Lawyer Turned Eco Farmer Titilola Aishat Damilola Encourages Nigerians To Go Into Farming
Exclusive interview by The News
Miss Titilola Aishat Damilola, a lawyer with the Oyo State Ministry of Justice , is the owner of TAD Meadows (aka Tadfarms), Ibadan. A native of Igboho, in Oyo state, she was born in Okeho, Oyo state on 28 July 1991. She attended Juniors International School, Oluyole Estate, Ibadan, had her secondary education at Regina Mundi Girls secondary school, Iwo, Osun state and proceeded to England for her LLB at (University of Bedfordshire, Luton.)
She returned to Nigeria in 2013 and went to Nigerian Law School, Abuja and had her LLB and BL. Her passion for children and community development led her to establish an NGO, African Child Liberation Mission, ACLIM.
Through the organization, she and her team embarked on various projects and campaigns in Abuja to empower children. They advocated against child abuse while they brought succor to the less privileged and the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) children.
She returned to Ibadan, Oyo State immediately after her service year in 2015 and began the process to try her hand in farming and then established Tadfarm.
It was a new terrain with a lot of challenges, but she was determined to make a success out of it and put all her heart into it.
She runs an eco friendly farm which is primarily into animal husbandry.
She told TheNEWS’ Ademola Adegbamigbe: “We breed and rear all sort of domesticated animals like rams, goats, pigs, rabbits, birds etc. We are also into value addition, we process most if our animals to meet the direct needs of our customers.”
You studied Law. What fired your interest in farming?
I have always loved the idea of farming as a child. I wanted to build a castle in the middle of the ranch and live.
So it’s been a childhood thing. Another motivation was my experience with my NGO. The sights of many malnourished and hungry children hurt my soul. So many times, I wish I could feed all of them.
There are times we had to take food to them. Even before the NGO as a kid, watching children roam about on the streets of Ibadan moved me; So I imagined if I could feed them and feed the nation.
The idea grew into an obsession and a dream. After law school, I just decided to go into farming.
Did you face discouragements from professional colleagues, family members and others?
No i didn’t. Everyone encouraged me. Though they were a bit skeptical at first.
They thought I was an “ajebutter” (spoilt child) so I would not have been able to survive the first few months (laughs) but to their surprise we are going to our third year now.
My parents however, have been very encouraging and supportive.
Tell us about your childhood
My childhood was as normal as it could get. I am the first of three children.
My parents are middle class Nigerians who have worked very hard to make sure we get the best of education and make something out of our lives.
My parents have been very supportive, I have always had a good family support system since I was a child.
It was so easy sharing my dreams and aspirations with them. Without my parents I can’t imagine how far I would have come.
They have imbibed so much possibility into my siblings and I.
I think I started learning how to take responsibility for my self and my actions at an early age.
I travelled to England for my University education at age 17 so it meant me taking responsibilities for my actions.
Does it occur to you that you may have your fingers soiled as a lady ?
(Laughs) Not at all. I love the challenge. I love the dirt. It is exciting. That is what makes you a Farmer. You gotta get your hands soiled.
What were the challenges you faced when you wanted to start?
My first challenge was getting the right team to work with. Getting reliable staff with motivation to deliver.
Did you face any challenge trying to secure land?
No I didn’t. I did my due diligence very well. I mean I am a lawyer. My law degree has to count for something!
When you wanted to start, did you undergo a crash program on Agric training?
Yes I did. I went to a pig village in Oke Aro for training. I also visited some few farms in the south west too. Then I spoke with a couple of professionals who had experience in the industry.
One thing that discourages people from going into agribusiness is theft of produce. How do you check that?
My workers understand the consequences of theft. I do not encourage any form of dishonesty.
However, I always encourage honesty and open mindedness: it could be with gift or money.
I also have not had any issue with the village as I see them as a family. They are part of me and I am part of them.
Another is the invasion of cows on your crops…
Not at all. My farm is fully fenced with wire mesh.
Do you face any difficulties marketing your products?
No I do not. I use social media to maximum effect as I realize many are either too busy with works or far away. I also benefit from referrals from happy customers.
How easy was it for you to raise funds for your massive project?
I saved up some money but at some point, it wasn’t enough so I had to raise funds from my parents. Along the line, friends invested in the business too, haven seen how far we have come and the potentials of our company.
In agribusiness, who is your mentor?
Alhaji Miftah Adediran. He is called the Cashew King. I am thankful for his guidance and his support. He has been a mentor like no other. Through him, I have learnt so much in this sector and business generally. His support cannot be over-emphasized.
What are your future plans for your farm?
The future is to become an Agric tourist farm, where people from all classes can visit, learn and enjoy the farm. We are trying to change the narrative. Farming isn’t as boring as you think. You can farm and enjoy every bit of it.
What is your advice to the government in the area of policy on Agric?
The government has a lot to contribute to support the farmers. Beyond funding, there are things that government is in the best in position to undertake.
Infrastructure for one: Having good road network is vital for farmers as many times their goods have to reach the market and subsequently the end users.
Farmers cultivating perishable products cannot afford to keep their produces for a certain number of days and also many customers appreciate fresh farm products.
Power is another area that government can support. To make agriculture more enticing for youth, government needs to provide incentives and also support efforts of the farmers.
There is also need to widen agricultural insurance to support farmers in minimizing loss. Subsidize farm machinery.
Make farm machinery affordable for farmers .The government also needs to protect local farmers from foreign competitors and encourage patronizing of local producers.
Ban on imported foodstuffs should be enforced. Another area is the cost of production.
When the costs of production for locally made raw materials are low, importation of these raw materials will not be attractive while local producers can export and earn foreign exchange on their products.
Most importantly, I urge government to support secondary industries in the processing and manufacturing sector.
It will stimulate industrialization and also lead to more employment generation in general.
Above all, farmers benefit more from this as they are primary supplier of raw materials.
What is your advice for potential investors in agribusiness?
Investors need to understand what they are investing in before putting in their money.
Agriculture is not a get rich quick scheme. It takes times. It takes a lot of patience.
Passion also plays a very important role. Be passionate.