FINDING PURPOSE THROUGH DECENT WORK.
“ For the first time since I left my white-collar job to work on the farm, I’ve found joy in doing what I know how to do best — Impacting knowledge and livelihoods for farmers. The most important thing is everyone should enjoy his/her right to decent work. In the agricultural sector, farmers deserve proper and adequate remuneration. They must be treated properly”. — Dimeji Green, AFEX Sustainability Manager.
While the share of Agriculture’s contribution to Nigeria’s GDP is increasing and we are seeing improved food per capita, the average income levels of the labor force, feeding the nation do not yet meet the benchmarks of minimum wage and make up the majority of our country’s population wallowing below the poverty line. Smallholder farmers and agripreneur account for up to 70% of the country’s labor force yet these small operations and earnings are insufficient for a living income.
Ensuring that everyone gets the right start in their working lives such that it drives inclusive, and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment, and decent work is what AFEX is on a mission to achieve.
“Farming is a viable and fun business. Working with a company like AFEX that is passionate about improving farmers’ livelihoods offers an example of how to develop sustainable communities for economic growth.” Dimeji shares.
His experience from over 10 years of harvesting cocoa with his grandmother on a farm in Ago-Iwoye, Ijebu to educating farmers in Ondo, Edo, Oyo, and Osun states has fueled his drive to create a larger, lasting impact for farmers through education and facilitating their access to credit facilities.
“ When I was 6 years old, I would follow my grandmother to the farm to harvest cocoa and Kolanut. It was always a fun activity to do. I was introduced to the commercial side of agriculture during my service year in Edo state.
In a conversation at my primary place of assignment, UNIBEN, I got to know about the Nigerian Institute for Oil Palm Research (NIFOR) and how Malaysia came to pick seeds there and is thriving with palm oil. Instantly, it sparked up my interest to visit there. After NYSC, a job wasn’t forthcoming at first but I secured one in an office at Lekki, Lagos State. The pay from the job wasn’t commensurate with the work and value I was adding to the company so I quit.
The first thing that came to my mind was to go back to cocoa farming. I consulted with my grandmother and she encouraged me to pursue that dream. I never knew people were watching my moves.
In 2013, I was in South Africa when I got a call from the Dutch Government that they need Nigerian Youths in core areas like food, health, water, and energy. I applied for it, was selected, and that was when my life truly started.
I went to the Netherlands, met amazing people, built strong networks, and worked on a pitch for Unilever. While working with Unilever as a Dutch Company, I got a call from a senior consultant at AFEX, Sanne Steemers, a friend I made during my stay in the Netherlands.
One day, she visited my cocoa farm with some associates. She saw the growth of the farm and told me about a company she was working for, where my skillset as a cocoa farmer could be utilized fully.
At that moment, I knew I had found a greater call to something more impactful.
Stay tuned for the next part in the next post.
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