…opens investment windows to subscribers

Efforts at curbing the huge foreign exchange of over $2 billion spent annually on importation of food and agricultural items in the country is gaining traction with an innovative agribusiness model introduced by the Nigerian Farmers Group and Corporative Society.

The revolutionary model, which runs on over 1,000 hectares of land in Gaate, Nasarawa State, offers Nigerians from across the world opportunity to invest in the farm as subscribers without being present, while the corporative utilizes the fund to employ farmers who cultivate the hectares on their behalf with high yield crops, grow, harvest, process, warehouse and market the harvests.

The all inclusive farm, which also offers ranching platform under the supervision of paid herdsmen, delivers good return on investment to the subscribers at the end of a farming circle, as well as, gives subscribers’ opportunity to invest in its two investment windows of February-May and August-November farming circles.

Speaking on the rationale for the ultramodern farm settlement, Retson Tedheke, national coordinator/secretary general, Nigeria Farmers Group and Cooperative Society, said the farm was informed by the vision of some human right activists turned agriculturists who left their endless occupying of the National Assembly to occupying the farms to empower the people.

 “Our vision is to revolutionize food production, impact the value chain and create gainful employment for people at the long run. Aside leasing the land from the owners, we have employed over 300 locals who we pay weekly to work on the farm and they are now breadwinners in their families. We have become part of them by building learning centres, installing boreholes and impacting their social life.

“As we do that, we create gazing routes for any Fulani community that owns cattle around us, and also employ them as farmers and security team. With that arrangement, they know that the farm pays their bills, support their families; hence they will not allow their cattle to destroy the farm”, Retson further explained.

For Retson, who has been turbaned by the Gaate people for his benevolence, the value of importation of food items, that could have been produced in the country is huge, as well as, it is sad that less than 200,000 tractors are available for a population of 180 million people, of which 40-50 percent are into farming.

The repentant Niger Delta militant, noted that the corporative model has beaten any known model in the past and is wooing many Nigerian investors because of the efficiency of the system, transparency and business model that ensures good return on the investments of the subscribers.

 “Ours is a project that is on ground and should be supported. It is a model that the private sector can tap into because we have removed all the fears that scare people from investing in agriculture. You can access the farm and monitor our activities”, Retson explained.

On return on investment, the revolutionary agriculturist said, “In the last farming season, we paid off everybody that invested and most of them have invested even more with us in the new farming season”.

Another good thing about the model is the insistence on the research-based farming that has resulted in planting high yield variants, reduction on cost per hectare and improvement of the soil fertility through soil texture among other tests.

As well, Nigerian Framers Group and Corporative Society encourages local fabricators by using locally fabricated equipment from Enugu, Ibadan and Ilorin to boost its production process aside partnering research institutes across the country on crop trends.

Currently, the corporative is funded by the subscription of some Nigerians who believe in the project, debt and equity support from companies such as Apical Limited, which is developing a warehouse at the farm and KiaKia, a young Nigerian company that is involved in micro lending and has sustained the corporative through credit support.

However, Retson noted that the farm, which started last year, is in need of fund and support for expansion and to optimize its potential of over 1000 hectares.

“Private sector support is limited because of the emphasis on quick returns on investment. Agriculture is not something you go into today and want to make money immediately. It has a process, which you have to set up and make it work. We are discussing with Apical and Kiakia to see if we can have access to foreign funding. If you go to Nigerian banks, the cost of money is insane. If I go to a Nigerian bank to pick N1 billion loan to support the farm, I will be doing that at 25 percent interest rate including administrative charges. But a Singaporean farmer here in the north central is picking his loan at 2 to 3 percent, then how can I compete with him. Cost of funding is as important as the funding itself”, he decried.

But the biggest intrigue of the Nigerian Farmers Group and Corporative Society is the peaceful coexistence of locals, herdsmen, and the farm staff from across the country.

Retson said the farm is a template the federal government should copy to resolve the incessant farmers-herdsmen clashes across the country. The secret for him is the inclusiveness of the model and even encouraging Fulani herdsmen to try ranching on the farm instead of open grazing.