Nigerian TFF Ambassador Sarah O. Fagoyinbo is an agribusiness professional who has worked across the whole agrifood value chain—from production to shelf. As a farmer, a friend of farmers, a teacher and facilitator, Sarah is a passionate “Agvocate” for women and youth in agriculture.
During the first lockdown in March 2020, Sarah launched a series of Instagram Live sessions dubbed “Agribusiness; a tool for economic recovery” which recently featured TFF Community Manager Marie. We talked to Sarah about her work to educate about food system challenges and create shared digital learning spaces, about the importance of women and youth empowerment, and her view about the effects of COVID on our food systems—which are not only negative!
How has COVID affected the food system in your region?
As a fish farmer and an aquaculture professional working with over 1200 fish farmers, I saw first hand the havoc that COVID wrecked on our already weak value chain, total dependence on natural rainfall/ irrigation, and total reliance on off takers for price determination, among others, due to the lockdown. I also experienced how fruit and vegetable farmers ran at loss due to perishability and inaccessibility due to lockdown. The COVID and lockdown may have aggravated these problems, but they have always been there. These are just a few of the negative impacts.
What are some of the positive trends of 2020?
Looking on the bright side, COVID and the resulting lockdown have helped with awareness of our many loopholes and allowed for creation of avenues to discuss and seek solutions to these threats.
More food producers, processors, branders, marketers and sellers took to social media, causing a global shift in the agricultural value chain. People who produce food to fit certain needs and standards (e.g. organic, vegan, vegetarian, etc.) were able to express themselves better and publicise their products and its benefits. Consumers have become more aware of the importance of traceability in what they eat hence, having to be more accountable, and in turn getting higher value for the products.
More importantly, people have come to appreciate farmers and agriculture professionals more, understanding that it is an essential profession and supposed to be a way of life for everyone. We have more people willing to learn farming, food production and agribusiness.
What do you do to advocate and inform about agriculture?
With everything I do, I do my best to bridge the gap between agriculture and information. That’s also why I started my Instagram live sessions ”Agribusiness; a tool for economic recovery” during the first lockdown and it has been an interesting journey, helping me to reach more farmers and agribusiness enthusiasts that I didn’t know personally or have their contacts in my database. I also attracted an international audience which helped me compare and contrast varying food systems. More importantly, I have had great testimonials from people about all the positive impacts on their mindsets and businesses.
The Instagram Live sessions included specific teachings in different sectors of agriculture, value chain, food safety/ handling, and also interview sessions where I invited guest speakers who were significant leaders from government, non-government, policy-making, economics, agriculture, academics, etc.
I have been told that my approach to making agriculture look attractive is very unique and has the potential to impress anyone who hears that I am into agriculture. This has helped me to draw a meaningful audience, making people understand that agriculture doesn’t equal poverty, dirtiness or poor fashion sense (which has been a general belief in Africa). Through digital channels, I can also reach women and the next generation, which is extremely important when talking about the future of agriculture.
Why is women and youth empowerment so important?
I know that by concentrating on women and youths, I am reaching the whole world.
Women in most developing countries are underrated and are not expressing their full potential either for religious, traditional, political or gender bias reasons. Instead of using women for cheap labor in planting and harvesting, or relegating them to staying home to do petty trading, they have the potential of doing excellently in the value chain through research, innovation, advertising, marketing, sales, packaging, and branding.
Women are also closer to children and youth due to their nurturing nature, so once a woman is empowered, we are sure of raising better children, and some hope of reduction in the rate of e.g. domestic violence or juvenile delinquencies.
Youth are emerging world leaders and many of them still do not understand the function of agriculture in the sustainable development goals. Educating and empowering them will help reduce the rate of unemployment, illiteracy, crime, and social miscreancy while shaping great leaders for government, policy, and international development.
What is your best advice for anyone trying to advocate for food system transformation? Where should they start?
There is an old saying “Charity begins at home” and there is also this common slogan that says ”Change begins with you”. To advocate for transformation, one must first identify a need for transformation, then start from within themselves and immediate surroundings e.g. their family or peer-group. Once people around you know what you stand for, it is easier to project it to the world. Also, look out for similar organizations around you and identify with them.
COVID COLLABORATION COLLECTIVE
More from the Covid Collaboration Collective
Our Covid Collaboration Collective (Co3) collects and shares the solutions that TFFers around the world are developing so that they can be deployed more quickly in other places.