MEET NIGERIA’S FINEST FARMER…

Hello folks, it’s another edition of “This is Me” and we are back and better with more thrilling stories of young personalities who are making waves in Port Harcourt and Nigeria at large.

Mr Lawrence Okpokiri

Now, in the course of last week I met this amazing personality, a dashing and handsome young man. Trust me, a lot caught my attention but one thing swept me off my feet – What he does for a living. He is a Farmer…I know someone is already wowed by that, but truly I was amazed when I found out that he is proud of what he does.

Now let us take a wonderful ride into Mr Okpokiri Lawrence’s domain;

Southernbrands Correspondent: Hello Mr Lawrence, could you briefly tell us about this farming business of yours and how it all started?

Mr Lawrence: “As already introduced, I am Okpokiri .B. Lawrence and I own a farm – “Farmerscreed”. I started immediately after my first degree, I had heard about fish farming and decided to do more research and reading on it. After my research I discovered that some of the wealthiest men in the western world are farmers, and I also believed as long as there are humans on earth, they must feed, so the business would always have a market and an avenue to make profit.

FarmerscreedI started by selling the idea to my mother, and we started a small farm in the house with me working on it and owning two ponds, that became my roller coaster ride into Agriculture. After the first encounter starting the farm at home, I went to work in the bank for about a year before moving to Ghana for about two and a half years where I set up and ran my own Serviced Office business. I later returned to Nigeria to setup my own Catfish farm as the margins in the other business wasn’t as good as what I initially made from farming. Talking of funding, I didn’t have the funds to start the farm, but I looked for financial partners, having them provide the finance while I bring the expertise and management and we share the profits.”

Southernbrands Correspondent: What has been the vision of Farmerscreed?

farmercreed1

Aerial of the New Ponds

Mr Lawrence: “Coming from the Niger Delta I found out that everyone seemed to run into the oil sector seeking employment, left to me I feel that Agriculture is the future of Nigeria, and that has been what has kept me going over the past eight years through all the challenges faced. In the nearest future, I see the richest people right here in Nigeria being farmers; I also see the Nigerian youth think outside the box to harvest the 170 million ideas and potentials we have as a nation.

I also see farmers not only thinking of farming in terms of hoes and shovels, but to think about the entire Agricultural Value Chain, the entire process which starts from Production to processing, to storage, to financing, to transportation, and down to Market. Anyone that could pick a sector in this value chain and implement it effectively would easily make millions.

I also see an agriculturally driven economy, and we the youths sitting at the helm of the value chain. Ten years from now, I see agriculture being the backbone of Nigeria Economy. I see Agriculture changing the fortunes of millions of youths and putting food on the table and money in the pocket of millions.”

Southernbrands Correspondent: So tell us, how lucrative has this business been?

Mr Lawrence: Agriculture is a very lucrative job, over the years it has been tough, but being able to persevere I’m beginning to reap the fruits of my labor. Once you have the passion for the business the more you enjoy it.

Southernbrands Correspondent: What are the challenges faced by the business and how have you been able to manage them?

farmerscreed3Mr Lawrence: “Truthfully, do not always believe all the motivational talk about starting a farm and make millions right away. Actually, farming is a patient man’s business which has its ups and downs. The two main challenges you would face getting into this business is the Human Factor and Expertise. How can you keep from being robbed blind by staff and from where do I get correct information that would suit my location and situation in order to avoid losses? These challenges can be managed by being able to seek out experienced staff and putting checks in places to prevent pilfering by staff based on past experiences.

I have been able to develop a Farm management Application (www.creedapps.com) that is still in the beta-phase. The Application seamlessly keeps a record of all farm activity, inventory, accounting etc. all by the farmer inputting what he did for that day.

In the future we are looking at integrating fraud detection and daily task delivery. The idea behind it is if I follow what a successful farmer did I would get the same result of the successful farmer, eliminating the need for expert staff, whilst creating a fraud detection system (e.g. if livestock is fed a particular quantity, they should gain particular weight, if they didn’t and the feed is gone, where did it go?), this is to say Farming has its own unique challenges which is applicable to other businesses.

One thing I can say, in this business you wouldn’t beg, but if you want to drive your Range immediately you’re in the wrong business, try 419.”

Southernbrands Correspondent: What has been your worst moment in the business?

Mr Lawrence: “The most challenging period in this farming business was when I lost five (5) million naira in poultry farming. I trusted too much and did not have a documented agreement; instead I believed words of mouth of someone I barely knew. In this business, if you want to go into a business agreement with a client or customer, make sure there is a document to back such agreement up.”

To read up the story, please check it up on this link http://farmerscreed.com/lost-5-million-naira-poultry-farming

Southernbrands Correspondent: What has been your high moment too?

farmerscreed4

Harvesting the Fish

Mr Lawrence: There has been various high moments in the business, one of the several times are times your profits are rolling in, but on the other hand, I guess the project I am working on right now would be one of my high moments too. Basically being able to achieve my dream and goals on a very large scale is a high moment for me.

Wow! I totally wish he could go on and on with the interview. But frankly I have learnt a lot. I also align myself with the dream of seeing a Nigeria that would not only depend on Oil as her main source of revenue generation.

Have you ever thought; “What if one day we no longer fine crude oil in our nation? What would we have as a source of revenue which could match up to the standard of Oil? I see agriculture growing to that level. What do you think?

                                                                                                                         

He is a young Nigerian who is passionate about positive social change, youth leadership development, and the growth of SMEs in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. Maple is the Principal Consultant of Mapemond Resources, a Brand Development and Idea Management Firm. He is the Founder of Fayples Nigeria, an online clothing store. He is also the initiator of the Southern Brands Project, an initiative aimed at inspiring creative enterprise among young Nigerians in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria.

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