E-farms, a woman-led crowdfunding platform for Nigerian farmers, knows there are other platforms in Nigeria such as FarmCrowdy, ThriveAgric, Farmkart, PorkMoney among others doing nearly the same things for farmers.
But E-Farms founder and CEO Divine-Love Akam, who hails from the Eastern region of Nigeria, says her platform is the one to look out for.
The progressive economist with a focus on emerging markets and how they can be transformed through the agricultural sector, graduated from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka in 2015. Apart from economics degree, she added a certificate in Entrepreneurship and Entrepreneurial Management from Adansonia Project and the Enterprise Development Center, Pan-Atlantic University, Lagos respectively, knowing well the future was in striking out into entrepreneurship.
The 2019 African Innovation Fellow (AIF) has been opportune enough to lead in different academic, social and religious capacities. She’s a focused, a resourceful, passionate and target-driven entrepreneur with a can-do attitude.
TechMoran met up with her and this is what she told us.
What is Agri-financing? What inspired you to start this venture?
Agri-financing is simply providing funds or resources for carrying out agricultural activities. These funds can be provided through various sources private or public. My journey into entrepreneurship was partly inspired by an experience I had starting a catfish farm as a fresh graduate in 2015. I experienced huge losses because I didn’t have practical knowledge, as well as a hike in feed costs during the course of the project. But I soon realized that I was not alone; lots of other farmers faced same challenges and more. E-farms was founded to ensure that farmers have all the resources and finance required for optimal production.
You have a background in economics, what lessons did you learn that you applying at Efarms?
Well, Economics is a broad course and as such finds application in several sectors. And as you know, it focuses on how scarce resources can be allocated to satisfy human needs efficiently, the importance of cost-benefit analysis, production efficiency and optimality, cost minimization, profit maximization, labour efficiency amongst a host of other focus areas. So I have applied all these in E-farms, especially the aspect of cost minimization, where my nickname from my colleagues became “cutting costs”, from my frequent queries to the project teams to cut down costs lol. Besides, since we are dealing with finance, it’s very important to try as much as possible to be efficient in using the available finance for maximum productivity.
How does E-farms operate on a daily basis and how do you recruit your members?
Our operations involve engaging smallholder farmers to help them efficiently increase their capacities and incomes. This requires us to engage financiers, commodity buyers, and input suppliers so as to provide farmers with agricultural best practices, finance and access to markets. But we are also focused on encouraging youth participation in agriculture through agricultural training. This is our own contribution to help reduce the increasing unemployment in Nigeria. To identify farmers, we engage with other farmer-based organizations and farmers associations.
What do you find interesting about your job?
Everything about my job is very interesting. Our vision is to digitally transform the agricultural sector in Nigeria and ensure food security in Nigeria and Africa at large. So waking up with this in mind is a driver for me; the knowing that I am able to contribute in my own way towards the development of Nigeria and giving some hope to smallholder farmers in Nigeria is both fulfilling and self-gratifying.
Are there any particular challenges that you face in the day to day running of your organization? How are you solving them?
Of course, every business faces some challenges in running their business. A particular challenge is our efforts to reduce farmers dependence on traditional methods of farming to a better and more efficient way of farming and seeing farming as a business rather than mere sustenance. We are solving this by engaging farmers in training before the commencement of the farm project and also engaging other professionals in monitoring the farm during farm operations.
Any advice to other female entrepreneurs in Africa?
In one word, I will say FOCUS. There are so many distractions and discouragement faced by female entrepreneurs in Africa. One needs maximum focus to keep doing what one loves without having to quit all because of the pressure and setbacks that comes with doing business in Africa.
What kind of financing is available for emerging and smallholder farmers in Nigeria?
Basically, there are private and public financing available for both emerging and smallholder farmers in Nigeria; but public financing are not easy to come by.
What advice would you give to farmers on how to manage funds?
Farmers must plan their operations so that they do the right things at the right time. For instance, if you fail to apply herbicides at the right time when the weeds are grown it would cost you more.
Tell us more about the academy; what advice would you give to youth faced with the challenge of unemployment?
E-farms farmers academy is focused on providing practical training to interested youths in agriculture. Its not for just any youth but one that has the interest and passion to get involved in the agricultural sector; so as to set up an agri-business with such knowledge, earn from it and come out of the unemployment problem in Nigeria. My advice to youth facing unemployment challenge is to find a skill they are interested in and make an income from it; the government may not be able to employ every youth at the same time, but we owe it a duty to ourselves to make something for ourselves and also contribute positively to the development of our country. Truth is, once the passion for a skill is well developed, then youth can embark on such venture and keep at it even when at the start, they might be no profit; this is where focus is very much needed to stay committed and with time, the hustle pays off.
Women play a key role in Agricultural Production in Africa but despite that, they are constrained by lack of involvement in decision making and access to finances. What do you think governments should do to resolve these issues?
This issue has persisted especially in Africa despite the much contribution of women in the agricultural sector over the years. I think Governments should make efforts in creating a special package for women in agriculture and make finance easily accessible to them.
Where do you want to see E-farms in the next five years?
In the next five years, we want to reach out to more smallholder farmers and youths in more geo-locations in Nigeria and across Africa; and we want to be the go-to business for agri-finance and training in Sub Saharan Africa.