NIGERIA - Industry
Founder & Executive Chairman, Hastom
Debo Thomas is a highly sought-after transcendent thought leader, disruptor, and speaker. He is the Founder & Executive Chairman of the Hastom Group.
In 2010, I noticed the oil sector in Nigeria was starting to slow down. I discovered Nigeria has a large amount of unused arable land that people can convert into farms and started speaking to community leaders, chiefs, and family leaders who were open to the idea of selling or renting their land. I formed my company, started buying this land from these families, and sold to people who wanted to buy the land for farming.
Since 2013, we have acquired over 20,000 acres of land. Once people see the opportunities available, they want to acquire a plot of land. I have conducted some campaigns on plantain and maize, but our area of focus is cashew. We are the best source of cashews in Nigeria, and demand always outweighs supply. We do open grazing because of the large amount of land we have, where we have our animals. Often, people interested in agriculture are still working in cities and are planning their retirements but do not have the time. We have narrowed down what we do to cashew cultivation. Once it starts cultivating, it will grow for an excess of 80 years, and the returns are excellent. If someone is interested, we sell them the land, cultivate it, and manage it for them; they just give us the financial input to get the farm up and running. We run it for three years, after which they can choose to take control.
Our problem is that many people are short sighted and complacent. This is the culture we see with crude oil, which we sell instead of refined oil. That culture is changing, and many foreigners are coming in and taking advantage of these opportunities by investing in these industries and developing the value chain. With cashews, we are not processing because Nigeria does not really consume cashews. Countries such as India consume a large amount of cashews, so when they process, they have the local market to sell to; however, in Nigeria the local market is small, which is why it exports raw cashews. One of the challenges we face is there are other byproducts of cashew that we do not have the market for. Therefore, Nigeria might not be competitive as other countries that have the whole industry developed.
We are now looking into cattle. People are buying into our cashew plant, so we want to create a cattle plant branching model where you can buy a ranch of 10-20ha and can do dairy and farming for beef production. We are creating farming estates where you have farmers who are doing dairy and meat. Our plan is to be the off-taker of what these farmers produce in terms of the cows and beef production. The main challenge for agriculture in Nigeria is the wide knowledge gap, so people have been doing things the same way for the last 100 years. Nigeria needs a private institution where people can learn how to cultivate crops, take care of livestock, and focus on the entrepreneurial and management side of things to make their farming venture more profitable and sustainable.
Nigerians are extremely receptive to new ideas that can improve their productivity and make life easier for them, and the reception to technology has been encouraging. Nigeria has many talented young people who can create new solutions that we might want to go into. The cattle rearing model that we want to create will have a great deal of tech, as one requirement is that they will need some IT to manage the farm to see what is happening and monitor the activities on the farm.
NIGERIA - Energy & Mining
Group Managing Director, Eraskorp Nigeria Limited
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