A tweet chat organised by The African Farmers Stories and hosted by Edobong Akpabio of Agro Centre featured Oyewole Okewole, an award-winning agro-industrial project development and management consultant with special interest in tropically grown agricultural produce and livestock farming and processing, and an advocate of sustainable agricultural food systems for reducing hunger, poverty, post-harvest losses and waste. He is the team lead of Oakwall Agro-Industrial Consult and Services, and principal project development and support engineer at Process Concepts and Technologies Ltd.
Okewole notes that he has always loved agriculture, and decided to study agricultural engineering, an experience which he says opened his mind to broader perspectives of agriculture and engineering, despite the largely theoretical mode of learning. He did further graduate studies and training and certification in project management, sustainable food systems, futures thinking and digital marketing. He has won awards as an advocate for value addition and sustainability, as a resource specialist and facilitator, and from various processing training programs. He has extensive experience in livestock agriculture, maintenance engineering, and project development engineering, with experience in production, processing, distribution and marketing of agricultural products across the value chain.
Oakwall Agro-Industrial Consult and Services is a new start-up that was established to proffer solutions to the challenges that stem from setting up, establishing and successfully managing micro, small and medium scale agricultural industries integrated in production and processing projects. It started from a deep concern to become relevant in curbing avoidable challenges experienced by agribusinesses, and to maximize their potentials through the largely risky, but profitable, adventure of agriculture. Its vision is to be one of the leading versatile agricultural project development consultancy outfits in Nigeria, and its mission is to consistently create value for the food system through engineering, managerial, and sustainable enterprise development.
Agro-industrial project development refers to the process of initiation, planning, developing and managing of industries in agriculture for processing and value addition. It involves both equipment fabrication and ICT, and also encompasses the integrating effects of factors such as infrastructure, personnel, raw materials production and supply, plant scheduling, marketing, and utilization of by-products, as they affect the entire value chain.
As an advocate of sustainable food systems, Oyewole notes that the problems of sustainability stem from exploitative use of available resources for food production, processing, distribution and marketing, further integrating the effects of social, economic and environmental factors on the food system. Sustainable food systems will involve optimization of food production despite shrinking available resources like reduced land availability, increase in annual dry days, inconsistency in rain patterns, constrained yield from the soil, and post-harvest/food loss and waste. The overall objective of a sustainable food system is to build well-structured food channels, and a value chain that is transparent, traceable and adaptable to rapidly changing situations. A prominent solution for waste is value addition of agricultural produce, to reduce losses that account for about 30% of what was produced. Adjusting lifestyles and behaviour will also reduce food waste in the downstream sector, as waste in market places and homes can be mitigated through deliberate consumer caution. Food camps can also be established, where perishable foods can be processed and resold at higher value.
Oyewole’s biggest concern for the crop and livestock production and processing areas of the value chain is access to technologies to multiply the value derived from produce. Value addition has the potential to birth many other agribusinesses and industries, and he emphasized that “production without value addition ultimately leads to chaos”.
Agriculture has the potential to lift over 50% of poverty-stricken rural people out of their situation and improve the economy. However, many producers are handicapped by poor access to inputs, innovation, markets, and technology such as hardware processing, machinery, and digital information. Farmers need support for inputs, knowledge dissemination and training, storage technology, and accessibility and marketing to potential buyers. To ensure that the agricultural sector grows African GDP, stakeholders in the sector must continue to implement agricultural policies that will foster production, processing, distribution and marketing, and should proffer solutions to the land tenure system, integrate digital technology, support rural and small holder farmers through strategic plans for input, extension services, and equipment, assist in aggregation and cluster formation of farmers to access technology for value addition, and provide resources to enhance machinery for processing to develop allied agro-industries across the value chain.
All national governments in Africa should ensure integrated, holistic, and strategic foresight approach for agricultural development, and partner with private organisations to comprehensively make Africa the pride of the world.
Oyewole believes that such collective and deliberate efforts to make Nigerian and African agriculture rise through the ranks will eventually pay off.
The African Farmers’ Stories series is brought to you by Support4AfricanSMEs. Tweet interviews by Edobong Akpabio of Agrocentre. Interview edited by Oluchi Buchi-Njere.
About Parminder Vir OBE
Parminder Vir OBE has dedicated herself to positively impacting and transforming lives through a professional career spanning 40 years in philanthropy, entrepreneurship, film and television production, arts and culture, and investment funding. She is the co-founder of the Support4AfricaSMEs campaign and The African Farmers Stories, launched in 2020. She served as the CEO of the Tony Elumelu Foundation, based in Lagos, Nigeria from April 2014 to April 2019. Prior to joining the Foundation, Parminder has enjoyed a distinguished career as an awarding winning film and television producer and private equity investor in film and media.