The Business Year

Giselle Llanes

ANGOLA - Agriculture

Giselle Llanes

Chief Officer, Hectarea Uno

Bio

Giselle Llanes is Chief Officer of Hectarea Uno.

TBY talks to Giselle Llanes, Chief Officer of Hectarea Uno, about the company’s evolution, competing internationally, and goals for 2022.

What has been the evolution of Hectarea Uno since it was established in 2014? 

Our company started in Argentina, where we provided agricultural services in the country. Later, we decided to move our company to Angola. With this change, we initiated an adventurous path, which presented many challenges within the production aspect. We wanted, in the first instance, to pass on our know-how developed in Argentina by implementing new technologies for non-till planting (NTP), which were concepts that were new to this market and that we had been slowly incorporating with the Argentinian team. Our company started contacting the main projects, businesspeople, and producers that intended to enter the sector but did not know how to do it. For us, this was the main challenge that encouraged us to promote such structures.

Can you further explain us the idea behind NTP, which you brought to Angola? What does it offer to local producers?

This technique was first researched in Argentina in the 1970s. In Angola, we have started taking the first steps in NTP as the fields here were losing quality due to continuous harvest, which did not bring any type of efficiency benefit for the fields. The secret of NTP is the technology it uses: a seeder that opens the stubble, acting as a buffer, located on the soil’s surface. This organic material buffer, with time, mixes in with the vegetable layer that is left of old crops. The machine plants the seed and covers it. We have tuned this process to use specifically in the Angolan soils, especially because in the past, due to old agriculture techniques, there was a lot of soil burn and removal. For us, another surplus value is in terms of water saving, because rain is scarcer every year. Furthermore, NTP can help recover fields that have been neglected for long periods. For example, this is an advisable practice for terrains that have been degraded. The soils must go through an adjustment phase, though it is a gradual process that can easily be implemented, which creates a more sustainable agriculture. 

How can Hectarea Uno help local businesses modernize their operations and become more competitive not only locally but also internationally?

The development of the industry in Angola is lagging, especially in terms of agriculture. We intend to grow this sector with new technologies and develop production facilities, making the materials and equipment locally available for producers, so they do not need to buy it in international markets. It is more convenient to manufacture it here with local labor costs, making it accessible to all. Imagining scenarios where we manufacture NTP planters within the Angolan market could make a great difference. 

Can you tell us more about the Women in Agriculture program?

Our foundation and all the projects developed through it are 100% aimed at rural women, focusing on giving them a wider access to tools and equipment, so they can perform their agricultural activity and make it sustainable over the years. There are small initiatives that have to do with small-scale NTP, focusing mostly on the access to healthy seeds that can bear healthy crops. We also want to give them little tips, so they can monitor their crops, recognizing signs of disease spread for them to know how to address the problem. Sometimes we err by focusing too much on the technical side, while there are bigger problems to address first, such as access to water, being healthy, or having access to public health for their children, amongst others. We want to motivate them to take baby steps into a better, more-sustainable future for everyone. 

How far can the agricultural sector be developed in Angola in the coming years?

There is a huge potential for the primary sector. Right now, it would be important to align certain efforts and ensure public and private entities work together to stop depending on imports. Everyone wants to increase production and offer market basket products and no longer rely on imports for such goods. There needs to be teamwork, while also working on reducing secrecy, as we need to share information to move projects forward. We have to stop seeing this as competition, as there is enough space for many players to come in and participate in the agricultural business. 

What are the most attractive project for foreign investors at the moment?

When considering the colonial period crops, we identify coffee, tobacco, and palm oil as the three main markets. Currently, several companies are already reactivating these crops. This is rapidly emerging, and we need to consider scenarios linked to an oleaginous plant, considering the potential it has for the oil-producing industry. Furthermore, Angola has extremely rich soil and above average annual precipitation, with ideal conditions to develop any type of crop. We are also working on projects for on-site seed development for corn, soy, and peanut, the latter being another type of sought-after crop that is underdeveloped. The soil is extremely suitable for peanut, which also happens to have large consumption. We want growers to follow up with an added value that comes from the origin, with the country’s brand: the “Made in Angola” stamp. 

What are the objectives of Hectarea Uno for 2022?

We always set high objectives for ourselves; in addition, we have many pending projects, as it is a sought-after sector. We are always linked to new entrepreneurs that want to jump into innovative projects, which is music to our ears. We want to break certain stereotypes and come up with new concepts. Our projects are mainly focused on agricultural mechanization, seed production, and the implementation of new technologies. Well-organized and well-implemented projects can result into optimal outcome. We have several ideas for the future in Angola, including satellite images and variable crops. Variable crops are a highly efficient planting method, and such decisions that are technology-lead make the business more profitable. Currently, the cost of production per hectare is high in Angola, so if we can make the production process more efficient, we can increase the profitability. This is our greatest objective: to make agriculture in Angola significantly more efficient. 

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