In Abuja, farming is an enterprise that a large number of young entrepreneurs are investing in. The words ‘agriculture’ and ‘agribusiness’ have become prominent in Nigeria recently, with the government encouraging young people to get involved in the enterprise.
The government is placing emphasis is on the need for diversification from the country’s major source of revenue, oil—that industry accounts for over 95 per cent of export earnings and around 40 per cent of government revenues, according to the International Monetary Fund.
Economic analysts believe agriculture is an untapped sector of the economy that will help to provide lasting solutions to the high unemployment rate among youths who are willing and able to work. This call, however, requires creating innovative ideas from a new generation farmers in order to sustain the nation’s economy. Here’s one of the young entrepreneurs breaking grounds in city farming.
An epidemiologist turned environmental activist, Angel Adelaja is the Founder of Fresh Direct Nigeria. She is very dedicated to contributing her quota to agricultural practices in providing fresh food and vegetables for urban areas like Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city, by adopting a hydroponic system that enables her to grow plants without soil. With her effort to practice agriculture in a more simplified but efficient way, she significantly lowers the barrier to the practice, by reducing certain risks through the use of hydroponics and containerized farming—a system generally known as urban/city agriculture. Plants are grown with their roots in mineral solutions and water only, which are nutrients from organic waste as well as other biodegradable wastes. The practice prevents deforestation, conserves water and reduces greenhouse emissions.
Fresh Direct Nigeria, employs a city farming practice that uses the Vertical Farming technology of producing food and medicine in vertically-stacked layers, vertically inclined surfaces, and other integrated structures such as skyscrapers, used warehouses, or shipping containers. According to Adelaja, the eco-friendly agricultural practice guarantees a 15 times higher yield. A 20-foot container can grow the same amount as one-and-a-half football pitches with a nurturing period of four weeks or less. Adelaja’s decision to take up city farming was a result of the challenges she faced with conventional farming.
“I started with traditional agriculture and faced many of the same challenges others face in African agriculture. Finding land as a youth was difficult, but I was able to rent. Access to technology was expensive, so I decided to build them myself. Investing in infrastructure was expensive; land clearing, digging a borehole, electricity, staffing, building structures and more… Once I began, finding my market and transport was also a challenge.
“With all of the challenges I faced, I chose to make it easier with urban farming. I’m blessed to know when to stick with something and when to pivot the business. We pivoted to focus on urban farming, because it was a better, more eco-friendly, cost-effective, and sustainable solution. So, in essence, challenges inspired us!”
Adelaja’s motivation arose out of the need to engage in eco-friendly agriculture as well as find creative and attractive ways to get youths involved in the movement by eradicating the notion of agriculture as a career path for only the old and uneducated class. She also wanted to make greater impact than the government by generating profits, while solving a posing challenge in sustainable and innovative ways.
”I wanted to create jobs and use the jobs to change the thinking of my employees. I felt that was me doing my part. Fresh Direct Produce and Agro-Allied Services is an environmentally-friendly, organic agricultural production and processing company, which also deals in manufacturing agricultural equipment and technology such as greenhouses and stackable container farms,” she says.