When you consider the past year and COVID, has agriculture overcome and persisted despite the struggles?
In Nigeria I’d say agriculture has overcome a couple of roadblocks, despite the struggles and thanks to persistence and pushing through.

This is because the pandemic was a great awakening for people to realize that agriculture does go beyond just making money, gaining return on investments, and looking at the returns in investment. It is now a necessity.

The shelves during the pandemic had the food products go off first, and other agriculturally based products such as tissue papers, paper napkins and the rest, went off the shelf next. Then we saw the desperation of people trying to connect to the rural areas to ensure that the food supply was continuous. It also awakened our minds to the huge opportunity in the supply chain - the gap that exists that has enabled a lot of startups to fill that gap. As a result, we saw a lot of businesses that are into first to last mile delivery systems, to ensure that post harvest is managed properly, wastage is reduced, we also saw the trend of home gardening, a lot of people have decided to grow their own food crops, herbs and spices, and livestock at the smallest space in houses.

We started seeing innovation/innovative ideas in the sector, and we started seeing younger people interested in home gardening and home agriculture. We were able to show them how to make money, using the small space. We had competitions, like backyard farms, backyard gardens, home farming, home garden, they were different competitions springing up, and people were finding ways to sell and make money out of those businesses, especially for exotic herbs and spices.

In all the above, it was a huge awakening. Yes, there exist a lot of gaps, the insecurity in the country has also impacted the rural area from providing more food so, it has made the urban to find ways to adopt high level technology that will enable them produce food with a consideration of the impact on the environment.

There should be trust and transparency in trade, such that you know who is producing what and what is used in producing what
What do you hope to see differently in 2022 and is it realistic/achievable?
What I hope to see differently in 2022 is more traceability and trust among stakeholders in the ecosystem. There should be trust and transparency in trade, such that you know who is producing what and what is used in producing what. To know what is being consumed and the cocktail of ingredients that was used in producing/growing livestock or crops.

We need to start reducing the heavy doses of chemicals into our soils and livestock. Yes, there's the pressure of populations to feed, and the pressure to use growth boosters, but we need to see all of that reduced drastically and we need to start going organic. Implementing better seed selections, better methods of growing that reduces disease infestation, the use of hybrids that are high yielding and crops and finding ways to reduce the use of chemicals on these crops.

We also need to reduce the fraud that goes on in the agricultural systems, the fraud that goes on with fair trade, interventions, and the entire ecosystem. There is a need to build the agro-ecosystem, and youth & women inclusion is key to achieving this. Based on my work with different organizations, I found out that trust is key, as you get better performance from women owned businesses, because they can be trusted, and so there is a need to give them more responsibility and entrust them with these businesses to foster more inclusion of women both in rural and urban agriculture.

With the increase in youths coming into agriculture, we want to see the use of drone technology in planting, seed broadcasting, and spraying (more organic fertilizers, rather than inorganic). I want to see more extension officers, having 1 extension officer to 100 farmers, if possible 1 officer to 50 farmers rather than 1 extension officer to 1000/1500. With good extension services, we will have better traceability, yield, and output and we can also understand the mindset of the farmers and see how they’re performing and help to sharpen it in a way that it is business inclusive.

We hope to see more youth inclusion, more use of drones and more diversification in the sector
Are there any major milestones you hope to see achieved in 2022?
Major milestones I hope to see achieved in 2022 is the use of Agroverified platform, that will help to connect verified farmers to verified vendors, so they have better access to inputs, for their operations and vendors can have access to farmers who need their products. This way, the middlemen issues will be drastically reduced.

I want to see a way whereby interventions go directly to farmers, and they can be included in insurance schemes either micro or full insurance, but then they have a sense of being insured and they can also hold the insurance company accountable, because they can significantly monitor their yield and performance in real time using the Agroverified platform.

We hope to see more youth inclusion, more use of drones, more diversification in the sector, most especially the coffee and kola nut industries in Nigeria. I want to see more conversion into business and earnings in those sectors, they've been really underestimated and under utilized in Nigeria.