When you think of Nigeria, rice may not be the first staple crop that comes to mind, but in fact Nigerians consume nearly 500 million metric tons of rice each year. According to Index Mundi, the consumption of rice as a filler food for Nigerians has increased tremendously over the years. For example, in 1960 the domestic consumption was only a fraction of today’s rice market.
About Rotimi Williams
Enter Rotimi Williams, a 35 year old entrepreneur, farmer, and former journalist, this young man is on a mission, and that mission is to provide Nigeria with alternatives to a self-sustained rice industry. Forbes Magazine caught up with Williams to find out what this young inspiration was all about.
After graduating from the School of Oriental and African Studies, Williams started his journalism career at Euromoney, covering African news which led him to discovering the agriculture and farming industry. Once he returned to Nigeria, he hoped to make an impact on local agriculture by working at a bank, but was met with red tape and restriction to policy change, delaying any real progress, stating, “As my frustration grew, I decided to quit banking and planned to go it alone into agriculture. Frankly, my decision led to a challenging sojourn as attempts to raise funding with my partner proved difficult. We started a Structured Trade and Commodity Finance company. After a while I started consulting for small agriculture companies seeking to raise capital both locally and internationally.”
It wasn’t long after his move to consultation that Williams began his own investment adventures, and now he is the owner of Nigeria’s second largest rice farm, a whopping 45,000 hectares spanning the countryside of Nasarawa, Nigeria.
The Farming Business
As the owner of one of the biggest farms in the region, Williams offers a unique integration of organic growing practices, including using straw from their rice fields as feed to local livestock and producing more than 8,000 metric tons of rice each year.
Williams is hoping that by showing the government that a private business can make smart business decisions, provide quality food, embrace environmentally friendly practices while working side by side local communities, and provide jobs to those in the area, that his reach to the political arena that regulates and sets agriculture policy will be heard.
Social and Economic Impact
In addition to his business plan and policy change initiative, Williams offers a variety of Food Out of Poverty, or FOOP, programs. Williams covered some of his FOOP success by stating, “Under the FOOP, we are able to train approximately a hundred Fulani women in rice farming, at the same time, employing their men as our security, and finally feeding their castles from the rice straw after harvest.”
Williams is committed to making Nigeria a self-sustained rice producer while also leveraging the local worker pool to help bring about change in a country riddled with poverty and hunger. In addition to his immediate impact of providing tons of rice each year to the area, he is influencing local politics, other businesses, and communities in ways that offer more productive, safe, and healthy rice production methods to build the infrastructure needed to be successful.
When asked why he decided to go into the rice farming business, Williams emphasized, “I simply ask myself the question ‘if not me, then who?’ The primary problem in Nigeria today is that we wait for others to do things for us and this has to stop. We need to learn to take the initiative. I would like to view this as a ‘Revolution of the Mind’ rather than an agricultural revolution. So, I began with the farm out of Poverty campaign.”