Our Knowledge Management and Communications Executive Interviewed the CEO of Farm Republic over the phone and it was a totally Fun interview which had moments of loud bouts of laughter in between the discussions. This post is to celebrate her as our Woman Crush Today.
Oyindamola Asaaju with 5 years progressive experience in the Agribusiness industry, holds a Bachelor’s degree in Home Science and Management from the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta and a Masters in Business Administration. She worked with the IITA Youth in Agribusiness Office as team lead, where she coordinated all activities; from production, to processing to capacity building. Asides leading the team, she served in the Value Addition Unit where agro-products were developed on a commercial scale. She also represented the group in a number of conferences as a speaker, panelist and participant in Nigeria and beyond its shores.
She now serves as Founder and CEO of Farm Republic, an Agribusiness startup based in Lagos, established in 2018 with the aim of creating market solutions for farmers, using technology.
She is also a humanitarian and serves as lead volunteer in an organization that gives basic support to underprivileged children in remote areas.
How did you become interested in agriculture?
I worked with the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) for 4 years as Project coordinator and Sales & Marketing Personnel. I was exposed to the challenges faced in Agriculture, including those faced sell the farm produce as a sales personnel, and I saw the opportunities that could come from them. This is how I developed passion for agriculture.
What were your plans before venturing into agriculture?
I wouldn’t call it a plan. I have a goal and plans change. So I run with what I love and what my hands find to do. Before agriculture I was into fashion and I still am, although on a very small scale. My plan is to do whatever I choose to do, well. I have an NGO and I still do. I want to keep inspiring people with my successes and failures.
Has your gender ever been an issue since you started your journey in Nigerian agro space?
I was actually talking to someone about this recently about being a female in the Nigerian Agriculture space. When I was working at IITA, gender equity was highly placed and so I didn’t get treated differently or less for being a female. They helped me speed up every process of my career at the time. However, being an entrepreneur, I have had to fight for what men fight for which I am happy to do. A lot of people think a young woman can only do so much or should be doing other things except leading an organization, I have to work twice as hard to prove myself daily.
Tell me about when people made you feel bad for being a woman in agriculture
Well, I can’t quite remember because I have a thick skin so no one can make me feel less.
What issues do women in agro-space face that their counterparts don’t face?
I think for women in Agriculture, especially production, they face the challenge of land ownership. A lot of women especially in Africa have to go through their husbands to get a piece of land.
How crazy is the ratio of women to men when it comes to getting access to lands?
I would say ratio 90 to 10; 90 being men while 10 for women. Even married women still have to go through their husbands to get access to lands. This is a serious issue.
If you could change or implement a policy in favor of women in agriculture, what would it be?
I think women should be allowed to speak for themselves especially in policy making. I have been to conferences in Nigeria and outside where 80-90 % of speakers are men and these men are in the policy making positions, trying to speak for or on behalf of women. I think there should be gender equity. Men cannot actually interpret what women go through but with gender equity women will be able to speak for women and this will help with a better representation of issues faced by women.
Do You Think That Nigeria Will Be Able To Feed Itself Anytime Soon?
I think it depends on leadership. In 2018, about 60% of farm produce went to waste. Imagine if that didn’t go to waste.
There are many initiatives from the Government right now that do not tackle grassroot problems. They are giving out inputs and these are alright but the roads are bad and there is no constant power supply for storage. Imagine my shock when I visited an industrial area and the roads were very bad. How would their products get to the market and not waste? How would they preserve their farm produce? It all depends on leadership that can facilitate the right infrastructure.
Advice to younger women in Business.
Identify your strength and know that you cannot do everything alone, you need others. Collaborate and delegate responsibilities. Find your niche and grow the brand. Know your skill set and get others who can help solve problems as well.
Tell us about your NGO
Little Kindles Africa will be five this year. We started in 2014 and have reached out to about 2000 kids in Lagos and Oyo states giving out food, clothes and educational materials. we have about 50 volunteers across Nigeria and 3 boards members. Our events are in form of outreaches with focus on kids in rural communities who do not have access to basic needs. Last year, we helped renovate a school in mele community in Ibadan, Oyo state. This year we will be equipping 10 school libraries with story books and #tripsthrupages is the tagline of the event this year.
If you could change a thing or two about your journey, what would it be?
I would not change nothing. When people see me now, they don’t know what I have been through. I am not there yet but I am far from where I started from.
My journey is such an interesting one that has taught me a lot. When I finished from University, I couldn’t get a good job and had to serve as a waitress where some of my colleagues in University would come and I had to pack plates after them. I never felt bad because I have a focus, I don’t settle for less, I always keep it going. This part of my Journey has taught me humility, perseverance, and acting on a vision. I have learnt starting from scratch, organizational structure and I wouldn’t change that phase of my life for anything; every part of a Journey is a lesson learnt.
If you were not In Agro Space, A Farmer or Doing What You Are Doing, What Would You Be Doing Now? Fashion or NGO or Both?
If I wasn’t doing Agriculture, it would be fashion. The NGO will always be there.
I have identified the 3 things in my life that I want to focus on: Agriculture, Fashion and Humanity. So, if I wasn’t doing Agriculture, it would have been fashion. I love clothes and many times, people ask me why I am in Agriculture and not solely fashion.
What Is Your Favorite Quote?
Win Some, Lose Some
Who Are Your Role Models?
Aliko Dangote, Kimora Lee Simmons; I Love Her
Where Do You See Yourself And Farm Republic In Five Years?
Farm republic sees herself as that Agricultural Company that links other industries or sectors to Agriculture. We have started with Tech but we will be working with other sectors. Maybe Music? Maybe Fashion? Fingers crossed.
What About Where You See Yourself In Five Years?
I want to function at policy level in Agriculture. If nothing changes in Policy, nothing changes really. I want to speak for people whose voices get trampled upon in Agriculture.
Yeah, policy level for me.
Final Words To fellow Women in Agricultural space?
Nothing is impossible; if you can put in the work, you can make it happen. Being a woman is an Advantage and not a Disadvantage. People expect something different from you all the time but then you surprise them. That’s the power of being a woman.