Meet Kaamil Kalejaiye, entrepreneur with passion to feed 180m Nigerians
Is there anyone who will ever survive without food? This sounds like a rhetorical question, but Kaamil Kalejaiye is ready to provide an answer through his Fakholt Agro, a firm that specialises in general agriculture. Kamil has two other partners, who conducted a research together with him in 2013 before setting up Fakholt that year.
Kamil and co are in the business of poultry, cassava, rice and pepper. He and his partners have also planted tomatoes and citrus in Epe, Lagos State. But it is the poultry and citrus farms that are doing fairly well now.
“After a lot of research, we found out that it is agriculture that we could do,” Kaamil tells Start-Up Digest.
“Everybody has to eat. Once you have the technical know-how, you can do a lot in agriculture. We went for training at a place called Animal Farm. We also visited a lot of farms, talking to farmers, learning from their experiences and failures in order to avoid them,” he says.
Kaamil and co started with 1,500 birds but today, this number has increased to 6,000, thanks to the grace of God and hard work. His aim is to provide food to over 180 Nigerians.
“Poultry farm is capital intensive. You may be spending up to N10 million on 3,000 birds. Even though you have the money, you need the technical know-how. Animals behave like human beings. They eat three times in a day. They are like babies. If you serve them in the morning, you must serve them in the afternoon and evening/night,” he counsels.
He says that many poultry farms fail because managers do not treat animals like they do human beings.
“If you treat them like animals they won’t respond positively. Let me cite an example. Last time, a neighbour of mine had a poultry farm, but he did not feed them the way human beings were supposed to be fed. They did not lay eggs and he had to sell all of them. Any animal business you do, you have to make sure you treat them like humans. The water you cannot drink, don’t give it to the birds. Any water that is not healthy for human beings is not healthy for the birds. If you have a cold, the birds can also catch a cold,” he discloses.
“Unfortunately, they cannot talk but can only react. And their reaction is losses for you. They may not produce eggs or could start dying,” he adds.
The entrepreneur says the easiest aspect of agriculture that anyone can start is a vegetable farm. He, however, points out that the big problem is the market.
“Finding a market is generally a problem associated with agricultural products. Last year, I did maize. It was good but nobody was ready to buy,” he says.
He explains that there is a need for entrepreneurs to know their markets before starting a farm.
Another good business is fish production, he discloses, urging farmers to first sell to their neighbours.
He laments that Nigerian governments at all levels do not give farmers sufficient support.
“The problem in Nigeria is that government does not support farmers. In other countries, government buys off and sells to the middlemen. But here, the farmer has to sell to the middleman and in the course of it loses a lot of money.”
He regrets that a lot of farmers are ready to convert cassava into starch, but that government agencies frustrate such efforts.
“Pharmaceuticals need starch. If you want to convert your cassava into starch, the agencies you need to meet will be more than 10. At the end of the day, you find out it is not worth it,” he says.
Kaamil says that one of the biggest issues facing Nigerian entrepreneurs is the attitude of employees.
“In fact, we used to send them away regularly, and since then, things have improved. At some point, we found out that there was theft happening at the farm.”
He urges farmers to expand operations regularly in order to attract corporate buyers.
“The bigger your farm, the lower the cost of production. The market is there already. Spa, Shoprite and co buy from farms directly. There is a certain size you have to grow your farm to attract such corporate buyers,” he reveals.
Kaamil, who is a product of Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry Mentoring Programme, explains that there is usually egg glut when students are on vacation.
In spite of the challenges, the entrepreneur says agriculture is worth doing.
“Because everybody has to eat, whether poor or rich, the business is good. You can’t survive without food.”
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