One mustn’t have a degree in agriculture to venture into it, the Rotimi Williams’s story
In recent times, the Nigerian economy has witnessed several setbacks owing to the fall in the price of crude oil, from over a $100 to less than $50 per barrel.
The current government in power has been establishing various economic reforms that would mitigate the negative effect of this crisis.
Chief among these reforms is the diversification of the economy with agriculture as one of the key point.
One Nigerian who has keyed into this reform is banker-turned- rice farmer, Rotimi Williams, the CEO of kereskusk rice farms.
Rotimi Williams has the second largest rice farm in Nigeria in terms of land size. His secondary education was at king’s college in Lagos, south west Nigeria.
After that, Rotimi proceeded to London where he obtained his first degree and as well as his master’s degree from the university of Aberdeen.
Rotimi also obtained another master’s degree in finance and development studies at the school of oriental and African studies in London.
At graduation, Rotimi got a job at the European economic and financial center in London as a financial analyst and later on at Euromoney as a writer, with Africa as his main focus.
His job at Euromoney had Rotimi travelling through a lot of African countries whose economic mainstay was agriculture.
This exposed him to a lot of agricultural practices and then Rotimi decided to move bank to Nigeria and invest in the agricultural sector.
However, Upon the Aberdeen’s graduate return to Nigeria, things did not go according to plan.
Seeking to understand the dynamics of the Nigerian agricultural sector as well as to for source funds, Rotimi got a job at the agricultural division of one of Nigeria’s foremost bank.
What Rotimi expected was not what he got, as it turned out that the bank was not really ready to venture into agriculture.
It was at this point that Rotimi gave up and decided to go it alone. Together with his partner, they made attempts to source for funds and start up the farm.
This led them into various businesses such as setting up a trade and finance company, as well as consulting for small agricultural companies who wanted to raise funds.
Despite all done, raising the required finance still remained a big challenge and time was ticking.
Rotimi and his partner at this point thought up another strategy. They approached various farm owners with an offer of becoming co-owners in their business only if they could avail their farms to be used by Rotimi and his partners.
The icing on the cake was that funds for development of the farm would be borne solely by Rotimi and his partner.
The offer was too good for the farm owners to reject and as such, Rotimi and his partner got about 55,000 hectares in Nassarawa state, north central Nigeria from all farm owners combined.
In other to maintain a cordial relationship with his host community, Rotimi launched a programme known as Farm out of Poverty (FOOP) initiative.
The initiative trains about 100 Fulani women in rice farming every year, at the same time, employing their men as security and finally feeding their cattle with the rice straws after harvest.
The FOOP initiative also trains about 30 Nigerian children in senior secondary schools every year on the rudiments of agriculture.
The rice farmer who said that one mustn’t have a special degree in agriculture to be a farmer got to know a lot about rice production from reading various articles on the internet.
With a current farm size of about 45,000 hectares- which was what was he was left with after splitting up with his partner- and a work force of over 550, Rotimi said that approaching people with respect and having a healthy sense of community makes all the difference in attaining one’s set objectives.
Kerekusk rice farm currently produces about 8000 metric tons of rice annually with plans for expansion. Its rice paddies are supplied to various milling companies all over Nigeria.
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