Bakre Toyin Sesan Aderemi is an Ogun State-based young entrepreneur and a farmer with special focus on cattle rearing. The Isiwo-Ijebu prince, who is an environmental pollution consultant, in this interview explains why he ventured into cattle rearing and established a cattle ranch. He also spoke on why ranching is the best solution to the incessant herdsmen/farmers clashes, which had led to loss of several lives and destruction of farmlands and property in the country.
As a young entrepreneur, what kind of business do you do?
I am a farmer and I also sell automobiles. I am into animal husbandry, particularly cattle rearing and breeding. I also engage in crop farming. I have a cattle ranch, which is situated at Iyana Idi-Ori, Abeokuta. The ranch is on more than five acres of land. I have two plots of land at the Federal Housing Estate Junction, Obada in Abeokuta where I also sell cows.
What motivated you to go into farming?
I began nursing the ambition of going into farming business from my secondary school days. That was one of the reasons I studied Forestry Science at the Premier City University in England. After getting my first degree, I did postgraduate studies in Environmental Pollution Control for the Masters degree. Though I lived and worked in England for some years, but my passion for farming and self employment made me to return home and start my own farming business, with focus on cattle rearing.
Clashes between farmers and herdsmen has claimed many lives and caused the loss of property worth several millions of naira. What do you think is the solution permanent solution to the problem?
Basically, herdsmen from the North take their cattle for grazing, and in the course of grazing, they destroy people’s farms, which causes clashes between the farmers and herdsmen. In the southern part of Nigeria we have ranches. For instance, I get cassava waste and cut grasses for my cattle to feed on. I also prepare for the dry season by preparing and stocking hay. Personally, I believe ranching is possible and everybody who wants to rear cattle should acquire expanse of land where the cattle can be confined. The fact is that it is difficult for herdsmen to graze their cattle in the north during dry season. This forces them to migrate to other parts of the country. But cattle-rearing is a business; that is why herdsmen should embrace ranching as the way to end the incessant attacks. And I believe that we in the south should invest in the establishment of ranches where herdsmen can bring the cattle for grazing. While the investors make money, the herdsmen would have grazing field where their cattle can graze without fear of encroaching on other people’s farms.
What is your view on the federal government’s proposal on cattle colonies?
From what I have been reading, I don’t think that is the solution. Some people cannot just come from nowhere to colonize other people’s land; it is not a good idea. More clashes will ensue between the landowners and colony settlers. Rather, it is better for the cattle rearers in the north to remain there. But like I said, ranching can solve this brouhaha. If cattle rearers find it difficult to get grass for their cattle during the dry season in the north, those of us in the south should take advantage of this and establish commercial ranches for cattle-rearers in need. For me, cattle colony issue is a huge joke taken too far. Establishing colonies across the country will create more problems than the policy was intended to solve.
We must recognize that the present situation is a great opportunity for our people to also go into cattle rearing. It is erroneous to believe that cattle business is exclusive to Fulani herdsmen or others in the north. My experience in this business has shown that we can even do it better with our education, technology and exposure. It has been proven through research that cows/cattle in ranches do better in terms of meat and milk production. Even President Muhammadu Buhari has demonstrated this by building a ranch for his cattle at his hometown in Daura, Katsina State
How profitable is cattle rearing?
It depends on what the owner of the farm wants. Some engage in meat production, while some are for milk production. For us at Toyjok Farms, we engage in meat and milk production. People come here to buy raw milk (wara) and we sell cows to members of the public. And to ensure the cows are always in good condition and disease-free, veterinary doctors and animal health specialists visit the farm regularly for inspection and treatment if necessary.
Is the business capital intensive?
It depends on how big the farm is; it gulps a lot of capital. You know that cattle feed all through the day, they never stop eating and that is why people resort to grazing. During the dry season we spend more money to feed them.
What should government do to assist young entrepreneurs like you?
For any business to grow and expand, capital is key. And I feel this is one major area government can come in to assist budding entrepreneurs. Though I have not approached any commercial bank for credit facility, but I am very sure the interest rate in commercial banks in Nigeria is crippling and not encouraging. The federal government, through the Bank of Agriculture, should assist in this area, but the process is somehow cumbersome. Apart from credit facility, government should provide infrastructure such as roads, electricity and enabling environment for SMEs to grow. Unless we want to deceive ourselves, Nigeria cannot develop without a vibrant SME sector. It is from this sector that many would-be CEOs of Blue Chip companies in the country will start from and then develop. In fact, our educational system should be geared towards producing employers of labour rather than those who search for employment.
What is your advice for youths who crave for white-collar jobs?
I will tell them that tiny drops of water make a mighty ocean. Some people want to start from the top without realizing that they can easily fall. You can start something with N100,000; you can get a plot of land and start planting maize, from there you get bigger. But the majority of young people want to start from the top, which would make them go nowhere. I want to advise the youths to embrace agriculture, rather than waiting for white-collar jobs; the youthful age is the time they can work for themselves. I want to enjoin them to start doing something, no matter how small.
What is your connection with royalty?
I am from Ijasi Ruling Family in Ijebu-Isiwo. Our family is in line to produce the next Lamodi of Isiwo and my family is propping me to be the candidate for the royal stool. Though there are others in the family who are equally eligible, but I am being tipped as the next occupant of the stool when the time comes.
What about your marital life?
I am married to Serifat Adejoke, and the union is blessed with two kids. But being from a royal family, they want me to take another wife. But at present, I have just one wife.
How do you unwind?
I don’t have any special way to unwind. I am mostly at the farm and watching the cows playing and grazing is in a way relaxing for me. My excitement climaxes when I watch a calf being given birth to on the farm.