Tobi uses nature-based approaches and low-cost innovation to address low agricultural and livestock yield for farmers helping them increase profitability and attain sustainability in their farming practices.
Tobi has created a very unique and successful methodology to reach a large number of farmers that adopt nature-based solutions to become sustainable and profitable. Tobi is utilizing nature-based approaches and circular production processes to address the persistent food crisis, resulting in cost-effective and pragmatic solutions. His innovative approach has gained swift and widespread acceptance, thereby promoting profitability and sustainability in farming practices.
Through a nature-based methodology, Tobi is empowering a large number of smallholder farmers by providing them with access to knowledge, tools, and partnerships, which is in turn boosting their agency and improving farming practices. By placing farmers at the center of the process, Tobi's approach has empowered farmers with the knowledge and resources needed to adopt nature-based farming practices. Tobi is not the first to highlight the black soldier fly’s potential, however, he and his team are essentially the ones who have figured out how to strategically make farmers adopt it, and back it up with a solid scale strategy that makes it unique, transferrable and replicable.
Through his innovative approach, Tobi has managed to overcome the barriers that have traditionally prevented farmers from incorporating this practice into their operations. With emphasis on scalability and transferability, Tobi has developed a replicable framework that can be applied to a wide range of farming operations. By doing so, Tobi has made it possible for farmers across diverse geographies and contexts to keep on experimenting and discovering by themselves, other nature-based approaches beneficial to the environment that can help them increase agro yield.
Moreover, because of Tobi's efforts, there has been a significant rise in the adoption of this approach among rural farmers which has been beneficial through creating opportunities for upcycling of organic waste, improving economic outcomes and curbing the environmental consequences of open dumping and CO2 emissions.
According to data from Statista, 70% of households in Nigeria participate in crop farming activities, while 41% are engaged in livestock farming. Despite this seeming prevalence of agriculture in Nigeria, and the expanding population of the country, the corresponding demand for food outweighs the supply from the farmers that fall within the bracket above. The reason is that the average farmer has 2 plots of land to cultivate year on year, w| 1|hile a large farmer has 2 acres (12 plots of land) overall to cultivate. Because of this, most farmers use conventional farming methods that involve buying seeds, fertilizers and pesticides, and for livestock farmers, they must factor in feeds. The aftermath of this reliance on conventional methods is that pests grow more resistant to pesticides and the land wears out from repeated fertilizer application necessitating the frequent change to higher more aggressive pesticides on one hand, and the need for more aggressive artificial fertilizers on the other hand, leading to land wear and tear which in turn translates to low yield for the farmers.
Sadly, in addition to this low yield situation, many farmers are left to deal with middlemen that pick the best of their products at low prices to sell to big retailers in the cities at higher prices, thus perpetuating a cycle of poverty that keeps many farmers from getting the income that should have come directly to them.
The environmental implications of harmful agricultural practices affect the soil because of the application of chemical fertilizers, and pesticides that guarantee maximum soil productivity for only 3 - 5 years after which the farmers are forced to lease/buy, clear and cultivate new land. Sadly, despite this hassle, 60% of the crops produced by many farmers are lost post-harvest, and 40% of this loss is recorded on the farms. The negative implication of this is that the crops that don’t make it out of the farms are left to rot in piles contributing to the emission of greenhouse gases. A 2021 report by the United Nations indicates that Nigeria holds the highest percentage of food wastage per citizen in Africa. Interestingly, Nigeria does not have a national law to promote food donation or to address the country’s nearly 38 million tons of food loss and waste per year. As of 2018 in Nigeria, it was estimated that about 40% of food loss happens annually.
Moreover, in many rural communities, the practice of agriculture in rural areas has led to low productivity, thereby forcing men to migrate to cities. Additionally, women are unable to own the land on which their farms are located, resulting in them not earning any income from their work.
Tobi believes that conventional farming is no longer a viable solution due to the economic, social and environmental implications surrounding it. He is convinced that nature-based solutions for agriculture are the most suitable alternative for small farmers. His methodology involves approaching a community and making an assessment to identify the organic materials available there, the crops or livestock produced, and then he recommends the most suitable nature-based solution. He has been working mostly with the black solider fly, and also with crickets and wood pyrolysis for bio-fertilizers.
However, the most recommended nature-based solution Tobi uses is the black soldier fly due to its prevalence in Nigeria and Africa generally. The fly at its larval stage is a voracious eater and can eat any organic waste ranging from food, fecal matter and kitchen waste. Just a handful of larvae will convert 100 kg of waste into 20 kg of bio-fertilizer in 10 days (about one and a half weeks).
Farmers engaged in livestock farming need a minimum of 2 plots of land to cultivate and get 1 kg of protein-based soybeans for feed, but with the black soldier fly larvae they get the same amount of protein in a 5 by 10-meter space, meaning that farmers require less land to cultivate protein-rich feed for their livestock, thereby freeing up more land for other cash crops. Currently, due to the demand for livestock feed on soybeans, 80% of all soybeans produced in Nigeria go to livestock feed, leaving only 20% for human consumption. With Tobi’s solution, this trend is reversing.
Tobi and his team believe in and operate a proprietary method which he calls the D.E.A.L Method.
First, they Demonstrate the model to farmers in rural communities at their purpose-built demonstration sites. There he shows the farmers through a demonstrative process how the back soldier flies and crickets are reared.
Secondly, they allow the farmers to Experiment with the solution for themselves on their farms. He provides them with a 1-meter by 1-meter kit to get them started with experimenting on the model in their farms.
On the third step in the process Tobi and his team get the farmers to Adopt the method having experimented with it on their farms. For Tobi the adoption stage is the most important instance as this differentiates them from other organizations working with farmers who simply train and leave. At this stage, Tobi and his team work with these rural farmers for 6 months during which the farmers consolidate the model well enough to propagate it on their own without supervision.
Finally, Tobi and his team get the farmers to Leverage their new knowledge to take up other nature-based solutions that are found around them. This mindset shift has seen rural farmers move from wasteful practices, and reliance on industrial fertilizers to the adoption of nature-based solutions.
Tobi’s solution eliminates the need for fertilizers and reduces the use of pesticides and feed for livestock which in turn sees a 20% – 40% cost reduction for crop farmers. In terms of livestock farmers, 70% of the production cost is for feed, but with the black soldier fly methodology, poultry farmers can reduce their cost by 40%. This methodology requires no extra capital and lies within their capabilities. With the black soldier fly methodology, organic waste from the farms is used as an input for the flies and converted afterward to protein and bio-fertilizer with the final produce excreted by the larvae being environmentally friendly. This can be used as biofertilizer in the soil to enrich it and reduce water contamination and land degradation that comes from pesticides and industrial fertilizers. In addition to this, the fact that protein can be produced in less space reduces the need for land to cultivate protein for livestock feed, thereby reducing the need to clear more land for farming purposes.
Tobi has realized that providing farmers with a natural alternative that they get to own and experiment with, has given them ownership over their farming process, thus making the methodology scalable by leveraging the farmers in a peer network. In addition to this, Tobi secures 30% - 40% share for women in his nature-based methodology trainings as an economic alternative for them. After the training, the women start agricultural activities using this methodology and improving their economic conditions to take care of their homes and send their children to school. By this, Tobi is helping them increase their income by 40%.
In Nigeria, he has deployed the training and operations in 29 communities in Southwest Nigeria, covering around 1,200 farmers. He is also working in 24 communities in Northeast Nigeria, covering 2,400 farmers. His pilot facility has treated an estimated 15 tonnes of organic waste to date, whilst his adopting beneficiaries are treating an average of 100 kg of organic waste per month.
He is currently expanding his work to other countries, not operating directly but partnering with other organizations and using a train-the-trainers approach. In Kenya, he is partnering with WAWA Africa, Core Health and Wealth Initiative (CHW), and GAASPP, working in three communities. He is also in conversations with partner organizations in Uganda and Cameroon to replicate his nature-based solution.
Tobi is a young and enthusiastic individual with a deep passion for innovative farming practices, the environment, and food. Born and raised in Sokoto the heart of northern Nigeria, Tobi is the youngest of nine siblings and originally from Oyo State. Since he was a child, Tobi has always been fascinated with the World Health Organization’s (WHO) building in his community, where he noticed people always looked happy going in or coming out of it. Witnessing the distribution of mosquito bed nets in his local community sparked his interest in public health, and he developed a dream of working at the WHO. Tobi pursued his dream by obtaining a bachelor's degree and a Master's in Environment and Public Health, during which he volunteered at several organizations and interned with a local NGO working in agriculture.
During his master's program, Tobi noticed that many workshops and trainings were being held for local farmers, but there was little tangible impact or improvement to show for them. Additionally, he observed that rural communities were primarily composed of children and women, as men were leaving villages due to the lack of profitability in agriculture. Tobi assumed that the reason the local farmers failed was because of their educational level. So, with little or no research, he decided to take a different approach to farming and began organic farming on a 20-acre site using conventional practices. However, his first attempt failed, resulting in the loss of everything he had invested and putting him in debt. Despite this setback, Tobi persevered and tried again, renting a 32.5-acre farm but now, he consulted local farmers. Through collaboration and experimentation, they developed strategies to improve his harvest, which although still below cost price and his expected metrics, showed significant improvement.
In 2017, Tobi was awarded a scholarship for a three-month course in agribusiness, where he learned about the benefits of nature-based approaches such as the black soldier fly methodology, cricket rearing and wood pyrolysis, which focuses on reducing costs and delivering increased agricultural yield. It was through this experience that Tobi began his journey to bring these practices to smallholder farmers, helping them adopt nature-based solutions to improve their agricultural outcomes. Tobi's passion for innovative farming, the environment, and food, combined with his perseverance, collaboration with local farmers, and adoption of nature-based solutions all propel him towards helping rural farmers maximize outputs and cut back on rural-to-urban migration.