Just a single field officer acts as the point of contact Benin Email List for every farmer’s business. But more importantly, to offset high costs, charges farmers a small fee on each of the many services that it provides—fertilizer purchases, transport services, grain sales. By combining the lower overhead with all those small fees… Kola Masha 20:55 …you can still charge a very low margin and make it financially viable. Jonathan Levine 21:01 Jenny Sharrer says that is far different from most other government or nonprofit ag support models on the continent, which rely Benin Email List on state funds or grants to survive. Being financially sustainable makes bankable to big investors. And that is something of a breakthrough. Jenny 21:18 From that perspective, I think has gone the most radical way, the most holistic way. It has shown that there are models where smallholder Benin Email List agriculture can be fully profitable while generating impact.
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Kola really did crack the nut. Jonathan Levine 21:46 Back in Benin Email List 2012, before the first Trust Group ever met, before the first field was tilled—all of this was still just a shared vision of Kola and Lola Masha. Kola Masha 21:56 We started on this journey recognizing that we wanted to support a million farmers by 2025. Jonathan Levine 22:02 But even Kola realized that was a tall order for someone who’d never touched a plow. He had prestigious credentials—an engineering Benin Email List degree from MIT, a Harvard MBA, executive leadership training at General Electric, which was renowned in its day for management excellence. But he’d never gotten his hands dirty, literally, in the field. Kola Masha 22:24 So the first step was actually going and farming one and a half Benin Email List hectares myself. Jonathan Levine 22:30 He leased a plot of land near a small village in northern Nigeria.
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Lola remembers her husband was away for about six months. Benin Email List Lola Masha 22:37 It was a very difficult time because I had a full-time job, I was back in Lagos. And he just felt he had to understand the challenges that the farmers were facing himself, right. He had to get into it, what it means to harrow the land and plant manually, and spacing the seeds in the ground. Jonathan Levine 22:58 Did you think he was crazy to do that? Lola Masha 23:02 Well, I mean, I believe very Benin Email List much in the vision and actually recall on one of his trips back. And he said, “Lola, this is so hard.” He says, “I’m in a village where I’m eating noodles, breakfast, lunch, dinner. I can’t trust the water. I don’t speak the language. No electricity. No really functioning waste system.” He says, “Look, I Benin Email List really don’t know if I can do this.” Jonathan Levine 23:33 But he persevered. And out of all of it, she says, came something invaluable.