By Folasade Akpan
Traders of Africa (TOFA) academy have urged the Federal Government to address the issue of security challenges and bad roads to enhance off-taking of farm produce.
Ms Ogechi Belonwu, Head, Source Pro of TOFA, said this on Thursday in Abuja while speaking with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on the sidelines of a three-day training workshop for 50 women on agri-business.
The training was organised in conjunction with the 50 Million African Women Speak Project (50MAWSP), an African Development Bank (AfDB) initiative.
Off-taking is a guaranteed buying off of all the harvests of a group of farmers for industrial processing.
Belonwu said that many farmers could not get their farm produce to places where they could sell them at appreciable prices.
This, she said, was because they could not leave their communities due to bad roads, while off-takers also could not get to them to pick up the produce because of security challenges.
“It will really help if government works on the roads because transportation from the produce location down to destination takes a long time.
“For example, transporting produce from Kaduna to Ibadan should not take more than a day but it takes two to three days because of the state of the roads.
“Also, there are lots of farm produce in Nigeria but because of the security situation, a lot of people are restricted to certain markets and farms and so off-takers cannot pick up the farm produce from them.
“So we also use this medium to appeal to the Federal Government to help improve the situation and try to make things safe.”
Mr Unwana Usoro, the Registrar, said that the e-commerce company had a target to train 5,000 people on agri-business in five years and fund 200 people with loans to startup their own agri-business.
According to him, the participants are taught market intelligence.
“So we follow them up and say if you are buying from Benue for instance, the price in Benue is now this, so as they are going out to source they have an idea that there is a certain price they are looking at.
“They also use what we have taught them to calculate their landing cost and do all their negotiations by themselves.”
He, however, called for collaborations with funding and trade partners to achieve their training target.
“We need other trade partners to do what we are doing here in Nigeria, we will do it in Mali, then Ghana, and across the continent and that is really our target”, he said.
Emi Umoeka, a participant, said the training had been an experience on knowledge sharing and networking for farm produce.
“You know, so many women are not connected to the right sources where their businesses can be promoted.
“We have so many women in the rural areas farming so many things but we do not know how to get them out but with this knowledge we can reach out to them, network properly and sell their produce with ease.”
Mrs Folakemi Idowu, another participant, who is into sourcing for and supplying farm produce, said she had learnt new ways of sourcing for farm produce and identifying good and bad products without opening the bags.
“I now know how to relate with farmers, look for middlemen between me and the farmer or between me and the product and how to source which markets to go and where the products are the cheapest.
“We have also been taught when the produce will be available and for how long they will be.”
Mrs Saratu Ajibike, the Local Content Manager for 50MAWSP, said the training would be replicated in other states to integrate the women since they were the real farmers.
According to her, most times, women do not know where to sell their goods and were forced to sell cheaper when they do not get access to the right markets.
She, however, said that with the right training, women farmers would be able to empower themselves.
Talking about the 50MAWSP, she said it was a digital platform that provided a one stop shop for women entrepreneurs to access information, financial information, capacity building, mentorship, funding and markets.
“So, it is a platform that AfDB built to accommodate 50 million African women from 38 participating African countries on the platform.
“Women entrepreneurs have lots of challenges like funding, access to content, markets, and then they have to overcome the challenge on the home front.
“You have to balance your home and that is not easy at all. So these are all challenges that we get from them, day in, day out and even sometimes we have challenges of domestic violence.
“We have been able to harness all of this while having some depression classes on the platform because we know it is when a woman is sound that she can do business.”
NAN reports that TOFA is an e-commerce marketplace focused on driving trade between Africa and the world. (NAN)