1. Mentoring, Counselling, and Consulting
We believe these three facets are pillars to successful entrepreneurship. Hence, to complete our program we walk the individual through the three steps. Our understanding from field experience shows that most young starting farmers/agriculture business owners have limited access to vital services like these.
“People perform better when there is no safety net. One of the main reasons why people want to have a plan B is because they are worried about failing. Don’t be afraid to fail because there is nothing wrong with failing, you must fail in other to climb the ladder. There no one that does not fail. Michael Jordan said in one of his interviews, while they said you are unbelievable you are the greatest basketball player of all time and they said, tell us about that: he said well you just mentioned the successes for me to become the greatest basketball player I missed 9000 shots” Arnold Schwarzenegger. Below is an insight into these activities:
Mentoring helps a mentee to develop social capital to complement their development of technical and intellectual capital. This is all about providing professional guidance and support to early-career farmers or agripreneurs. The main goal of this focus area is to assign a mentor to a young farmer leading them to take the necessary steps needed to pursue their goals as an agriculture entrepreneur. The process of mentoring involves a mentor and a mentee which in the modern sense is reciprocal i.e. takes two ways (back-n-forth). It is an exchange process where the two parties involved benefit immensely from the relationship. In other words, a mentor contributes something to the life of an early career farmer and vice versa.
In addition to having a mentor-and-mentee relationship, there is the second level of relationship known as Peer Mentoring; here an early career farmer will be connected to a peer within the foundation network for exchanges as well. It is presumed that talking to a peer will help build confidence in early career mentees as peers are usually young and within the age group of an early career farmer. This focus area helps early-career farmers/agripreneurs to know those in their age group who are actively making progress in agriculture business.
“I come to affirm that one’s title even like President of the United State, says very little about how well one’s life has been like. That no matter how much you have done or how successful you have been, there is always more to do and always more to learn and always more to achieve” President Barack Obama
Counselling in agriculture entrepreneurship is inevitable because agriculture is a domain with huge challenges. These challenges are usually not static, although some may be recurring the early-career farmer or young agripreneur may not have the experience to deal with some of the peculiarity of these issues. At times seeking external help may be the best solution, by inviting an agriculture counsellor to advise on the current happening. It may be an issue of diseases or management or some accounting detailing, these are real issues that our foundation helps early-career farmers to deal with thereby avoiding huge loss in business.
“Innovation is the foundation of our strength; As a family, we apply a long-term vision and consider long term relationships to be of the utmost importance” Enza Zaden
Consulting is part of the agriculture business, it is synonymous with counseling but it differs slightly; thus, we train early careers how to serve as consultants to other clients in the field. This is the beauty of taking agriculture as a business. Services are not just free as some may put it, we train our early career agripreneurs to act like real entrepreneurs in their communities and develop the sector to a professional level. We also, in return improve their understanding of the need to consult experts and pay for services in the situation of expanding their production system and making a giant leap. This is crucial for any growing business, as experience shows that most often young adventurers undermined expert relevance in huge projects because of fear of extra cost. This usually results in huge failure after massive investment, and in most cases, unrepaired damages.
“The most crucial sector(s) to focus on today as entrepreneurs are ICT and Agriculture, these are the two promising areas” Aliko Dangote
2. Networking & Partnership development
According to the online platform Investopadia “Networking is the exchange of information and ideas among people with a common profession or special interest, usually in an informal social setting”. Therefore, our goal is to facilitate this aspect of the agriculture business among early careers and investors in the sector. Networking is a strong tool in the development of every sector and to expand a little, it usually begins with a common point of interest and grows into a large web of professionals and investors. In a nutshell, it improves the strength of every sector as many skillful persons are acting to solve a common problem. Networking brings about partnership development and bigger investment, so we drill our mentees and members to develop the sense and responsibility of a healthy network.
“Communication – we can’t resolve problems if we don’t know about them. This is part of doing science. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. That too is part of doing science” Richard A. Wable, PhD
3. Agriculture Enterprising/Entrepreneurship
Agriculture is one of those sectors in every society that has the potential to absorb an infinite number of persons as there exist many different subsectors and activities for anyone to fit in (niche availability). A modest way for one to get a meaningful solution in the agriculture domain is to think creatively and build a resilient enterprising ability. Thus, at the Tropical Horticulture Foundation, we know how to help early careers and young investors build attitudes towards the agriculture business. Many people think that Africa has got untapped resources; the Tropical Horticulture Foundation shares this view and we think the agriculture sector in Africa is one of such sectors which has not been fully exploited. Our interest in horticulture and other subsectors in agriculture is to fully harness the potential and build human capital around it. Therefore, the horticulture sector being at the foundation level (very much undeveloped) is a great area to venture as a smart entrepreneur ready to take the risk and change the present state of things. Here we focus our energy to make the youths see the present potentials of these subsectors, the future growth in terms of quality services and resilience.
“I look agriculture as one thing that can create a lot of jobs, frankly mining does not create that many jobs as agriculture” Mo Ibrahim
Our model is focused on developing human capital (building capacities) to bring a fresh spirit to the youths across Africa and even reorient those shying to invest in agriculture. Hence, we focus our energy on the following subsectors:
i. Ecological farming
We promote a resilient natural management technique of managing agriculture systems by using a biological approach thereby respecting nature’s principle in farming. The focus is emphasized on developing better soil management techniques through the utilization of compost and organisms such as earthworms. These organisms help develop quality soils for production. Pest and disease management in the system is strictly handled using a biological approach thus allowing nature to self-complicate by creating balance within any depleting ecosystem. Some of the well-known ecological farming techniques employed in our demonstration sites include:
-Forest Garden (Analog forestry approach)
ii. Sustainable Horticulture
Sustainability is a watchword in our principle of operation thus in all our horticulture capacity development programs, we inject the spirit of sustainability. One of such key concepts of sustainability we have identified is “feeding the soil to feed the plant for a healthy and quality production”. Therefore, we emphasize the use of organic materials such as compost, employ techniques to minimize over-dependent on chemical inputs. This will improve the health of the farmers and the landscape. We develop capacities in the following areas:
-Nursery practice and development
-Recreational activities, Floriculture and Floristry
-Landscape Conservation (Urban Conservation, Green Space management)
“There are many steps that go into creating a successful garden, but none is as critical as establishing and maintaining healthy, nutrient-rich soil. And there’s no better way to do that than by amending the soil with compost ”Joseph Truini
Honeybees are essential for pollinating agriculture fields. They are the most effective pollinators on earth, thus have been reported to pollinate about 80% of all food plants. Therefore, keeping bees is vital for sustainable production and besides, honey and wax are the two most highly-priced products from the hive. The move to reigniting beekeeping culture in the communities where THOF is effecting change is highly necessary as most of the current home production cannot even meet demand. Currently, most traditional methods of beekeeping are highly destructive. At THOF, our objective is to take apiculture to the next level, thereby helping people particularly women and young girls get involved in apiculture enterprising activities.
“When one becomes to fully understand all that is represented in the combs, s/he is well on his way to success”. Frank C. Pellet
iv. Snail Farming
Snails are high nutrient sources and easy to culture organisms. Africa has the potential to develop a great snail industry; shifting behaviors and cultural changes indicate a growing snail-eating population. This is true particularly for Cameroon and many sub-Sahara African countries where most of the population eat snails as a delicacy. Despite this opportunity, the snail industry is lagging in many aspects even as demand increases.
In addition to eating the fleshy meat of the organism, there are other by-products derive from it. For example, the shell is a great source of calcium in the poultry industry and the slimy liquid is used in the cosmetic industry. Moreover, snails are vegetarian and so serve as a wonderful companion for ecological farming. The leftover vegetables from the garden are great food sources for the snails. Therefore, our snail pilot center is exploring this potential. The snail production unit serves as a training ground and enterprising activities for THOF members and early-career farmers in the community.
“Snails are highly rich in protein, iron, and calcium content. Their droppings have no unpleasant smell; instead, their activities and droppings highly improve soils. A major advantage of this enterprise is that it can be reared in the backyard.”
4. Lobbying and Advocacy
We strongly advocate and promote social justice to create the necessary equity and balance in society where farmers and other actors in the food system will enjoy an equitable share of the resources and benefits. We believe society will only function best when everyone accesses a fair share of the opportunities a sector can provide in every sense. Hence, social justice in this sense means breaking all barriers that limit individuals or institutions to receive the basic benefits including quality market, fair distribution of wealth and equal opportunities for our farmers and actors in the food system.
One of our main objectives is to improve perception and help change policy at all levels. At the Grassroot level, we focus on mainstreaming agriculture in the youthful population. Similarly, we strongly believe that policy change will encourage youths to venture into agribusiness. Furthermore, we are conscious of the fact that policy change must be accompanied by lobbying and advocacy campaign, so we are committed to building capacities of young agripreneurs that will champion some of these changes at the grassroots, national and regional level.
“Africa has the potential to become the world’s powerhouse in agriculture and can play a dominant role in feeding the world. To realize that, we need leadership from African governments and partnership with the private sector”. IFAD
5. Food System Research
The research component for our organization is a fundamental pillar. We strictly commit to building the Citizen Science approach in food system research. This is crucial for us to understand and build a better database of common challenges especially during this era of climate modification where certain diseases and environmental conditions turn to record unusual scenarios. Therefore, using Citizen Science and community engagement methods in tackling these challenges, we are sure of better field reports and faster analysis. This will safeguard stronger communities and resilient production systems.