If you’re familiar with the employment sector in Nigeria, you’d probably know that each year, universities across the country churn out thousands of graduates -a greater percentage of which, have no ready jobs waiting for them.
In fact according to arecent report by the National Bureau of Statistics, the unemployment rate in Nigeria has climbed from 23.1% recorded in Q3, 2018 to 27.1% in Q2, 2020.
Put in perspective, with a labor force of over 80 million, over 21 million Nigerians are unemployed -a figure that is 2.5 times the population of Togo. The unemployment rate for Nigerians aged between 25 and 35 stands even higher at 30.7%!
That agriculture is at the center of the Nigerian economy is a no brainer as Over 70 percent of Nigerians engage in the agriculture sector mainly at a subsistence level. It is also Nigeria’s largest employer of labor and income-generating activity.
Recognizing the enormous and untapped potential of the sector, Meadow Foods through its GrowIT project is teaching young graduates to tap into the massive opportunities in the agriculture value chain.
Our team of micro-franchisees called GrowIT Entrepreneurs (GEs), provide a feet-on-the street presence and a physical touch point to farmers using our digital platform as the last mile.
These GEs are trained to support smallholder farmer collectives with services including soil-testing and personalized seeds, crop nutrient, fertilizers, pest management best practices recommendations, land-boundary mapping services using geo-spatial technology and supports to build a transaction history that enable them access credit for climate-smart inputs, while linking them to higher-value output markets.
GE’s are selected, hired, and trained by the GrowIT consortium to use software applications to capture, manage, and monitor a variety of data and transactions. These micro-entrepreneurs, equipped with portable tablets or smartphones loaded with a suite of relevant applications provide farmers with access to a bouquet of products and services, providing critical connections to relevant brands.
Leveraging on social networks, most of our GE’s are trusted community members who provide extension services to our farmer collectives who know and trust them. Each GE is expected to manage up to 250 farmers organized as clusters.
At GrowIT, we absolutely love our most vital assets –the people we work with!
Let’s meet Bilkisu, a GE at Dazallah community in Mubi LGA, Adamawa state. A lady of few words, her super power is her ability to persuade just about anyone. It’s no surprise that she’s our fertilizer champion of the month.
The amazing thing about Bilkisu is that while you’re thinking about myriads of reason why a task is inconceivable, she’d already figured out thousands of ways to make it tenable. And her execution strategy? Mad O (as we say in Nigerian cruise language)!
Describe yourself in one word
Why did you join the GrowIT project?
The vision and mission of the founders resonated with me. Being an indigene of this community, Mubi, I saw this as an opportunity to positively impact the farmers here. Moreover, I’m studying Agriculture at the Adamawa State University so this is a perfect opportunity to see how the Agribusiness runs in the real world.
As an undergraduate, how are you able to combine School and work?
I have an organized schedule that helps me earn while also putting in my best at school. I schedule farm visits and cluster meetings on days when I do not have any school activity.
Describe a typical day at GrowIT?
Before I leave my school campus, I put a call to the focal persons in my farmer clusters, they give me convenient times when the farmers will be available for a meetings, I then proceed to educate these farmers about our activities and the benefits that would accrue to them in the long run. I get to see their farms, capture their data, map their fields and register them on the app.
What challenges have you faced as a GE and how are you surmounting them?
I don’t see them as challenges actually. I like to think of them as situations. The first has to be the cost of transportation from my school to the community where I work. To get the most from each visit, I pre-arrange with farmers in my clusters to provide services to as many as I can, so that I maximize my visit for that day.
Another is trust issues. Many farmers say other extension officers have been here before us, some charged them for field mapping and registration with high promises of financial benefits and then thinned into the air.
I assure them that registration and mapping services are free and explain why they need services like soil testing and data-backed advisory. Eventually, many of them trust me.
And finally, even though I’m from Mubi, I do not speak the local dialect of this community and many of them can’t speak the English or Hausa language. So I got a focal person who serves as an interpreter.
How has the GrowIT project impacted you?
It has opened my eyes to the untapped potential of agriculture as a business in the North-East. I have also seen that even the most uneducated farmer, can be climate-smart in his farming methods. I am happy to be a change agent in my community.
I also earn from the various activities like mapping, soil testing, registration and cluster meetings. GrowIT pays me pre-agreed commissions on each of these activities.
One food you could eat for the rest of your life?
I can eat jollof rice all day, every day! I especially love party jollof with chicken.
What’s your most memorable moment at GrowIT?
That has to be when I sold five bags of fertilizers to a farmer in my community who has a very big farm and the team celebrated me on our social media platforms. I know this is not quite a feat, but I truly appreciate the encouragement.
What do you do for leisure?
I play badminton with my friends and I always ace it!
One Sentence to motivate fellow GEs
Impossible is nothing!