In 2013 Lawan Usman Ali was to celebrate his son’s birthday but and he faced with a NEED and then, a CHALLENGE. The need to find healthy and neatly processed poultry meat. The challenge? There were not many outlets where he could purchase this. This made him go through the process of buying live chickens and dressing them Myself. This experience he says made him understand that a lot of people were faced with similar challenge of having no access to healthy poultry meat. This would them lead him to start up USAIFA farms.Founded in 2014, USAIFA farms is set up with a mission to produce healthy and antibiotic free poultry meat, delivered to the doorstep of customers. USAIFA operates a simple but unique model of ensuring that all of its farm produce are grown organically (which is a healthy alternative to those grown using hormones and other “chemicals” that may have negative impact on both consumers and the environment). To achieve this, they make use natural antibiotic sources like Garlic, Ginger and other related herbs that contain natural antioxidants in combatting pathogen and disease incursion on the farm. This system has helped to reduce cost of production while maintaining healthy flock.
In September 2014, Lawan ventured into the Agro-business sector with the aim of producing healthy and affordable poultry. This was in an effort to create jobs and also help reduce the menace of illegal importation of poultry which is alleged to contain chemicals that are causative agents of non-communicable diseases like cancer and antibiotic resistance in humans.
However, just like many start-ups sourcing finance to fund this business idea was a major challenge. The initial business establishment cost was financed from personal savings of the company’s Directors (Lawan and three friends). To raise funds, he applied for the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Program and was successful giving him access to funding and an opportunity to scale up he says “We started operation in March 2015 and have continued to stabilize the business by reinvesting all accrued profit. I and my team have successfully grown the farm output from 700 to 2000 broilers per month and 600 crates of eggs within two years. We have also introduced new products like Livestock, Fish, Rabbits and Snails and have increased our profit margin by more than 30% within twenty-four (24) months by increasing output and effectively reducing overhead cost. We are currently working on an integrated fish and vegetable farming system known as Aquaponics (the marriage of Aquaculture and Aeroponics or Soil-less farming system) to engage in all year-round production of fish and vegetables such as tomatoes, chillies, cucumber, onions, e.t.c under a controlled greenhouse system”
Lawan and his teams use of innovative methods – sustainable and organic approach to farming and food protection have won them both local and international accolades and recognition all of which Lawan says started with the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme “My success with the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship program has served as a spring board leading to success with other entrepreneurship programs like the Mandela Washington Fellowship”
Beyond the funding benefit, Lawan is appreciative of the access to resources, business partnerships, mentorship, training, networking as well as an opportunity to collaboration opportunities that come with being a Tony Elumelu Entrepreneur “attending the TEEP has also helped me to think globally when developing market for my products”
Like several other startups, USAIFA has faced challenges including the lack of entrepreneurial knowledge, skilled manpower, electricity challenges and access to good roads. But through learning, Lawan says he has had to build human capital capacity by providing business and technical training to most staff and as well worked on his entrepreneurial knowledge especially in terms of building successful business systems and processes.
USAIFA is currently located in Dorawa village, a community of less than 1000 people who are mostly subsistent farmers and as the only registered enterprise provides formal employment to the local community employing 12 full time staff and plan to employ 10 additional staff by December 2017. Since beginning full operations in March 2015, USAIFA provides 10,000 liters of clean water every week from its borehole, this has reduced the spread of waterborne diseases and walking distance to access clean water. They have also trained over 200 Corps members on poultry, fisheries and snail farming in Keffi Zone in collaboration with the NYSC Skills Acquisition and Entrepreneurship Development (SAED) Program.
Lawan foresees USAIFA International Limited as one of the leading companies in agro-business in the North Central Region in particular and Nigeria in general with a projected annual turnover of 100 Million Naira by December 2021 to achieve this he and his team are taking the necessary steps on expansion as they plan to establish a poultry processing unit, improve product packaging and establish sales outlets for products within Abuja all before December 2017.