Business mogul and Agri-preneur, Mr. Kolawole Adeniji is a prominent stakeholder in all kinds of agro-related businesses. He is more popular for being the top producer of cassava in Nigeria and a top processor of agricultural products. After adding new dimension to agribusiness by investing more in research and modern agricultural practices, Niji always takes up new challenges.
Niji Group is creating a “sustainable city” with furtherance in exploring the lifestyle and science behind agriculture at the NIJI INSTITUTE OF SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE.
With billions of naira investment in the ongoing project of a state-of-the-art “sustainable city”, as well as establishing luxurious side attractions and comfortability. All in one location on the outskirt of Ilero, Oyo state – Nigeria’s ancient state, not to mention his portfolio of projects across the country and overseas, the Osun state born business mogul looks unsurprisingly on the bright side of agriculture.
In an interview to farmsquare.ng Mr. Kolawole Adeniji talked about the need to move from just cultivation and agricultural production to agribusiness.
FARMSQUARE.ng: Asides being an agriculturist and one of the top producers of cassava in Africa. Can you tell us more about yourself?
NIJI: Well, I am a trained Mechanical Engineering Technologist with over 25-year experience working on diverse agro-allied projects across Nigeria and Africa. I am an entrepreneur of insatiable passion for quality and excellence, with partnerships all over the world. This has consistently improved my relationship with prominent stakeholders in the agro-allied machinery and equipment fabrication in Nigeria as I hold enviable positions in Cassava Value Chain businesses in Africa. The company, Niji Group comprises of four other subsidiaries namely Niji Lukas Nig. Ltd., Niji Farms and Allied Services Ltd., Niji Foods Nig Ltd., Niji Institute of Sustainable Agriculture (NISA) and Ripples Hotel and Nite Club in Nigeria; operating in agricultural machinery fabrication, crops and livestock production, food processing, centre for learning profitable agriculture and hoteling/tourism business sectors. I have won several awards including Century International Quality Era Award (Gold Category), Geneva, Switzerland in 2015.
We hear you create a lot of jobs especially for the youth. Can you tell us the number of direct workers employed under your organization?
I sincerely can’t wrap my head on the exact figure. But roughly now, our direct employment is close to almost 250-300 workers. That’s an estimate of direct employment we have for now.
You undoubtedly remain one of the largest producer of cassava in Nigeria. What is your view on the challenges, opportunities and market in the Nigerian agriculture sector?
Looking at the challenges, we have quite a lot, but I refuse to call them challenges, instead I call it situations. For every business, we have arising situation that requires our input to proffer solutions to them. The major problem we have in Nigeria, is that sector stakeholders are not taking agriculture seriously as a core business, which brings about us lagging in terms of productivity. Until we start doing agribusiness and applying it to our mode of farm cultivation and operations, we will keep having these so called challenges in the sector. For example, most farmers depend solely on rain-fed system with planting harvesting, storage and processing systems all wrong. This is why at NIJI Group, we have set up the NIJI INSTITUTE OF SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE (NISA), to teach people about achieving sustainability in agriculture, while we really impact a lot of youths who want to go in agriculture. Agriculture is one of the most viable businesses you can do in Nigeria to get your payback on investment. Looking at the opportunities, averagely people eat everyday, and with production of good food and packaging at a reasonable rate, people must buy, because of its necessity by the body on daily basis. It is therefore one of the key businesses that can turn around our economy as a whole, with agriculture able to create about 50 million jobs. One other major challenge we have is the wrong investment of government in agriculture, which doesn’t give the right support the sector ought to have. Most of the financing institutions are funding agriculture wrongly, adopting the same methods used in financing other businesses, which isn’t the same. Agriculture must now be made to look good in people’s eyes, to engage a lot of youths specially to see it as a means of living and a sustainable way of business. With this, we are able to solve the issue of rural-urban migration, create enough employment and solve a lot of poverty problems in Nigeria especially.
We all know the current issue of herders/farmers clash happening in most parts of the country, which you seem not to have problem with going by our observation on your farm. Can you please tell us how you were able to manage this situation on your farm and how it can be adopted to control this menace generally in the Nigeria?
First, we take agriculture as a business, so we have done a lot of case study. We are using the result of our case study to actually address some of the existing problems that might be coming. Herders supposed to be a solved problem. For example, if you are in front of your shop and selling your products, you won’t allow anybody to come and just invade your shop. This happens because herders aren’t conscious of the fact that the farm is a real business to the farmer, making them believe that they can just go to anybody’s farm. For us, we sit down with the herders, allow them to realize that this is a real business for us and workout what is supposed to be like a problem between us and find solution. Sometimes there can be issues to address, but since we know our boundaries and they know theirs, we have no problems.
We know you produce and export your products for global consumption. How do you tackle and overcome the challenges faced with exporting locally made products and how can this be applied generally?
The problem is most of the people exporting products don’t take it seriously, by knowing the technicality of the process. They don’t grow because they see it as a must to export, without going through the necessary channels. We should be exporting rightly by knowing what exactly we want to export, even from the early process of land clearing of the farm. You mark out the farm for exportation and also for local consumption. You have to be sure of what goes for industrial and cooperate consumption. In other words, you have to mark out the farm based on specific target audience from day 1, so as to be able to do a proper treatability on farm operations, products and packaging methods.
We know you are a married man with children. Can we have an idea on how you manage to make available time for your family knowing your everyday busy schedules?
First, my family already understands the fact that I’m a business man and into multiple businesses, so managing the family front together with my business have been exciting basically because I was able to setup the standard before my wife and children came in. Knowing the nature of my businesses, they all grew into understanding the system. The truth still remains that, if as an entrepreneur, you want to grow in life, you will have to know how to manage your work life and family together. If not, one will have to suffer. I was able to do this, and in the process, grooming the children on the way to go based on my successful lifestyle. This is easy to do because they too can see it bringing results. In other words, if you have a wrong lifestyle that’s not bringing in result, the family will not be as supportive as they should. But since they see a lot of things you are doing to change the game, not only in the family, but in Nigeria and the rest of the world, it’s easier for the family to really buy into the vision.