We were not sure exactly how. Jonathan Levine 09:44 By Bahrain Email List early 2010, Kola says the security situation was getting bad. So he and Lola took a road trip to Benin a few hours away, sat on a beach, and sketched out their options. Kola Masha 09:56 The first problem we were trying to solve was the jobs problem. What sector could be a job-creation engine? Lola Masha 10:04 I have the consultant background, Kola had the business background. We literally Bahrain Email List thought of it as a case study, essentially. We were extremely structured with it. Jonathan Levine 10:13 The criteria, Kola says, were simple. The sector had to be big, with big growth potential, and labor-intensive, but not require more than limited skills. They quickly winnowed the list to two industries, agriculture, and construction. Kola Masha 10:29 And really agriculture was hands-down the sector Bahrain Email List that checked all of those boxes.
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And so we then said to ourselves, okay, if agriculture is that Bahrain Email List job-creation engine, how do we unlock the potential of agriculture as a job-creation engine. Jonathan Levine 10:43 With more research, Kola drew inspiration from the case of Thailand in the 1980s. He says the country’s agricultural productivity started to soar with the injection of capital. And that enabled small farmers to invest in agricultural inputs, like fertilizers and seeds, to grow their yields. Bahrain Email List Kola Masha 11:02 So we settled on a strategy that would increase the profitability of small-scale farmers, that would draw millions of young people into the sector, effectively as agricultural entrepreneurs. So the next question we had to ask ourselves was, okay, why are smallholder farmers Bahrain Email List poor? And how can we enable them to make much more money? And it was at that point that I looked back on my heritage.
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Jonathan Levine 11:32 Kola’s father is Nigerian, but his mother was Bahrain Email List American. She grew up in South Dakota, and her father farmed soybeans on a small spread there in the early 1900s. For years, Kola says his grandfather struggled to survive with poor yields and low economies of scale. Until farm cooperatives started expanding around the country. A local co-op helped him reduce costs and improve productivity, get better prices for his crops, and secure loans through the newly minted Farm Credit System… Kola Masha 12:03 …To the point where, you know, Bahrain Email List my grandfather was able to make enough money to send my mother off to university, where she then in turn, met my father… Jon Levine 12:14 …And they married Bahrain Email List and moved to Nigeria in the 1970s. Remembering that family history planted an important seed in the Mashas’ business plan.