For our #BellaNaijaMCM feature this week, we celebrate Lawrence Afere, the founder of Springboard Nigeria, a network of Cocoa, Plantain and Rice smallholder farmers in Nigeria which organises them to access agribusiness support as well as fair, trusted, modern markets.

Springboard initiative, founded in 2008 also trains youth in rural and semi urban communities to start their own organic farms contributing to organic food production in the country.

Springboard supports trained farmers holistically by partnering with local communities to donate farmlands and distributing farm produce in various market channels such as the weekly Springboard Organic farmers Market.

How Springboard works is that it recruits and develops farmers according to the disempowered to empowered model (D2E Model). Farmers organise at communal level and manage themselves in groups of 25-35 farmers.

It then trains the farmers on best practices, sustainable farming and management of cooperatives, using farmer-to-farmer training models.

The platform also supports the farmers with certification, pre-financing, insurance, extensions, agri-technology, as well as a dedicated farmers helpline (Toll-free one-stop for farmers in 4 major languages; Yoruba, Igbo, Hausa and English).

Once produce are harvested, Springboard buys 100% of quality produce from farmers and sells to local and international markets

Springboard currently has a network of 3,000 farmers and entrepreneurs who are benefiting from its initiative.

Springboard also established the Farm to School Africa initiative where it works with schools and educators to build school farms where students learn how to grow produce and eat healthy food, nurture plants and contribute to healthy food production in their communities. The initiative wants every school child in Africa to appreciate their environment, learn some­thing of why and how plants grow; learn about nutrition by growing the plants and watching them carefully.

Lawrence is a Mandela Washington fellow and has been an Ashoka fellow since 2015. He’s also a 2015/16 fellow of the LEAP Africa Social Innovators Program. He is a founding member of the Innovative Cooperative for Optimal Nutrition, ‘ICON’ (launched by 17 Social Entrepreneurs, Ashoka fellows with support from CTA, to scale up social innovations for Nutrition in West Africa).

Lawrence holds a bachelors degree in Business from Covenant University, Nigeria and as part of his Mandela Washington Fellowship Program, he studied Entrepreneurship at Northwestern University.

We celebrate Lawrence for supporting smallholder farmers and contributing to the development of agriculture – especially among school children – as well as ensuring food security in Nigeria and we’re rooting for him!

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