Among the many names given to this year 2014, the ‘year of Agriculture’ seems to stick in ways others don’t. Agriculture is essential for sub-Saharan Africa’s growth and for achieving the Millennium Development Goal of halving poverty by 2015. It employs 65 percent of Africa’s labor force and accounts for 32 percent of gross domestic product. It’s performance has improved since 2000, but growth is not yet fast enough.
In this story, is a chat with Fade-Aluko Akintola an agriculture entrepreneur and horticulturist, we discuss his reasons for going agric, how lucrative it is and of course the problems there in.
Can you enlighten me on your landscape and agriculture venture?
Landscaping is an art and practice of improving the appearance and aesthetic appeal of the area surrounding an office complex or the home, so at Naturebuddie concepts we enhance and maintain property’s aesthetic appeal, while we also pay great attention to the environment by making responsible decisions about how we deliver our highly professional service.
How long have you been in it and how lucrative is it with regards to profit?
I have been in this for 4 years now, but i launched out officially in the year 2013. It is a lucrative business profit wise, but it’s more profitable if you have a garden of your own which reduces the cost at which you get your materials.
How did you get funding and how big is your output or produce?
For a landscaping outfit, you really don’t need a lot of fund to start, it’s a kind of job where you are mobilized before the start of project, so when I started I had to rent some of the tools I used, but after the project I was able to get some money to procure some major things that I needed for the venture. Being a starter, it’s not doing badly.
How big do you expect to be in say 2 years?
I expect Naturebuddie concept to be one of the major players in the landscape and horticultural industry in the next two years
Why did you go in to landscaping and agriculture, was this what you studied in the higher institution?
I have a bachelors degree in horticulture from the University of Agriculture, Abeokuta. I decided i was going into landscape horticulture which is an aspect of horticulture in my 3rd year in school after i discovered the prospects, though growing up i would plant shrubs and trees whenever there was an opportunity to do that, but i never really thought i was going to make money off it.
You have a masters degree in Horticulture, where did you get that and why did you decide to go for MS. Horticulture instead of MS Business Admin or other?
Yes, I have a masters degree in Horticulture from the university of Ibadan, and i chose horticulture because i wanted to know more about the field of horticulture which is really wide with about 7 branches plus i really wanted to do research too which did not disturb my business but I’m seriously considering getting a MBA soon.
Do you think the university graduate is worse off without a Ph.d or a Masters degree?
In the world we live in, Its not about the certificate its about the value you can add, a Ph.D holder can stay jobless if he isn’t positioned to add value.
What are your opinions about Entrepreneurship, Education and Career – the you-must-go-to-school-and-then-find-a-job’ mentality?
Entrepreneurship should be incorporated into our school curriculum as it prepares the young generation to create jobs rather than seeking jobs that are not even there, for me education is a must, its very important, its the foundation on which every other thing is built, but you don’t have to do a 9 to 5 with what you studied in school. Entrepreneurship gives that voice of impact that everyone craves.
D’banj and Cobhams were made Agriculture ambassador, for ONEAgriculture Campaign by The African Union, what are your opinions on it and the fact that this year is tagged the year of Agriculture?
Its a good thing, since they are people of influence in Africa and can help create awareness for agriculture in Africa today. I think its a strategy to catch the attention of the youths to get back to the farms. Its a great thing, we want to go back to what used to be our life before the oil boom, but agricultural development in Africa really has a long way to go, we need to be serious about agriculture, it shouldn’t be politicized.
What do you think the government is not doing right as regards to agriculture and without involving the government, what can be done by Nigerians to take agro practices to the next level?
The current minister of Agriculture is doing a great job reiterating the importance of agriculture in Nigeria, but a lot work still has to be done in ensuring the proper implementation of the good policies and also the dissemination of up-to-date information on agricultural practices, especially to the rural farmers should be encouraged. More so, people can team up to form agricultural groups or co-operatives, this makes it easier to start agricultural ventures, i belong to one of such groups and we have had results.
What challenges have you faced in the planning and development stages of your venture?
The problems of agriculture in Nigeria cannot be undermined, i must tell you, it has not been an easy ride, the major challenge is acceptance, people want to see what projects you have handled in the past and where is someone that is just starting up going to get all of the experience that is expected. I had to do some free jobs, just to build my profile and that was how my first landscape project came, with God, hard work and persistence we will get there.
What would you tell young school leavers about horticulture?
Horticulture is more than what people think it is, an average man on the street believes its about the road side man that sells and help plant flowers, horticulture is about fruits, vegetables, ornamental plants and landscaping. Modern horticulture is big business and it provides employment for people with a wide variety of skills and is supported by an equally large number of service industries.