A History of FarmKonnect by AZEEZ Oluwole, Founder and CEO, FarmKonnect Nigeria.
The revelation that ignited the idea which grew into a conviction and a passion that we project today came as a curious paradox. It was an encounter that positioned me to learn from the infinite wisdom that the most prudent way to overcome rejection was to embrace it with humility and open-mindedness.
I was retiring to Nigeria following a protracted business engagement in Cairo, Egypt. This was pretty after my maiden trip to Dubai where I’d learned that it was possible and a fashionable thing to own a house or a part of a skyscraper for a specific period of time — an idea and practice contrary to the ‘’I want to build my own house and own in it for life’’ mentality that is prominent in most part of Africa especially in Nigeria.
On the trip back to Nigeria, I was sitting by the window of the airplane that was conveying us and next to a pretty young woman who I presumed may be working with a Not-for-profit and Non-Government Organization and heading to Abuja for an international conference. Afraid of appearing boring or, worse still, losing the opportunity to meet a potential client, I mustered courage and started to develop a conversation with the lady. But she didn’t plug in the same mood and energy with me. Rather, she responded to my kind gestures with unreserved aloofness. I was momentarily taken aback by her brusque attitude, but because I wasn’t looking for a girlfriend or soul mate, I quickly recovered from the shock as I steered my attention to the more beautiful world outside of the aircraft which was unlikely equally imagined by any other person on board the plane at that time.
I thought to myself that rather than chatting with and spending a fortune of my time to impress the unfriendly woman, it would be at least safe if not exhilarating to mind my own business until the plane touchdown. So, in the most part of the journey, I was looking through the window to scan the atmosphere in a thoughtful spirit and scholarly demeanor that soon connected me with the wondrous beauties of nature. This experience transitioned into the most rewarding part of the journey for me.
As the airplane pierced through the ether above the planes of the Sahara, the earth was engulfed in a rhythm of brown that conjured a graceful overview of it from that altitude. Centuries of miles away from the heart of the Sahara, we reached the Republic of Chad. I saw a small body of water flanked by some patches of grey grasses. My handy Atlas told me that was the proverbial Lake Chad. And as we continued into the core of the sub-Sahara, the landscape became greener and pleasing to the sight that beheld it. From that altitude, I didn’t need any proof or some wheedling epiphanies to realize the agricultural potential of Africa and how it is grossly underutilized.
With over half of the world’s arable land and more than one-third of the world’s water resources, Africa is still the most malnourished continent and is considered to be at the ebb of the world food supply. The wildlife reserves of Africa and the wide pool of strength of the continent’s Smallholder farmers are without any scintilla of doubt the mitochondria of her competitive advantage in the global economy. In my estimate, miles above the ground, Africa was capable of feeding the world. The Sub-Sahara Africa alone can conveniently supply grains, vegetables and fishes to the Sahara and a significant part of the rest of the world. Unfortunately, things are not working as they ought to in our clime due to peculiar problems like unsophisticated policies, lack of integration among agricultural stakeholders, lack of access to finance to smallholder farmers, lack of awareness, land tenure problem, intertribal conflict among many other challenges.
The revelation ignited in me a spark of light and glimmer of hope that channeled my muse and energy towards the surging need to adequately harness Africa’s agricultural strength. The revelation also took me down the memory lane – the days of my apprenticeship under my brothers, Mr. Yusuf Abiodun Azeez and Mr. Taofeek Afolabi, who taught me the nitty-gritty of fish farming and aquaculture business. The skills and experiences I acquired from my brothers sustained me for years before I was officially recruited into the Nigerian navy at the age of 18 years. After seventeen years of unalloyed service in the Nigerian Navy and expedition across the world, my philosophy about peace and security shifted from an overbearing emphasis on arms and ammunition to an overarching exigency of food which is the basic of Agriculture. This paradigm shift accompanied by my passion and definiteness of purpose to feed the world triggered my retirement from the military and then spurred my active engagement in the food and agribusiness sector. Although my retirement from the military was a tough decision for me to take, I eventually resolved that going into the agribusiness sector would not only bring new challenges and experiences, it would also translate into an opportunity for me to bring Millions of people out of poverty and hunger – ‘’it would be a great honour serving the nation in another sphere of critical importance’’ I prepped myself.
Thence, I committed myself to living the life of a farmer with significant influence on the people. I imagined a situation where many people make several Million from farming without them necessarily stepping on the farm or going through the toils experienced by the traditional farmers. This I believed was possible with the aid of advanced technologies and a sound model. In 2014 I started work with fewer than ten people of like minds to make manifest the big idea. We understood and were satisfactorily convinced that the major trouble with Africa’s Agricultural sector is lack of integration among the different stakeholders in the sector, so we set out to connect players at different levels of the agricultural value chain. Hence, we named ourselves FarmKonnect Nigeria.
Against all odds, FarmKonnect started with a capital of 30 Thousand Naira, and the living room of my former house at Mokola, Ibadan was then used as our office. Through the industry and undying passion of all FarmKonnectors and the supports from Families, friends and business associates, FarmKonnect has grown to become what it is today. The Nigerian Social enterprise and first Agricultural Real Estate Company in Africa expanded its client base by 500 percent and staff strength by 102 percent over the last quarter of 2019.
Every rejection is impregnated with the seed of its equivalent opportunity. So, when you are faced with rejection or temporary defeat, consciously lookout for the embedded equivalent opportunity.
We are FarmKonnect Nigeria.