Aishat Titilola, 29, is the CEO of TAD Farms in Oyo State. She is holds a degree in law from the University of Bedfordshire, Luton, England. She also runs a nongovernmental organisation, African Child Liberation Mission.
She breeds goats, sheep and rabbits and processes them as ready-to-eat produce. She has 11 staff made up of nine women and three men. In this episode of our Women in Agriculture, Ms Titilola shares her experience.
PT: Can you put us through your Journey in agriculture?
Ms Titilola: After I was called to Bar in 2014, I began the NYSC, during my service year, I started selling livestock on a commercial scale in 2016. During festive period, I bring down the animals from North to South to sell. In 2017, I began a new concept, we are basically into animal husbandry. We farm ruminants like goats, ram, rabbit. We are also into agro processing for our customers. We try to cut the middleman off to make more from what we are doing from agriculture. So the journey has been cool but challenges are always there.
PT: You spent about six years studying law, why did you prefer to practise agriculture?
Ms Titilola: I practised for a little bit but I wasn’t feeling the whole thing. I have so much energy in me and law did not give me the vibe but agriculture has been something I always wanted to do. I always wanted to own a farm since I was young. But I needed to get my future, that was how the law came and I had to do my LLB.
When I got the opportunity I was excited and I jumped at it.
PT: At the time you started, you were a corp member and may likely not have had so much money, how were you able to raise the capital?
Ms Titilola: After studies in England, I returned to the UK and I worked really hard to save up some money and started afresh in 2017. Along the line, my parents, friends and investors started putting their money in, giving me grants and all that. To be honest, I wouldn’t have gone far with my money alone, at some point my money even finished and the contributions started coming in.
PT: You have about 200 animals on your farm, how are you able to meet up to the demands of the public?
Ms Titilola: We have other suppliers, we cannot meet up to the demand based on the availability of our animals. We have other farmers within our locality and in our network. When you look at it, how many customers do I want to sell a hundred goats or 60 rams? What we do is this, the animals in the farm now are just for breeding because we have to slaughter some of them. We buy from other farmers and process for our customers. We process the animals to charcoal smoked meat.
PT: You have been in the sector for over five years, what would you say are the notable challenges in the sector?
Ms Titilola: Agriculture like other businesses in Nigeria is facing challenges. For example, instability in government policies. Today the government will say they are banning importation of rice, tomorrow they will lift the ban. We have infrastructural deficits, the road to the farms are bad, we also finance part of it, the government keeps saying they are empowering farmers, they are giving farmers some grants. We the real farmers are not getting any grants. All I have done on my farm is personal. We don’t even talk of electricity, I run on a generator almost everyday (24 hours) that’s not good for production. How do I compete in the international market with all these challenges? They are not encouraging the economy, we cannot grow without having the basis.
In fact the most troubling challenge is insecurity, right now farmers in Nigeria are always scared of going to the farm. From my house to the farm is 1hr 45 minutes drive and there is always kidnapping on that road. Since 2015, it has not gotten this bad, so I visit the farm daily before, now I select the days. It has reduced productivity.
PT: Before you started, was there a pre understanding that you will do better in processing than just selling the animals?
Ms Titilola: When I started, I just wanted to rear and sell the animals but I later realised that farming the animals and selling to middle men was just a waste of time. I had to figure out how to cut off the middle men. My mentor told me I could use social media to promote my business. At that moment I realised that I can do better. That was how I started processing.
I cut off the middle men and I interact directly with my customers. We are in charge of every value chain from rearing to processing to delivery.
PT: To own land is pretty difficult for women, how are you able to buy land?
Ms Titilola: I have about four hectares of land, when I was about getting it I just told a friend who connected me to getting the land.
PT: You own ruminant animals, feeding can be demanding, how do you feed the animals?
Ms Titilola: Feeding has been expensive since the farm is in a village, I get feed from the community. We feed them with cassava peels and other organic feeds. I cultivate grasses for them that grow in three weeks.
PT: Have you been harrassed because you are a woman?
Ms Titilola: No, I have not. These things depend on how you package yourself, you have to be bold and have a thick skin.
PT: If you are in a position to advise the government, what will you tell them?
Ms Titilola: I will tell them to fight insecurity. The cost of production is high because a lot of farms are closing down, insecurity has contributed to it. There are a lot of things to be done. Once infrastructure and electricity have been fixed, a lot of things will go down. Nothing is really stable.
PT: Do you belong to any association because it seems to help farmers achieve a lot?
Ms Titilola: I used to belong to an association, then I was part of the Rabbit Farmers Association, currently I don’t. It has not affected me in any way. I just read through the Internet. I believe in collaboration so I have a network of friends and we talk about ideas.
PT: Has the family slowed you down in any way?
Ms Titilola: No, I am single and I live with my family. They have been very supportive. Although when I started, my dad did not like the idea but when he saw I was serious he didn’t have a choice. He so much wanted me to practice.
PT: You left the UK, why did you not practise agriculture there, considering the fact that the system is stable and friendly.
Ms Titilola: I went on a student visa aside from that, I’m just so passionate about Nigeria. I was not just comfortable. It was about community and giving back to society.
PT: How do you combine running a farm with an NGO?
Ms Titilola: Farming is quite tedious, imagine combining it with an NGO. Funding an NGO is another thing. I just buy clothes for children within my host community, taking it to another level requires more money and I’m just doing it within my capacity. I plan to grow my business to a certain level before then I would begin a bigger charity home.
PT: In five years from now, where do you hope to find yourself?
Ms Titilola: I hope to open an outlet in all geopolitical zones. We hope to open in Lagos then in the North and Southeast. So I believe so much in organic growth, I believe in processes. Make TAD a household name.
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