How a Sunderland businessman is helping to create a self-sufficient Africa

A Sunderland businessman has co-founded a social enterprise company aimed at helping to grow a self-sufficient Africa.

Tuesday, 28th September 2021, 3:40 pm

Les Ojugbana, who’s lived in Sunderland for the past 22 years after coming here to study, is well-known in the city for businesses such as his Gbana Security firm and Fitness 2000 in Roker, which has long had a history of supporting the community with free gym passes for veterans and others going through a difficult time.

But he has always maintained business links with his home city of Lagos in Nigeria. Now, the former Sunderland University student has teamed up with old school friend, Ali Yagan, to set up FarmAfrik.org.

Aimed at creating a self-sufficient Africa, the Nigerian-based firm has recently secured several multi million-dollar contracts within the agricultural sector to supply both the Government and private sector with greenhouse farming equipment, expertise and training on an industrial scale.

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FarmAfrik is helping to tackle hunger poverty in Nigeria and beyond

As well as securing jobs for thousands of Nigerians across several states in the country, the initiative is set to play a role in helping to tackle hunger poverty by creating and teaching sustainable greenhouse and open field farming processes.

Utilising affordable greenhouse farming methodology, the firm has already started producing crops in all seasons to maximise output, instead of the traditional farming methods in the country which were limited to certain seasons.

Les said: “Our motto is ‘creating a self sufficient Africa’. Africa, and in particular Nigeria, has some of the most fertile lands in the world for farming, however, it imports the vast majority of its staple foods such as rice and vegetables, which can easily be grown in Nigeria. It has the man power – Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa."

Speaking about his passion for the project, Les said: “My philosophy in business has always been to make a positive impact in our local community and it’s something I’ve always practiced with my UK Sunderland-based businesses: we must look out for people in the community, support and give back in one way or another.

From left: FarmAfrik CEO and co-founder Ali Yagan, Azeez Oluwale from Wave City which operates a 500 hectare farm, and Les Ojugbana, co-founder of FarmAfrik

"With FarmAfrik I’m proud to say as a social enterprise training, creating and retaining jobs in a sustainable manner, we will be supporting and giving back to multiple communities across multiple states within Nigeria and soon multiple countries across Africa.”

Although Nigeria is more known on the world stage for its oil and gas production, Les says its farming potential is grossly underrated.

"Nigeria’s biggest and most underrated blessing is its arable land. Farming is the way forward, we should supply the world with food, as much as we do oil and gas,” he said.

The Nigerian Federal Government has also recognised the importance of sustainable farming and has recently earmarked 7 billion US dollars to assist in the revolutionisation of the Nigerian farming system.

FarmAfrik uses a mixture of greenhouse and open field farming techniques

FarmAfrik CEO and co-founder, Ali Yagan, said: “We are very proud of what we have achieved to date, but in a nation of well over 200 million people, we have barely scratched the surface of the issue of food security in Nigeria.”

He added: "However, we are glad that the Nigerian state and federal governments are taking a keen interest and making heavy investments into farming and agricultural as a whole and for that we commend the government and the CBN (Central Bank of Nigeria) they are making great strides to help make Nigeria a self sufficient African nation.”

Akinwumi Adesina, president of the Africa Development Bank, has previously said: “The future millionaires and billionaires of Africa will not be coming from oil and gas sector, they will be coming from the agriculture sector. But I want African countries to be looking at agriculture as a business, not as a way of life.

“Nobody smokes gas, nobody drinks oil, but everybody eats food. So food is critical and that is what Africa has a comparative advantage in.”

FarmAfrik is helping to secure thousands of jobs for farmers

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Some of the produce grown by FarmAfrik farmers