Innovation and Entrepreneurship
Inside Aquaculture: Improving Fish Farmer Productivity in NigeriaPublished: May 04, 2011
Lagos, the largest city in Nigeria with a population of eight million, lies between the Atlantic Ocean and a huge lagoon. It is surrounded by rivers, ponds and wetlands that stretch deep into the countryside. Although Nigeria has more than 900 medium and large-sized lakes, it remains Africa's largest importer of fish.
Saidat Shonoiki has set out to teach Nigeria how to fish.
Founder of De Ideal Agro Allied Service Ltd., a producer of fish food pellets, Shonoiki is not only building her own business, but is helping fish farmers learn how to be more productive as they work local ponds and riverbeds. She is using skills that she learned as a Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women scholar in 2008, such as accounting and human resources management, to make Nigerian fish farmers attractive to investors and bankers. "Ponds and streams are everywhere. You can grow catfish in your backyard," says Shonoiki. "For the people, this is a very good animal protein. It is good for the body."
Shonoiki says she hopes to reinvigorate a once-successful industry in Nigeria. According to U.S. Department of Agriculture staff, Nigeria, with a population of 150 million and rising incomes supported by oil exports, is a prime market for fish with demand of more than one million tons a year. Exporters have made strides into the market since the government reduced tariffs and the local industry was hurt by rising diesel costs and a lack of understanding about modern aquaculture.
Shonoiki, 33, became interested in fish farming after earning an undergraduate degree in animal nutrition in 2003 from Nigeria's University of Ilorin. As a child she had worked in entrepreneurial ventures, helping her mother in a textile business, selling eggs, distributing bread to youth hostels and growing cowpeas while a college student. After graduation, however, she did not plan to start her own business. She hoped to work for a larger company, but she had trouble getting hired because, as a Muslim, she had to keep her head covered.
So after completing her time with the National Youth Service Corps, a program established by the Nigerian government to involve its young graduates in the development of the country, Shonoiki set up a small fish food manufacturing business in Lagos in 2005. Shonoiki says a key to the success of that business was using a motor abandoned by her aunt years before. She used the motor to power a machine to dry fish food into pellets. The machine eliminated two to three days in the production process, lowering costs for her company and for her customers.
At the time, Shonoiki says, imported fish feed was expensive for Nigerians. Local products were cheaper, but not as effective in raising fish for market. Shonoiki used her drying machine and formulations based on local resources such as corn flour, soy and vitamins to produce high-grade pellets. She says she is helping fish farmers improve productivity by 40%.
Her business, financed in part by outside investors, has since grown steadily and is now located in the capital of Abuja where her husband works as a petroleum engineer. The company expanded with new funds from a Lagos-based investment club and is now developing floating fish feed for use in Nigeria. The company uses an extruder that, according to Shonoiki, is the first of its kind in Northern Nigeria, to make this form of fish food.
Stocking Fish and Keeping the Books
Peter Bamkole, director of the Centre for Enterprise Development Services at the Pan-African University, where Nigeria's 10,000 Women program is based, says that from the start, Shonoiki has operated a highly professional business with strong accounting standards. "She is one of the few women who is set up properly and because of that has been able to attract funding not just from family members," he notes.
Today, in addition to fish food, Shonoiki markets a manual for the industry that outlines details of successful fish production, such as how many fish to stock in a set space to be profitable. It also offers more general business advice on such topics as accounting, finance and human resources.
Bamkole says the manual was inspired in part by the SME Toolkit, an Internet-based set of business processes developed by the World Bank's International Finance Corp. (IFC) to help small- and medium-sized companies perform more efficiently. The toolkit has information about running a small business, including more than 40,000 how-to articles on accounting and finance, international business, marketing and sales, human resources, legal issues and insurance, operations and technology.
In November 2010, 250 people from 10 countries attended a conference in Lagos on the SME Toolkit. In addition to the articles, Bamkole says the toolkit has standard business forms to help companies keep track of their balance sheets and related financial measures. Other tools include a calculator to factor amortization rates and spread sheets to display profit and loss numbers quickly and easily. The IFC has designated Bamkole's program in Lagos as the toolkit's Nigerian partner.
Shonoiki says she has used the SME Toolkit most in helping with cash flow projections and human resources management. She also used a toolkit template in a business plan competition arranged by Abuja Enterprise Agency, a business development organization supported by local government, and won first prize of Naira 1 million (about 6,400USD). Elements of the toolkit are now critical pieces of her manual and integral to the consulting business that she runs alongside her fish food company. Shonoiki has helped five people set up aquaculture businesses and is continuing to act as a consultant. "I've been very blessed," says Shonoiki. "I have a business now. I am helping others to build their businesses and to guide them right."