Titilola Aisha Damilola, a graduate of Law from the University of Bedfordshire, Luton, England is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of TAD Farms and the convener of African Child Liberation Mission (ACLIM). In this interview with Niyi Oyedeji, she speaks on what motivated her to quit Law for farming business.
What is your business all about?
I studied Law at the University of Bedfordshire, Luton before I returned to Nigeria in 2013, after obtaining an LLB. I later proceeded to the Law School and obtained a BL from the Nigerian Law School, Bwari, Abuja in 2014.
Upon returning from London, I established a charity organisation, African Child Liberation Mission (ACLIM), which was intended to fulfil a lifelong vision of giving something to the society. The organisation focuses on children in the underserved communities and vulnerable children. The organisation is registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC)
Farming and charity are two things I hold dear to my heart. I believe they complement each other so well and that’s why I established my farming business, TAD Meadows Limited also known as TAD Farms. It is a registered company with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) and located in Ibadan, Oyo State.
TAD Farms is an eco-friendly farm engaging in the raising, processing and distribution of high-quality animal protein. We also raise livestock to meet demand of special occasions.
We’ve been in the business of raising animals since 2017. However, we started with the commercial sales of livestock since 2015. We are mainly into animal husbandry; we raise animals like Rams, Goats, Turkey, Rabbits, Local Chicken, Ducks etc. The beauty of our model is not only in the raising; we also process these animals upon maturity. That is, we smoke them, package and distribute to our customers. We relate with our customers directly, thereby, cutting off the middle men. We are in control of our supply chain. This didn’t happen overnight though. It took a lot of commitment to get to where we are now.
Once our animals reach maturity, we slaughter, smoke them, package them and distribute them. The processing aspect didn’t start until January 2019 and we’ve come a long way since then. Our new processing facility will be launched by the first quarter of 2020 because we have to increase capacity due to demand.
Like I mentioned earlier, we process almost all the animals we breed, from the farm, to the slaughter house, to the processing house. Some of our smoked products include, smoked ram, smoked goat, smoked guinea fowl, smoked chicken, smoked rabbit, smoked duck and smoked turkey. We are all about healthy eating. We are trying to promote white meat and also healthy red meat. So, we try to give our customers as many options as possible. And most importantly, we want their meat to be delivered fresh.
We do not only sell; we also educate our customers on the nutritional and health benefit of all our meat products. We also take them through all the processes their meats go through before reaching their table which means that all our meat products can be traced. So, basically, we are an advocate of people knowing the origin of what they consume and TAD Farms lives up to that. All our meats products are premium quality.
Apart from the above, we also lessen the burden on our clients who desire to have their own livestock for special occasions, like, Salah, Christmas, Wedding, and social occasions. We provided, when available, the best raised livestock for them.
What motivated your decision to go into farming after law school?
A few things motivated me. First, is my passion for farming, I have always loved the idea of raising animals. Second, is my charity organisation. Just as a Yoruba adage that says, once hunger can be sorted out, then there isn’t much to worry about. So, I needed to find a way of making both work in other to contribute my little quota to my immediate environment.
While I was studying Law in England, I had the habit of visiting Nairaland – an online Nigerian Forum – and I love visiting the agriculture section at my free time. I read so much about farming, from cassava farming to maize farming to pig farming to poultry etc, that I started feeling like a farmer already. It really gingered my interest in farming. Nairaland helped me a lot. I just couldn’t wait to return to Nigeria after my degree to start up farming then.
On my return to Nigeria, I had to serve and also went to Law School. I was posted to Abuja for service. I met a friend who was a farmer. He owned a farm in Keffi but works in Abuja. So, while conversing with him, the farming idea came up again and we shared ideas on what steps to take. I had to figure out what was in abundant in the North that could be sold in the south West. So, we came up with rams and cows.
Luckily, the Salah was about 4 months away and I knew it was a big market down south.
My friend and I decided we take a tour to one of the biggest ram markets in Katsina state. The market is called Muadua. My friend assisted in taking care of my rams till I was ready to move them to Ibadan few weeks to sallah. Since 2015, we’ve been selling rams. Those periods made me, they shaped me and helped me grow into the farmer I am today.
We eventually set up our own facility to breed the animals in the South instead of the North and commenced full scale business in Ibadan with everything done at Tad Farm in 2017.
How do you combine livestock farming with other things?
It was so overwhelming combining both farming and legal practice. I have been into full time farming for the most time, and since I started, I worked briefly for the Ministry of Justice and I tell you, it wasn’t easy. I eventually went with the farm. So, at the moment my attention is 100% with the farm.
What is the number of your current employee?
At this moment, TAD Farms has 5 employees. We are still a growing and we hope to expand with time.
What are your expansion plans?
We are working on our processing centre at the moment to help us handle large volumes. We are also opening our first farm outlet in Ibadan by the first quarter of 2020 to make our premium processed meat products available all year round. We hope to expand to other states in the South West in the future. Our aim is to revolutionize the meat market in the southwest by making fresh, ready to eat meat available.
What are the major challenges faced since starting the business?
There are challenges caused by the government and there are ones caused by the people.
Security and inadequate infrastructure are major challenge. Moving from town to the farm is a challenge on its own; we always have to be at alert all time. The roads to the farm are in terrible shape. A lot of times we have had to fix the roads ourselves because it was a disaster. Electricity is also another factor. Challenges like these do not motivate young people to take up farming as a profession. It can be so discouraging to be honest.
Then we have lack of human capital. We have to train our staff to adapt to our company culture and also understand the nitty-gritty of the business.
How do you think government can address these challenges?
By fixing the roads and making it motorable for us to easily connect with our farms. By also providing electricity and improve on infrastructure. Security should also be settled. Without addressing these issues, young people will continue to look down on the farming profession.
What advise do you have for young people who are interested in what you do?
Gain as much knowledge as you can on the kind of farming those interests you. Read as much as you can on the internet, information is everywhere. Use your mobile phone to your advantage. Then, equip yourself with practical skill. Get your hands dirty! Do the dirty work. Nothing is beneath you on the farm so you have to do the job. Practice makes perfect. Be patient with yourself and be ready to make mistakes. No farmer got it right from the start. We make mistakes, learn, relearn and unlearn.
Most importantly, farming is not a ponzi scheme. It is not a get rich quick scheme. It takes dedication, commitment, hard work and patience.