Cynthia Mosunmola Umoru, is the CEO of Honeysuckle PTL Ventures and she is a farmer , one of the most successful ones in Nigeria. As a young girl her passion was to study Medicine but was forced to attend another university due to political violence in the north. It was while studying zoology in the university that her interest in agriculture grew. Refusing to limit herself, she took courses in fisheries, and multi-level marketing.
In her final year in the university, armed with the zeal to chart a new course, be her own boss she launched Honeysuckles PTL Ventures with the main aim of selling processed food produce. Honeysuckle focuses on high quality food products using modern packaging and fast delivery, and has its own farms and ponds.
Today we present to you a passionate Nigerian who sees herself as an agrovangelist. She is the technical adviser to the minister of Agriculture on Youth and Women
What prompted you to be a farmer?
My journey started straight out of college about 13 years ago. I decided to venture into agribusiness. I did a vertical integration in agricultural production. So we produce Chicken, Snails, Catfish. Now we are looking into vegetables and some cash crops.
Can you take us on a journey into the food business?
We have gone through some exciting time, a phenomenal learning curve where a green horn out of the university ventures into enterprise, tried getting clients, getting markets, raising finance, going bankrupt, starting all over again, acquiring land and so many other things but I must say it’s been a very exciting journey. Every experience is a significant learning curve for me. One that has transitioned into being a young lady who has found her calling in the agribusiness space, I have become extremely passionate about food, farming and the community at large. there’s a greater burden to actually impact the food space in Nigeria with focus on primary production, value addition and now we have discussing a lot about export and import substitution.
As the Technical adviser to the Honorable Minister of Agriculture on Youth and Women, can you tell us about the steps currently undertaken to engage the youths in Agribusiness?
From the government’s perspective, it is a continuous process. We are in a society where we want the magic wand to be raised and things just happen overnight. The Federal Government has put some policies in place to actually build the capacity of young men and women especially around areas of mechanisation, skills development for productivity in the agric sector. So you are going to go across varying value chains though the requirements vary.
One of the biggest agenda on the table is how we invest in extension service proviso, within the sector. there is the Npower project running from the office of the Vice President that will recruit and train, about 30, 000 extension service providers in the first phase, though the phase has been approved to scale to a 100,000 hopefully in the next 3 to 5 years.
There is a huge skills gap that is deficit in the agricultural sector, where young people who go to the university acquire certain skills that may not be relevant in the agric sector space so one of the things the government is looking into doing is how they create in partnership with the state government to create training programmes that will actually get the young people into the agribusiness space. Skills like mechanization, tractor operation, farm management, farm business, book-record keeping, and other of those skills will be given and some other programs will be across varying value chain to help young people actually begin to leverage the opportunities and potentials in the agricultural sector. So there are a lot of plans but they will be phased, they all can’t be rolled out in one sweep.
What is your advice to the youths?
Like I will say to anyone who wants to venture into any enterprise at all, life is in stages, and you must enjoy every phase on the way to where you are going. There is need for resilience. We are naturally tenacious people but I will recommend that we seek information, knowledge is power, knowledge is key. Gain requisite knowledge the enterprise you are going into, do not go into that journey blinding, there are mentors, there are people who towed that line before, it is important that you get all the support you need, to leverage people’s experience, read, you know, go online, go for short course, programs, improve on your skill set then your staying power in the business will be elongated.