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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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.
"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 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.”