Responding to Nigeria’s quest for practical commitments in leadership, innovation, entrepreneurship, and development initiatives, U.S. government exchange program alumni across the country are contributing ideas and resources and improving lives in their communities.
To observe the impact of these life-improving contributions by some of the exchange alumni, U.S. Embassy Cultural Affairs Officer Robert Kerr and Political Officer Robert Wong on June 14 visited a poultry farm in Wagu Sarki Village, near Suleja, Niger State and an orphanage in Gyellesu, Zaria, Kaduna State, established by Mandela Washington Fellow Rilwan Hassan.
Rilwan is a serial entrepreneur, who at a young age has already created several successful businesses. His company, Focal Point Ltd., has interests in cleaning, construction, agriculture, publishing, and printing. He employs nearly 100 people, and uses a percentage of the company’s profit to run an orphanage in Gyallesu.
His poultry farm, which has 11,000 birds, combines local and imported technology in their feed and eggs production as well as conversion of the birds’ droppings into organic fertilizer for the farms. The orphanage in Gyallesu provides shelter and basic primary education to orphans and vulnerable children in the community.
The U.S. officials also visited Markarfi, an agriculture community in Kaduna State, where they met local farmers who are beneficiaries of an agricultural franchise, “Baban Gona,” established by Eisenhower Fellow Kola Masha. The franchise has improved the incomes and livelihoods of smallholder farmers by providing training, financial services, agricultural inputs, and marketing services to local trust groups. Beneficiaries testified that they have more than doubled their production and incomes through this initiative. Kola, the Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technlogy graduate founder of “Baban Gona,” is convinced that smallholder farmers are the key to Nigeria’s agricultural future, and empowering them will help the country grow in that vital sector.
Kola is the Managing Director of Doreo Partners, an agriculture focused, African impact investing firm. Prior to founding Doreo, Kola was a Managing Director and CEO of a major subsidiary in the Notore Group, one of Nigeria’s leading agricultural conglomerates.