Heifer International’s ‘AYuTe Africa Challenge Nigeria’ has awarded three agritech entrepreneurs $20,000 in cash grants to rewrite the history of agriculture in Nigeria and to rethink farming and food production on the entire continent.
A total of five finalists competed in the grand final, which was held in Lagos yesterday and featured more than 600 entries. Soupah Farm-en-Market Limited won the top prize of $10,000, followed by Simkay Foods Limited in second place with a prize of $6,000, and Evet Technology in third place with a prize of $4,000.
Rufus Idris, the country director for Heifer International Nigeria, claimed that the nation’s agriculture is one of the least productive and productive in terms of yields, and it is also under-mechanized, leaving families with no choice but to engage in manual labour, which can occasionally be more expensive.
According to him, some smallholder farmers are engaged in farming in areas that are susceptible to the effects of farming chains, such as flood, drought, pests, and diseases. As a result of their inability to access basic services, the care market, better input and seeds, as well as financing and technology that could help them increase and improve their productivity, small-holder farmers are currently struggling and living in poverty in the sector in which we also operate.
“Nigeria and Africa’s small rural farmer’s population are ageing, we have an average of 60 years old and the younger ones are not interested in replacing those that have retired,” he said.
According to him, inflation is skyrocketing in the country, fueled mainly by food
inflation, noting that the country needs youths with energy, tech-savvy and entrepreneurial skills that can be channelled to transform the agricultural sector.
He said to address these issues, Heifer International invests more than $1.5 million to accelerate digital agriculture entrepreneurship in Africa through the AYuTe Africa Challenge cash grants to support promising young agritech innovators across Africa who are using technology to reimagine farming and food production across the continent. According to him, the new national competitions in Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal and Uganda are offering young innovators a chance to secure funding and visibility to scale their ideas and ambitions to ensure they chart a course for better agriculture in the continent.
He said like the Regional Champions competition, the AYuTe National Champions competition offers prize money and mentorship, helping translate the energy and ideas of young Nigerian agritech innovators into meaningful impact for
smallholder farmers across the country, and supporting winners to grow their businesses and profile.
The Lagos State Commissioner for Agriculture, Abisola Olusanya, said there is always demand for food at every point, with about N9 billion worth of food consumed every day in the state.
Olusanya, who was represented by the Director of Fisheries, Lagos State Ministry of Agriculture, Emmanuel Audu, said as the population in Africa is increasing, with a projection of the numbers expected to reach four billion people by 2050, there will be many challenges while calling on youths to take advantage of the immense opportunities and economic benefits.
She said the country’s food market system is already characterised by several factors, including wastage and an unhygienic environment.
The Commissioner said the country should ensure the food system meets up with
demand by increasing investment in mechanisation, developing technologies and investing in viable seeds such that productivity per square metre is fully enhanced.
She said the state government has acquired brand new tractors for lease to assist in the mechanisation of the farming system.
Olusanya also noted that the state government is looking at establishing a modern food storage system that will ensure foods are stored within the system with the entire infrastructure required to preserve it.
According to her, the project is already 95 per cent complete and will be launched before the end of the year.