In Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, smallholder farming is a perilous occupation. Although agriculture represents a quarter of the economy, the sector is unready to meet the food needs of a population expected to double over the next generation. Meanwhile, the burgeoning youth population faces 50 percent unemployment against a backdrop of three insurgencies in the past twenty years.
To help prevent the spread of insecurity in Nigeria, a revitalized agricultural sector that offers its youth attractive prospects for a viable income is urgently needed. Babban Gona is an investor-owned social enterprise serving small networks of smallholder farmers with a model created specifically to attract youth. The members receive development and training, credit, agricultural inputs, marketing support, and other key services. Besides increasing each farmer’s yield and income to 2.3 times the national average, the Babban Gona franchise works to demonstrate that the smallholder segment is a viable model for investment and to attract massive new capital to the sector.
Low yields, lack of market access, and exposure to risk trap smallholder farmers in poverty, driving young people to urban centers where their prospects for employment are often grim.
Babban Gona applies bargaining leverage, economies of scale, and technical assistance to improve yields and livelihoods using an agricultural model designed to attract young people .
Kola Masha aims to create a viable future for Nigeria’s young people in agriculture, breaking cycles of poverty and unemployment that make them vulnerable to extremist groups.
With access to better seeds, fertilizers, and markets with bargaining power, farmers increase food security and invest in the education and health of their families.
Smallholder farmers gain reliable and low-cost access to quality inputs, credit, training, and market access. This drives increased yields and profitability, while reducing risk and attracting sustainable sources of financing and government buy-in. Youth are attracted to careers as agriculture entrepreneurs.
Growth and independent replication
Babban Gona seeks to reach as many smallholder farmers as rapidly as possible, and shares elements of its model with agriculture groups, government, the World Bank, among others.
Kola Masha was born in Nigeria and educated in the United States, receiving an MBA with honors from Harvard and a Master of Science with Distinction from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 2007, he returned to Nigeria, where he led a major subsidiary in the Notore Group, one of Nigeria’s leading agricultural conglomerates, raising capital to develop an integrated agricultural trading, production, and processing business. He led a commercial strategy for selling fertilizer and establishing a modern seed business across West and Central Africa. He lived with farmers to learn the fundamentals and challenges of smallholder agriculture and founded Babban Gona in 2010 to advance a comprehensive approach to smallholder agriculture, youth employment, and opportunity. Kola was inspired by his grandfather, a poor smallholder farmer in South Dakota, who leveraged farmer cooperatives to attain economies of scale and increase his profitability enough to send Kola’s mother to university. He has been recognized for his practical vision and leadership, as well as his ability to build political and private sector support across state lines, parties, and religions in Nigeria.