INTERVIEW SECTION: AgriTech Solutions Would Become Very Invaluable to Scale Up Food Production levels

Agritech in Nigeria

Agricincome: Can you introduce yourself and your Platform to our readers?
MyFarmbase: My name is Iyanuoluwa Aliu, an Agric-tech Entrepreneur and Business Strategist. I am the CEO, MyFarmbase Africa, a capacity building hub which leverages tech innovations, blended learning and instructor-led approaches to provide youths and middle aged with AgriTech, Climate Smart Agriculture and Agribusiness Skills across Africa whilst also connecting them with jobs/internships/funding opportunities. We are one of the leading capacity building hubs for Agriculture in Nigeria with about 10,000 youths in our ecosystem.

Agricincome: How long has the platform been running?
MyFarmbase: The platform has been running since 2017, but it was not until early this year that we changed to the model we currently run.

Agritech in Nigeria

Agricincome: What have been the challenges so far since the inception of the platform?
MyFarmbase: I can’t count! Hahaha. It’s been a very challenging experience for me and my team but I will share two.

1. The most significant challenge was getting youths to sign up for our programmes. Agriculture in Africa is mostly subsistent and it doesn’t look attractive or dignifying for young people. So, for months, we didn’t get the kind of traction we expected. It took a lot of innovative marketing and storytelling strategies to overcome these challenges.
2. When we pivoted to virtual trainings, it was challenging to convince people of how effective online learning could be. People were already used to physical training especially in a sector like agriculture which is largely practical. There were so many scepticisms from people on the value we can provide online but amazingly, from feedback we have received; our programmes are even more intensive than physical trainings.

Agricincome: Why are you so passionate about AgriTech?
MyFarmbase: After graduating from the university, I had the opportunity to work on some community projects for small holder farmers and I was saddened by what I saw. Smallholder farmers are responsible for more than 70% of Africa’s food production, however, in recent years, they are barely struggling to survive. The standard of living is nothing to speak about, it’s so poor and with challenges from climate change, pests and diseases hitting hard, the situation has become even worse.

AgriTech has the power to change these narratives. I have seen how much difference information sharing via USSD can make for smallholder farmers. Some of farmers’ greatest challenges can be solve with the proper integration of technologies. This is why I am so driven about my work in creating an ecosystem that supports farmers and youths with AgriTech skills. That’s the only way we can really provide food in abundance to match with the exponential population growth in years to come.

Agricincome: What do you think is the future of Agri-Tech in Nigeria?
MyFarmbase: By 2050, Nigeria will be the third most populous country in the world with a population of over 400 million people. And all these 400 million people need to eat. This means we would need to double food production to feed this nation.

Ironically, by 2050, the number of arable lands would have reduced drastically due to industrialization; there would be water scarcity due to climate change etc. We would then be left with no other choice but to grow more food with less resource in the few available spaces.

In the next couple, technologies like hydroponics, aeroponics, drones and artificial intelligence would become very invaluable to scale up production levels. The use of precision farm technologies to distribute water, fertilizers, and pesticide in regulated amounts would also become very valuable as well to reduce waste and maximize resources.

Many countries in Africa are pivoting fast and investing in AgriTech startups, including Nigeria, because very soon, no country would be able to survive without the use of technologies in Agriculture. The challenges we have today with adoption will fade away soon and AgriTech in Nigeria will become the norm.

Agricincome: You recently launched MyFarmbase Global Agricultural development program; can you tell us more about the program?
MyFarmbase: MyFarmbase Africa Global Agricultural Development Program is a cohort based intensive bootcamp on Global Food Sustainability where youths/Agripreneurs are being trained by top Agricultural experts across 4 continents.

Through this program, we leverage engaging online learning, stimulating class activities, online demonstration, capstone projects, idea pitch and industry-relevant tasks to provide practical and experiential skills and resources on various value chains in Agriculture, Agri-Financing, and Agribusiness Strategies. It’s a life-changing experience that every youth should be a part of.

Agricincome: How has been the adoption so far?
MyFarmbase: The adoption has been amazing. Over the past 4 months, we have been able to actively train more than 1500 youths and middle aged across over 15 countries. The experience for our fellows has been life-changing as over 100 of them have set up farms and agribusinesses. This is not to mention agribusinesses that have been impacted through this program. It’s been so fulfilling seeing how many youths across Africa have been empowered through our training and consultancy support.

Agricincome: How can one enrol for MyFarmbase Global Agricultural Development Program?
MyFarmbase: Anyone can enrol by registering through this link (bit.ly/MFBGlobal-Dev7). More information can also be gotten on our website (www.myfarmbasedev.com).

Agricincome: How much do you think Agritech can contribute to the development of Agriculture and economic growth?

A lot! FAO predicts that the agriculture market in Sub-Saharan African alone will grow from $200 billion in 2015 to $1 trillion dollars by 2030. That’s about 500% growth! But the question, can we ever achieve this milestone in the agricultural sector? Yes, with the use of tech innovations.

Currently in Nigeria, the agricultural sector is the highest employer of labour. Despite our poor investment in agriculture, the agricultural industry still contributed about 21% to our annual GDP, as at 2019. With AgriTech in Nigeria, the possibilities are even more promising.

Crowdfunding initiatives are popping up around the world aiming to reduce food waste, and are creating massive employment opportunities for youths and growth for the agriculture sector. The supply chain is not left out as well, there have been so many start-ups helping to leverage tech innovations to connect farmers to market whilst ensuring they (farmers) sell at fair prices.

Technologies like the use of drones, precision agriculture, farm management software robotics, the use of improved/technical agricultural machineries/equipment and many others, are also boosting productivity, improving farmers’ livelihoods, increasing youth inclusion in agriculture, increased employment and rapid economic growth for Nigeria.

Growth in agriculture is two to four times more powerful at reducing poverty than growth in other sectors (according to the World Bank) and the best way to attain this growth is to scale using agricultural technologies.

Agricincome: If you were to advise the Government, what are you going to advise on AgriTech in Nigeria?
MyFarmbase: My advice to the government is in three phases;

1. Technologies like drones, heavy machineries etc are not affordable to smallholder farmers; the best way is for the government to aggregate famers into larger communities ensuring that the use of technology comes with greater efficiencies and less cost.
2. The government should also ease adoption of these technologies by leveraging agricultural training centres and extension agents to provide these farmers and youths with technical, management, teamwork, decision-making, communication and leadership skills that will enhance their engagement and facilitate innovation.
3. Government should develop policies that will support/enhance the establishment and growth of AgriTech start-ups and ideas. The barriers-to-entry for entrepreneurs is too high and risky. The government needs to create favorable policies.

Agricincome: Are there agencies that invest or sponsor Agritech in Nigeria projects, if yes, kindly name them
MyFarmbase: Yes. Organizations like Orange Corner, Technoserve, The Pollination Project, Mastercard Foundation, The Ventures Platform and many others

Agricincome: Thank you for your time

Over to you Readers, Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section

INTERVIEW SECTION: AgriTech Solutions Would Become Very Invaluable to Scale Up Food Production levels

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