Banker-turned-poultry farmer: A champion for African agriculture
“If we must satisfy Africa’s food security with our growing population, then there must be high commercialization of agriculture. That is modern farming.” – Ayotomiwa Yinka Ogunsua, poultry farmer
When Ayotomiwa Yinka Ogunsua got a job as a loan officer at a microfinance bank in Ibadan, Nigeria, after graduating from university, he thought he’d done well for himself. Then, he spotted an online advertisement for a youth agricultural training program and signed up, owing to his interest in farming as a hobby.
Selected to interview for a place in the poultry rearing course, Ogunsua promptly quit his bank job and, he says, prayed he would get in. “I knew I wanted to follow my passion for agriculture full-time,” the 29-year-old Nigerian said.
Ogunsua did win a place in the course, organized last March by the Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation program, or TAAT, a program of the African Development Bank and partners including the CGIAR, a global research partnership. TAAT works to harness high-impact agricultural technologies to boost crop output and create viable opportunities for workers and entrepreneurs.
Soon after, Ogunsua bought 50 chicks and started a business.
The African Development Bank’s Director for Agriculture and Agro-Industry, Dr. Martin Fregene, said TAAT has the resources, scientific and technological expertise, as well as proven implementation plans to benefit millions of African farmers like Ogunsua.
“As the continent’s leaders gather for the High-level Dialogue on Feeding Africa at the end of the month, Ogunsua’s experience serves as an inspiration for governments to commit to investing in Africa’s food systems,” Fregene added.
“After the training, I saw agriculture as a proper business, not just a passion,” Ogunsua said via telephone from his farm, as roosters crowed in the background. “I realized this is something I must make income from, as something to pay my bills – something that I can build on as an enterprise,” he added.
The CGIAR’s International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, based in Ibadan, southwestern Nigeria, provides TAAT training courses that offer capacity building and technical assistance to African “agripreneurs.”
The training, Ogunsua says, gave him the technical know-how to expand his start-up, Vive Verde, from water, agricultural and environmental services into livestock production. Atops Farms, Ogunsua’s poultry business, grew to include 500 birds by early 2021. Then something wonderful happened.
“We sold out of birds for Easter,” Ogunsua said, noting that he makes more money from agribusiness than he did working as a loan officer.
As head of Atops Farms, Ogunsua does his part to advocate for Nigeria’s agriculture sector, appearing regularly on radio and television programs, and working to change society’s perception of farming as a pastime.
“Farming, for one, is to make a profit. It is also to ensure food security of the land, or the nation – of the continent,” he recently told Inspiration 100.5 FM radio(link is external). “If we must satisfy Africa’s food security with our growing population, then there must be high commercialization of agriculture. That is modern farming.”
Currently, he is expecting a shipment of new chicks to restock his coop, and while he waits for his chickens to mature, also rears turkeys, rabbits, and goats to generate cash flow and build his agricultural business.
“I am still a small farmer, but by the grace of God I am growing and I will get there,” he said.