Ajoke Olobi on her farm with some Kolanuts.
In this interview with FarmingFarmersFarms, Ms. Bamimore Awoyemi, speaks on her journey in agricultural entrepreneurship, despite acquiring a Bachelor’s degree in an entirely different discipline. Excerpts:
Can we meet you, please?
I’m Bamimore Awoyemi, also known as Ajoke Olobi, I hold a Bachelor’s degree in Literature-in-English from the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State, Nigeria. I am an agricultural entrepreneur. I enjoy and love my job so much.
Why Ajoke Olobi?
Ajoke is one of my names that I love so much. Adding “Olobi” to it, is a way of announcing my brand without having to say or do much.
What does Ajoke Olobi do?
Actually, the company’s name is, Ajoke Nuts and Associates Limited, and we sell Kolanuts (Cola acuminata), Bitter kola (Cola garnecia), and Alligator pepper. We deliver nationwide and worldwide.
Being a graduate from your field of study, why agricultural entrepreneurship?
We all know the situation of Nigeria as it is. So, instead of waiting for a white collar job, I have to get something doing. The agricultural sector has also been abandoned and I think we all can’t be doing white collar jobs, hence the necessity to try other means. Directly or indirectly, it pleases me that I am making a good living out of it, not dependent on any boss and at the same time, help in promoting the hard works of our local farmers. To me, it’s a win-win for society and Nigeria, if others could look inwards too.
Unlike most agricultural entrepreneurs, you seem to have a unique choice. Why kolanuts and bitter cola?
Like I said earlier, during the process of looking for a lucrative business, I realised that the agricultural sector had been abandoned and it’s not getting enough attention from youths and there is a need to look towards it. However, I did not only consider the monetary value of nuts and alligator pepper, I also looked into the benefits and medical advantages.
Ajoke Olobi’s Kolanuts
Could you tell us about these benefits?
One of the benefits of bitter kola is, it’s a hunger suppressant. Eating bitter kola will help you to stop overeating and also prevent you from gaining weight because consumption of bitter kola increases the urge to drink water, and we all know that drinking water helps in good digestion and this helps cure unwanted belly fat, which has accumulated due to overeating and improper digestion. Also, kolanut has a bitter flavour and contains caffeine. It is chewed in many West African countries, in both private, formal and social settings. It is often used ceremonially, presented to chiefs or guests. Kolanuts are considered useful for aiding digestion when grounded, and mixed with honey, and are used as a remedy for cough.
How long have you been doing this?
We had our third anniversary in January 2023.
What has the success rate been like, so far?
Regarding the success, we bless Olodumare. I have been able to earn a decent living and contribute my quota to the country’s economy.
Any challenges so far, in your line of business?
As an exporter, it’s not always easy to export produce to our customers. Kolanut is very fragile and can’t spend more than a month in transit, normally we check every week. Sometimes when in transit, especially when it is fresh Kolanut, there is the probability that some will break while some will spoil because there might be delay during the transit and we usually face unnecessary delays from corrupt officials. I’m speechless actually, we all know success is sweet, but the secret is sweat. You’d agree with me that not many people even know about kolanuts.
Who are your target customers?
Everyone indeed, especially the white traditionalists, because they value these produce more than our people at the local level. We do both local and international sales and we deliver to companies, too.
How do you purchase your goods?
Farms. We have different farmers and farms that we have established relationships with. We get our produce directly from them. We also have local farms that we go, in situations where our suppliers are unable to supply us.
Ajoke Olobi with her bitter cola.
Do you face criticisms, especially from youths like you?
Yes, and it’s very annoying. Being a university graduate, people expect me to be involved in the 9-5 working class community, and when I tell them I’m an entrepreneur, who deals with farm produce like kolanuts and others, they always have a reservation and lose interest in what I do or say. I faced a lot of criticisms. Some people would always query why a whole graduate like me chose this business. Some people would also say that my prices would be too high because I’m an alakowe (a learned person) and won’t want to buy from me until they realise that mine is the most affordable they can find. I always get questions like, “why would you be selling kolanuts?”; all the time. Surprisingly, these are the things that motivate me.
Any challenges as a result of gender?
Yes. A lot of people, most especially men, always wonder why I chose this path. Sometimes, they think I’m too local and not exposed. Some don’t even believe that I’m a university graduate. Because I’m a woman, the people who supply us, sometimes try to dupe me or even think I won’t fight back when they attempt to, but I always stand my ground.
What future do you see with agriculture?
I believe that if enough attention is paid to the sector, it’d be a goldmine. In the next five years, I think we would have had a lot of youths coming into the sector and they’d excel at it. I hope to contribute my quota by serving as an example for aspiring youths, particularly, women.
Words to aspiring youths, entrepreneurs and farmers?
I understand that the work is time-consuming and really stressful, you might also appear local to some people, but we should understand that white collar jobs are not available for everyone. Not all of us would wear suit and tie. Youths should learn to be innovative outside their disciplines, earn a living for themselves, and contribute to the country’s economy. You can bring in ideas from the education you have, and give your agriculture business a brand that won’t be perceived as local. Whatever you know how to do it, kindly do it well. And to women, please don’t restrict yourselves to a specific kind of business. Explore opportunities and challenge the system.
Any word for the government?
The government should pay more attention on agriculture and entrepreneurship, because unemployment is one of the factors responsible for high crime rate in our society. The government should invest in youths through agriculture and entrepreneurship.