Agriculture contributed 28.6% to Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the third quarter of this year 2016. That’s according to the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics. Now, we all know that numbers by themselves are useless and 28% might not seem so low until you compare it with other numbers.
It is estimated that over 70% of Nigeria’s population engages in agriculture – mostly rural dwellers. This has not translated to foreign investment neither has it translated to the elimination of food imports. Only 40% of the over 84 million hectares of Nigeria’s arable land is being cultivated. With a population of over 189 million people, food importation is estimated to cost over N1.5 trillion annually.
How is the country supposed to grow or even aim to be self-sufficient in agriculture with these damning numbers? How do we encourage investment in agriculture to move beyond subsistence farming into more mechanised farming practices? How do we ensure that farmers get the capital they need to ensure food production every farming season? How do we ensure that the youth become invested and in turn invest in agriculture? Enter Farmcrowdy.
Farmcrowdy is an Agric-tech platform that lets everyday Nigerians easily venture into and invest in agriculture. You get to choose what kind of farm you want to sponsor and your investment goes into securing the land, engaging the farmer, planting seeds, insurance, harvest and sales and a return on your investment. During the farming cycle, farm sponsors can track progress with reports using text, images and videos.
Founded by the pair of Onyeka Akumah and Africanfarmer Mogaji (Yep, his first name is really Africanfarmer), Farmcrowdy was born out of a passion for agriculture and a desire to equip the next generation of farmers with necessary knowledge and skills needed to ensure adequate food production in the country.
I reached out to Onyeka and he was happy to answer a few questions. Enjoy.
Answers have been edited for brevity and clarity
First obligatory question: How did the idea for Farmcrowdy come about?
Onyeka: In 2015, a friend of mine who is a Cassava farmer in Oyo State, approached me to invest in his farm. He needed money to sustain it for another season and if he didn’t raise enough money, he would have to close down the farm.
After exploring all available means for a couple of months, I couldn’t raise all the money he needed and unfortunately, his business closed down. This started my journey into Farmcrowdy. I got scared of the possibility of a future where there is no food for my kids because of lack of knowledge or negligence in the agriculture sector and decided to do something.
Using my strength in building e-businesses and marketing, I decided to build an online platform that educated Nigerians about the many opportunities in the Agriculture sector and gave them the opportunity to partner with a farmer to boost food security. Understanding that there are over 50 million small-scale farmers who are looking for an opportunity to scale their production and also more than 80 million hectares of arable farmland that is available in Nigeria, there was a need to connect the farmers with potential farm partners and this gave birth to Farmcrowdy.
I assembled a team along with my co-founder, Africanfarmer Mogaji (and yes, that’s his first name which he changed over 13 years ago because of the passion he has in Agriculture) who has over 19 years experience in the agriculture sector in Nigeria to build Farmcrowdy – a platform that brings together farmers, land owners and farms sponsors to boost food security, impact on the lives of small-scale farmers and become a gateway for many Nigerians into the Agriculture space.
What has the response been so far? How many users are currently on the platform?
Onyeka: Farmcrowdy was in beta mode for about 8 weeks before we launched publicly two weeks ago. In this short period, we have had over 100 farm partners who have sponsored over 300 farmers in Nigeria. Even more interesting is the fact that we also get lots of farm followers who want to be educated about the farming process involved in the crops and livestock farms we support. We have seen over 1,200 farm followers sign-up to follow the progress of farms on our platform and we want to attract more, especially students, to enable them learn about the agriculture and the farming cycle using our platform.
What are your projections for the coming year?
Onyeka: In 2017, I expect a lot more people looking into participating in the agriculture space. The Federal Government has announced agriculture as its number one priority. I expect that all the publicity will cause the sector to grow, along with policies that will favour small-scale farmers across the country.
On our part, we want to continue to position ourselves to become the gateway for Nigerians to participate in agriculture. To do this, we are continually expanding our scope of operations to sign-up more farmers, lease more land and expose our platform to more Nigerians.
Next year, we want to launch a couple of initiatives including our #OneFarmerOneHectare program pushing the idea that one farmer can work on one hectare per season. Farm partners will get to sponsor a farmer and engage him on one hectare per season.
There are 50 million under-utilized hectares in the country, so this gives 50 million opportunities to empower rural farmers. We are going to do it one farmer at a time.
How do you envisage that Farmcrowdy will impact agriculture in Nigeria?
Onyeka: The default agricultural system entails going to the farm with the traditional farming tools, but with our platform powered by technology, it is very easy for anybody anywhere to participate in agriculture without necessarily picking up a hoe to enter the farm.
We are bringing the Facebook game called ‘Farmville’ to life. Empower a farmer and watch him grow your farm on your behalf until your harvest is sold and you make a healthy profit. Greater access to capital also means the farmer is able to afford mechanised equipment,thereby increasing yields and profits at the end of the farming cycle.
As a country, we are used to neglecting the farmers who grow our food for various reasons, but at Farmcrowdy, we understand that without these farmers we will not have food. Therefore, we intend to impact on the lives of 50,000 small-scale farmers within our first 24 months to ensure that they have everything they need to increase our local food production.
Farm sponsors looking to invest in farms currently have the option to choose from four farms (maize, tomato, poultry and cassava). If you’re interested, you can sign up as a farm sponsor or follower here.