The Chief Executive Officer of Hadassah Food, Feyisara Kevin-Israel in this interview with FarmingFarmersFarms speaks on what led her to food production, the challenges facing women among several other related issues. Excerpts.
Tell us about Hadassah foods and how you started?
My retirement led me into several entrepreneurial activities of buying and selling. Being passionate about women, children and youths, I was inspired to go into agricultural services. Also discovering farmers’ predicament of access to market and poverty, I resolved to find a permanent solution to the situation, which resulted in the birth of Hadassah Foods, which began her journey into food production through a religious journey that stirred up a passion to become a solution to the pains of farmers and residents of Onipe Village. This led to the registration of the company in 2012. When I started in 2012, it was rough, slow and challenging, but it is getting better now. We have gone through different phases in business, which led to a steady growth. Today, we have 12 of our products registered with the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC). Our facility has been registered with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and we are also Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) certified. We are export ready, having been trained severally by the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC) on different aspects of exportation and we have export license. Hadassah is also giving back to the village through a heavily subsidised educational centre for children at the Onipe Village in Oyo State.
You deal with varieties of products, which product did you start with?
Ijebu garri is the first product I started with. I started with the goal to reduce the stress and lack of market challenges being encountered by farmers of Onipe village and its environment and also to alleviate poverty among the women. The farmers will plant lots of cassava, but can only turn it into cassava flour because there were no buyers, no processing plant, and transporting from the farm to the market was always a serious problem. Our products include: Ijebu garri, yam flour, beans flour, plantain flour, and cassava flour, kulikuli, ground melon and crayfish. Spices; suya spice, pepper soup powder, ginger, turmeric, garlic, black pepper, cinnamon, ginger garlic.
How do you distribute and how easy is your marketing?
Starting off, we encouraged the villagers to buy finished products and take them to markets to generate personal income. Later, we get registered with NAFDAC and begin to sell to supermarkets through marketers. Our marketing challenge is mobility from our factory to the main city and markets.
How do you source your raw materials?
We have farmers, who produce our flour products, while we get our spices from the National Association of Ginger Farmers. They plant different raw materials for our spices.
You also have good packaging for the products. How do you go about this?
I have attended several training sessions on good packaging for food products. The most recent was organised last October by the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN).
What are the challenges you face in the business, and how do you cope?
One of the major challenges is getting workers, who are faithful and ready to work. The second is a consistent market, large enough to accommodate our production. The third challenge is working capital. Other challenges are undulating prices of raw materials, inconsistent supply because of change in seasons, lack of willing and committed workers.
What does it take to start this business, and what advice will you give to anyone who wants to go into this business?
It is important for anyone who wants to start to be passionate about agribusiness, resilient, and always ready to learn. It is also important to be mentored along the line. Lastly, enough capital is important because the profitability of the business is not always immediate.
What would be the major challenges facing women farmers in the country?
As much as women are willing, the real tools and machinery that can make the work easy or possible are not readily available or accessible. Many women have become breadwinners as a result of the little, but consistent income, thereby bringing them down to zero level. Access to funds should be increased, and dissemination of information about this should also be well expressed. Security of women on the farm is a major issue. When men are running for their lives, what will women do?
How can these challenges be tackled?
I believe that information will get more to women if it is coordinated at the grassroots level. The extension officers that used to reach out then are no longer available. Information is the key. Many women do not know about what is going on even in their local government. Security challenges can only be put at rest by the government.
Where do you want to see this business in the next few years?
My focus or target from now to the few months to come is to run a self-sustaining business, an agricultural hub that can run seamlessly by partnering with farmers, feeding Nigerians, especially those in the South-West states and Abuja; the Africans in Diaspora in countries like the United Kingdom, United States of America, Europe and Canada with natural and healthy products, well-packaged in a very hygienic environment, thereby reducing joblessness.