Business advisory model: A necessary tool for Smallholder Farmers
The farming of our time has changed from farming for poor people to farming as a business enterprise, with the aim of giving agriculture a facelift termed as “agribusiness”. In achieving this agricultural business model, a business advisory service was introduced for the provision of relevant growth information to businesses. This is likened to giving advice to businesses on how best to improve their products and services, increase profit, expand their reach and benefit from market opportunities.
There is no doubt that farmers are one group of business people in Nigeria and the rest of the world who do not benefit from the business advisory services especially rural farmers. They are abandoned and neglected to complete the entire business chain of planting, harvesting, marketing, recordkeeping and financials without proper information.
Many of the rural farmers are not aware of the relevant business model and do not know about how to use digital technology for efficiency of marketing their produce. Another irony is fact that farmers are possibly not aware and are naïve to the word “Agripreneurship” and other opportunity windows in Agriculture.
From the perspective of my own country, Nigeria, the focus is mostly on economic diversification from oil dominance to agriculture. It is my belief that in order to achieve the needed economic diversification, farmers who are at the front line of the diversification chain needs proper mentoring and enlightenment tailored at scaling up their knowledge, attitude and skills.
In October 2016, I was selected to represent a private organization BEE Enterprises Ltd with specific interest in providing business advisory services and agripreneurship training for farmers and professional farmers (pro-farmers) to attend The Global Forum for Rural Advisory Service (GFRAS) 7th Annual Meeting held in Limbe, Cameroon from 30th September to 6th October 2016. The Theme for the event was "The Role of Rural Advisory Services for Inclusive Agripreneurship.
The meeting involved the gathering of all rural advisory Service Administrators, Agric Extension Service Assistants, Policy Makers and Agribusiness Advisors and lots more. At the meeting, I was actively engaged in sections ranging from: Agripreneurship group activities and presentation; Knowledge management class and group activities; Tour visits to Agric farms and farmer field schools in Limbe; GRFAS Agripreneurship module on Agripreneurship; Climate change and climate smart change group meetings; YPARD Cameroon youth meeting and celebration. The 7th Annual Event was sponsored by CTA, World Agroforestry centre, Minader Cameroon just to mention a few.
Having garnered lessons and experience from the program, I was determined to do a step-down training for farmers in the rural community to help them address their agricultural business challenges and give them proper orientation and necessary business model to operate a successful agribusiness.On the return to my duty station in Akure, Ondo State, Nigeria, I was curious about knowledge transfer for smallholder farmers, so I was in search of a farming community within Ondo state to carry out this assignment and after some reasonable consideration, I decided to visit Ikaram Akoko a community predominated by farmers and where agriculture is their economic mainstay. The community is one of the major Akoko settlement and the Akoko on its own is a large Northeast Yoruba settlement in Yorubaland with a span area from Ondo state to Edo state in southwest Nigeria.
Finally, all arrangement was made and a step-down training was organized for rural farmers in Ikaram Akoko, Ondo State.
A gender inclusive 14 heads of farmer groups in Ikaram Akoko who are opinion leaders were organized and prepared for the training. Majority of the farmers are from the cluster of FADAMA III Project in Akoko zone. The farmers were divided into 2 groups which comprises of cassava group and maize group with proper training on:
- Agripreneurship using GFRAS module
- Business Opportunity in Agriculture
- Market Gap in Agriculture
- Business Model Canvas
- Market opportunities
- Digital marketing in Agriculture
The training made use of class room teaching with integration of digital technology to drive home the point. The farmers at the end of the training expressed their happiness and gratitude in regards to the training and the positive prospect the training will have on them in order to upscale their agricultural ventures. The farmer promised to extend the lesson learnt to other members of the group who are not present at the training.
To ensure effective monitoring and evaluation of the training, a team was set up amidst the farmers to provide updates on a weekly basis.