Reinventing Herbal Agriculture

In this latest tweet chat, we spotlight Rashidat Raji-Siwoku, founder and CEO of Gaiafarms Agricultural Enterprise. Gaiafarms is a purpose-driven agricultural company that focuses on growing, blending and distributing high-quality indigenous botanical herbs as tea products, as well as crops like cashew, maize and cassava. Gaiafarms tea products include alkaline teas, and are well researched and presented as natural remedies for wellness transformation. Gaiafarms Agricultural Enterprise has a vision to change how people see and think about native indigenous herbs, and reinvent them as high quality herbal teas. It aims to provide high-quality botanical herbs for customers in Nigeria, and West Africa at large

Rashidat is a pharmacist, and her journey into agriculture and phyto-medicine arose from her love for gardening and her personal experience using prescriptive pain relief medication that drove her to search for all-natural solutions in botanical herbs to relieve pain. This interest also fuelled her subject selection for her master’s degree qualification in Pharmaceutical Sciences.

The land for the 200-hectare farm located in Ogun state was acquired by Rashidat and her husband (who is her business partner) by private equity and personal funds in 2016, and planting started in 2017. The business has kept alive, despite losing some crops to disease, and has been motivated by its vision. The enterprise’s target market is middle and high class professionals aged 30 years and above, living in urban areas who have health issues or are simply looking to transform their health. Rashidat has learnt from experience that a happy customer will always come back, and applies this principle when providing service to Gaiafarms customers.

She notes that the biggest constraints to accessing markets in the business are logistics, because of the location of the farm in Ogun state, and government officials’ fees and stamp duty fees that affect exportation. The poor state of many federal roads worsens the wear and tear on the business’ truck, necessitating constant repairs and resulting in less frequent trips to the farm to pick up herbs. The enterprise is open to suggestions from stakeholders to help solve these constraints.

Gaiafarms Agricultural Enterprise intends to grow and scale to distribute its products throughout Africa by leveraging on its existing networks, by working with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, and as a member of the National Cashew Association of Nigeria.

Rashidat believes that herbal products can work well as complementary therapy to modern medicine, especially in improving the quality of life of seriously ill patients through symptom management with no side effects. She also believes that African entrepreneurs are indeed ready to collaborate with others like them on the continent, to develop and expand the herbal agriculture value chain. Market opportunities in the subsector are endless, and all entrepreneurs require are enabling support, especially to mitigate the problems of export fees and duty charges.

The African Farmers’ Stories series is brought to you by Support4AfricanSMEs. Tweet interviews by Edobong Akpabio of Agrocentre. Interview edited by Oluchi Buchi-Njere.

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