different activities including press briefings with different stakeholders in the sector. The other aspect of the program was the video interview recording with top players in agribusiness, micro finance bank and insurance. Additionally, during the interviews several funding opportunities were discussed by the speakers.

The prospect of the video production started with the introduction of the workshop by Ronke Aderinoye, the Founder and CEO Agrihub Nigeria. Her discussion focussed on why finance in agriculture is important. Having built the foundation of the process,  the second speaker, Ada Osakwe, CEO Agrolay Ventures, Nuli Juice and Foods discussed on available financing options to an agribusiness while the third speaker Gbemi Awoniyi-Folayan discussed on micro finance in agriculture. The fourth speaker Ibukun Jeboda, Founder of Team Funding, discussed on how individual can use team funding for their agricultural enterprise and the fifth speaker Seun Abolaji, Founder, Wilson's Juice Co. spoke on his real life experiences as an agroprenuer and how he started his business with the needed funds.

As part of the outlined program for the two-weeks workshop, two tweets chat were held with the hashtag AgriFunding. The first tweet chat was on Record Keeping for Agribusinesses with Dr Mayowa Oguntoyinbo, CEO Freshly Yours Ltd while the second chat was an extract of the interview conducted with the representative of the Nigerian Agriculture Insurance Co-operation (NAIC) on necessary information about insurance in agriculture 

The last phase of the two-week workshop was a physical workshop held in two locations with the aim of providing an avenue for young people to brainstorm on different funding opportunities, their challenges and that of agriculture and the possible solutions to change the business setting of agriculture.

The physical workshop was facilitated by representative of YPARD Nigeria and Agroprenuer Naija where a participatory approach was adopted to ensure rich contribution. The participants made up of agricultural practitioners, prospective agriculturist, a medical doctor and a banker at first, identified problems facing the agricultural sector to include: bad road network, old ways of agricultural practices which invariably leads to non-adoption of Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), non-stability and/or non-continuity of government policy and programmes that aims at agricultural development, insufficient planning for any agricultural enterprise, marketing and lack or inadequate funding opportunities as well as difficulties in getting access to the available funding opportunities. Possible solutions were shared and discussed by the participants to encourage some of the participants who have small businesses running and those who intend to start up an enterprise or initiative. 

The sessions had the participants discuss on the necessary guiding principles and various ways funding can be accessed for any business or agricultural enterprise. Some of the listed guidelines include:

  • Record keeping is the bedrock for accessing loan or funding opportunities. 
  • Accessing loan from a microfinance bank does not require  collateral.
  • Formation of a cooperative society is important for easiness of accessing funding opportunities and/or loan.
  • Practicing organic agriculture will always put you at an advantage for grants assessment. 
  • Development of innovations targeted at local content or people is an advantage for grants and funding opportunities from donor agencies such as Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, DFID, USAID etc.
  • Equity financing is one of the neglected aspect of financing which young people should explore for their businesses.

The workshop ended with a feeling of satisfaction by the participants and they were encouraged to return back into agriculture because of the abundances of natural resources that abound while also incorporating creativity along the value chain.