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Uncharted Ground With SSIR

Oct 11, 2021

Smallholder farming in Africa is a precarious existence. Low economies of scale, commodity price swings, out-of-date agronomic practices, and the effects of climate change conspire to trap farm families in a never-ending cycle of poverty. At the same time, Africa’s booming youth population is entering a saturated workforce without enough jobs to absorb them. In Nigeria, the continent’s most populous nation, that has led to a surge of gang violence and a  wave of insurgencies over the last two decades.

Kola and Lola Masha, a Nigerian-born and US-educated couple, set out in 2012 to help mitigate the spread of both economic and physical insecurity. Their social enterprise, Babban Gona (“Great Farm” in the Hausa language), offers a rare model that not only makes farming lucrative and an attractive opportunity for Nigeria’s youth. It also has become a profitable and bankable business for commercial lenders. For the first time, they are committing capital to support smallholder agriculture at large scale—and in the process, potentially creating a pathway out of poverty for millions. Highlights of this episode include:  

  • why smallholder farming is central to the poverty problem in Africa (3:42)
  • the wave of violence in Nigeria fueled largely by unemployed youth (7:21)
  • the Mashas’ rigorous process to identify agriculture as a job-creation engine (9:44)
  • Trust Groups, or mini-cooperatives, and other core elements of the Babban Gona model (14:22)
  • the impact on the lives of farm families (25:39)
  • how Babban Gona is raising capital to super-scale the model (32:36)
  • and how it mitigates climate change and other risks (39:39).

For the full transcript go to: