For many years, the Alayide community in Ado Awaye, Iseyin Local Government Area of Oyo State has been backward in its cassava produce until the birth of Psaltry International Limited in the community, a local cassava processing company, that seeks to optimise the cassava value chain in the country by providing industrial quality cassava starch to extract maltose syrup for use in its brewing process. SEGUN ADEBAYO, who was on the tour of the facility, recently reports how farming in the community has received boost in the last five years.
At first glance, Ado Awaye, a sleepy town located 30 kilometers out of Iseyin, headquarters of Iseyin Local Government in the Oke Ogun area of Oyo State, seems perfectly ordinary. Despite its hosting of one of the only two Suspended Lakes in the world, Ado Awaye does not seem to have enjoyed any media attention that could drive attention to its numerous natural, cultural and historical attractions, which according to its residents are of great spiritual significance.
But one thing that the people of the community are known for is farming. This, according to them, is not just a source of living but source of joy. They have been farmers for years and even though they don’t appear to be living a comfortable life despite the hard work, they find solace in their community and the people around them. For them, providing what a large number of people will eat is a delight to them.
The journey from Lagos State, the take off point to Iseyin, and much later, Ado Awaye, was obviously not for the faint-hearted. It was an energy-sapping four-hour journey that left one to wonder the significance of the town that drives people to it on a daily basis. The road that leads to Iseyin from Ibadan was not busy and as one takes bends off the major road into Alayide Wasimi village, where Psaltry International, an agro allied company established in 2005 to market cassava produce but later expanded its business line to include farm development and production of food grade starch from cassava.
It was not too hard to notice the sparse of land the small community that its population is a little over 1000 boasts of. They had lived in makeshift houses for many years until Psaltry International came to the community to build houses for the people and also sunk a borehole to save them the stress of going to the stream to fetch a drinking water.
In the village, everybody lives like a king even though they have a Baale, a community head, whose only job is to oversee the affairs of the community and ensures that peace reigns supreme. Both young and old in the town live peacefully despite the lack of communal presence, the people do not bother about life in the city, they simply want to farm, harvest their produce and send them to the city to make money.
Though, transporting their farm produce to the city has been a major source of worry for the Alayide community. The people are united and they seem to be loving life in the town. Nigerian Tribune made an attempt to speak to one of early settlers in the community if he would consider coming to the city, his response was simple “I am not made for life in the city. This is my home. This is where I have access to the best of vegetables and other farm produce that I can’t get in the city.”
During a tour of the company which is currently one of Nigerian Breweries’ major raw material suppliers, the Corporate Communications manager of Nigerian Breweries, Mr Patrick Olowokere, said that the strategy was to identify organisations that could produce raw materials and ancillary products as inputs for its business.
These organisations, he explained, would be supported and provided the guarantee of a ready market for their products. These value chain models, according to him, have been successfully experimented in the areas of packaging materials, sorghum and cassava development models.
He revealed that the company has also made progress in increasing the supply of sorghum used for some of its beverages as more than 100,000 metric tonnes of the cereal is annually sourced locally. “Over 250,000 farmers spread across several agronomic zones in the North have been impacted by our sorghum value chain programme as at 2013”, he said.
Currently, the company’s brands are packaged using locally sourced packaging materials such as bottles, cans, crates, cartons, crown corks and labels among others. As at 2016, 99 per cent of these packaging materials were locally sourced, opening wide opportunity to clusters of local entrepreneurs.
Similarly, the company has since 2015 been working with Psaltry International Limited, a local cassava processing company, to optimise the cassava value chain in the country by providing industrial quality cassava starch to extract maltose syrup for use in its brewing process.
Coming to Alayide village to elevate the business of farming in rural areas by creating a production value chain for farm produce using innovative processes, The Managing Director of Psaltry International company, Mrs Oluyemi Iranloye said she had to quit her paid job to start what many people thought was impossible.
The cassava processing firm has today become the biggest revelation coming out of the backward integration story. Mrs. Iranloye informed journalists recently that the firm has created a supply chain involving up to 5,000 farm families, which include more than 2,000 registered and unregistered out grower farm families, marketers, transporters and retail input suppliers.
She added that the company has saved the nation more than $7million in foreign exchange in the past two years through local provision of processed cassava starch for industrial use.
“When I said I was going to resign and take up farming as a full time job, many people said I was crazy. Even the banks that I approached said it was not possible at that time giving the challenges on ground when I was about to start. But I had seen pain on the faces of the farmers in the village and I knew that if I could provide an enabling environment for them to farm and sell their products, they will be happy, and that was how I started.”
With the company’s asset base as at December 2015 about $5million comprising its factory, farm land and equipment and generated up to $3.5million as revenue in 2015 and has saved the nation the more than $7million in Forex in the past two years, Mrs Iranloye did not just become a multi-millionaire farmer overnight; she had to wait for more than ten years before she started reaping the gains of her hard work.
“I kept seeing something people did not see. It started like a hobby for me and the day went by, the dream was getting brighter. We have been able to record success because we work with small holder farmers. We actually started with our own funding before we got the support of First Bank and other partners that came on board much later.”
Today, life in the community has taken a new dimension as the farmers in the town have become proud owners of houses and cars. They have moved from their hitherto makeshift houses into their new homes and they have Psaltry and Nigerian Breweries to thank for their change of fortune.