Learn How Agro-tourism Inpacts agric wealth creation
Songhai Centre is an interventionist institution. It stems from the fact that worldwide if you mention Africa in the world today, what comes to mind is poverty, corruption and all such. Poverty is caused by the social structure in Africa. It is an extractive structure which Africa borrowed from the colonial masters who made themselves rich by extracting from the society. Independence was supposed to create a culture that would create the liberty for every African, including every Nigerians, to be at the driver’s seat. But colonisation transferred the extractive structure to us, so instead of broad-based inclusive growth, people are not motivated to invent, to invest, to create.
In Africa, we have a strong political system which instead of reversing the extractive culture and structure of the colonial political system only makes it worse. It is a logic of poverty that has continued, making it difficult for people to harness the opportunities around them to create goods and services that correspond to our needs and desires. This is my definition of poverty.
But Songhai says we cannot continue that way. When people come to the centre, what we are doing here would trigger off that mentality that wealth creation is possible for everyone in Africa. That is the reason the agro-tourism work of Hadur Travel and Tours is important, because it is part of our strategy that more and more people representing the critical mass of Africa can come and then go out and practise the things that they have learnt at Songhai to create wealth and jobs. If this happens, unemployment and crisis in most parts of Africa would stop.
For instance, in Nigeria, the easiest way to make money is through contracts. If you know someone, you get it, if not, forget it. So, if your brother or someone in your party wins, you are assured you would get the contract, but if he loses, then you are in trouble. So, the person would fight to death to see his brother or party member in that position. That is why politics is very explosive because it is the winner takes all, the loser dies and nobody wants to die. That is why Songhai has its ramifications not just in food production and employment but socio -political aspect of the African society.
When people come for tourism, apart from relaxation and entertainment, they should know that they are coming here to get something that will be profitable to them in future. A visit to Songhai becomes the beginning of a process. Songhai has become a home to many. Tourism is just the beginning of the process, they can get the travel agent to arrange for them to come back as often as possible. Songhai keeps developing new things. The investor in agriculture can be sure they are not alone after a visit to the centre.
People have been contacting us after visiting when they have questions on their agricultural ventures. A certain lady restrained her husband from starting a farm, but after the family visited Songhai as tourists, she is now the one putting pressure on her husband to start the farm.
At Songhai, we promote healthy living. Families come here on holiday to relax and eat good food because Songhai is a resort centre. Instead of spending so much money going to Europe, with the stress of getting visas, parents have been bringing their children to the centre. When they go back, it helps them to appreciate a new way of living the healthy way.
More than 300,000 people have visited Songhai since inception in 1985, about 30,000 visit every year, some come again and again. On weekends, people would come, not just to change their mentality about food production but to relax and be closer to nature, to enjoy entertainment in an African setting.
When I first started, people ask why a man with all the degrees I have is starting a farm. But I believe that when a person is educated, he must be a able to translate it to productivity. Songhai is my way of translating my education, expressing my feelings, my inner world, my own personality, this place is my signature to poverty eradication and wealth creation in Africa.
People also come for courses. We have trained about 3, 500 students, about 2,000 have started their own businesses, using these strategies. When I went to the Gambia, I was surprised when I saw how these young people have organized themselves and by their production. They have developed a strong network after they came here. They are encouraged by their government. It is very important that when people come here, they do not just see it as opportunity to get estacode from government coffers. They must understand the reason they have come, and not see the trip as their own share of the national cake or because their brother told them to come. They have to be motivated. I was was surprised by how far the Gambians have gone in using the knowledge they acquired at the Songhai centre. So, we are going to increase the number of trainees.
But our trainees’ ability to start businesses does not just depend on us alone. If for instance you have a mother with a beautiful baby, and the mother takes the baby to a village or town where there is stagnant water and mosquito everywhere and all sorts of havoc, the baby will not grow well.
So, for Africans that come to the Songhai Centre to be able to establish agro-businesses when they return to their countries, their ability to create wealth also depends on the enabling environment the government creates. It is a multi-partnership, our own is to start the training but for it to work, more people have to be involved, the community, the government, the banks, different organisations, everybody.
For existing entrepreneurs, Songhai provides all the technological support, the technological know how for the agricultural business and the core entrepreneurship training – how to relate with customers, marketing. It is not all about talk, Songhai also provides the agricultural tools needed.
Some people can invent, create or mobilise resources to produce, but an entrepreneur still needs to understand the needs of the population in a certain place. This person should know the kind of products or services the people in that place needs. The entrepreneur should also ask, “Do I have the capacity to produce these goods and services, are there opportunities that can be harnessed, do I have the human resources around to help me do that, this is the driver but it is not sufficient.”
You could be very good in starting a business, but do you have the critical personnel? At Songhai, we teach people a culture of entrepreneurial leadership that will enable them to motivate their employees to achieve the business vision.
Aspects of farming
Agriculture is an integrated reality, there must be a minimum level of integration on a farm. For instance, if the business is doing only poultry, what then would be done with the animal wastes? There should be at least three sections, the livestock wastes should be used to fertilize the crops, part of the crop yields should be used to feed the chickens. It is not complicated, our grandmothers were doing it. They raise chickens, use the wastes to grow vegetables, and this makes the soil richer.
Agriculture should take the environment into consideration to get best results. We think we are modern and decide to focus, that is why we have people planting only corn of about 2,000 hectares but a good farming business that will be highly profitable cannot separate soil, crop and animals. Nature is integrated, it is a systemic thing.
By Oluyinka Alawode