Meet a talented and hardworking entrepreneur. Hard work comes with great rewards.
Born into a family of five children in Otukpo, Benue State in Nigeria ; James at the age of seven moved to Lagos to live with his aunt who was married to an Airforce officer.
This is his story:
Growing up was tough and rough. I struggled until I was admitted into the University of Agriculture, Markudi, Nigeria to study Electrical Electronics Engineering.
I had always wanted to study Information Technology growing up, so after school I had a formal training on computer repairs, networking and other Information technology related courses and training.
I got employed in an IT (Information Technology) firm and worked with the firm for two years before starting my own private IT firm.
During my study at the University Of Agriculture, I saw so many short comings in our Nigerian system in regards to agriculture. From the constant increase in the price of food to the increase in population growth in Nigeria and Africa as a whole, I was certain that in the near future, we might not be able to produce enough food to meet the demand of the population.
My childhood idea of owning a farm came alive and with what I had learnt in the agricultural sector I decided to start my own farm called LIFEWAY FARMS.
Our major goal is to provide quality and affordable food to every home in Nigeria and Africa at large and to reduce poverty level in our Nation using modern agricultural practices.
Lifeway Farms started in early 2014 by buying cassava farms that have been cultivated already, wait for it to get mature, harvest and convert them to garri (cassava flakes).
The outcome was very encouraging so, the next farming season, we got about ten hectares of land on a long lease and decided to cultivate cassava, maize and soya beans. We wanted high yield so we had to settle for the improved variety of these crops.
We encountered challenges that year and we lost almost everything we invested into the farm; but we had agreed earlier when we started that we would not stop, no matter the challenges we faced.
I also wanted to start a starch processing plant but after meeting so many obstacles in terms of finances to start up, I decided to start up with what I believed we could handle.
We set up a modern garri processing plant that can produce two tonnes in eight hours. It is also automated (automatic fryer),
With that on ground, we needed farms and a cluster of farmers that could produce and sell cassava worth over eighty million naira (N80,000,000)(£170,213) every year to enable us run the plant.
We have therefore created a ready market for the local farmers, and those into animal husbandry now have a stable place of getting supply of feed for their animals.
Our major challenge at the moment is getting our products to the market, especially during raining seasons. The roads get so bad and so many trucks either refuse to move or charge double the regular amount.
We also started a plantain plantation with two hundred thousand naira (N200,000)(£425.5) which today, is worth over two million naira (N2,000,000)(£4,255)
Though it’s been really challenging, it has also been rewarding. The beauty of farming is that you can start with as little as ten thousand naira (N10,000)(£21.28). All you need is alot of patience and loads of dedication.
Farming gives you enough time to do other things and still have a life.
In my case, I still run a firm that sells and installs solar panels and inverters. I still have time for my family (my beautiful wife and two kids).
Our next phase is to go into full processing and packaging of farm produce .
Benue State is so blessed that the land produces virtually all farm crops. I love my State and I am proudly Nigerian.
My name is James Oyale Okoh, and I am sparkling through my dreams turned reality.
PLEASE NOTE: EXCHANGE RATE AS AT 03/08/17 — N470 – £1