Titilola Aishat Damilola, a lawyer with the Oyo State Ministry of Justice, is the owner of TAD Meadows (aka Tadfarms), Ibadan. A native of Igboho, in Oyo state, she was born in Okeho, Oyo state on 28 July 1991. She attended Juniors International School, Oluyole Estate, Ibadan, had her secondary education at Regina Mundi Girls secondary school, Iwo, Osun state and proceeded to England for her LLB at (University of Bedfordshire, Luton.)
She returned to Nigeria in 2013 and went to Nigerian Law School, Abuja and had her LLB and BL. Her passion for children and community development led her to establish an NGO, African Child Liberation Mission, ACLIM. Through the organization, she and her team embarked on various projects and campaigns in Abuja to empower children. They advocated against child abuse while they brought succor to the less privileged and the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) children.
She returned to Ibadan, Oyo State immediately after her service year in 2015 and began the process to try her hand in farming and then established Tadfarm. It was a new terrain with a lot of challenges, but she was determined to make a success out of it and put all her heart into it.
She runs an eco-friendly farm which is primarily into animal husbandry. She stated that: “We breed and rear all sorts of domesticated animals like rams, goats, pigs, rabbits, birds etc. We are also into value addition, we process most of our animals to meet the direct needs of our customers.”
Can you share with us what your business is all about?
I studied Law at the University of Bedfordshire, Luton before I returned to Nigeria in 2013, after obtaining an LLB. I later proceeded to the Law School and obtained a BL from the Nigerian Law School, Bwari, Abuja in 2014.
Upon returning from London, I established a charity organisation, African Child Liberation Mission (ACLIM), which was intended to fulfill a lifelong vision of giving something to the society. The organisation focuses on children in the underserved communities and vulnerable children. The organisation is registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC).
Farming and charity are two things I hold dear to my heart. I believe they complement each other so well and that’s why I established my farming business, TAD Meadows Limited also known as TAD Farms. It is a registered company with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) and located in Ibadan, Oyo State.
TAD Farms is an eco-friendly farm engaging in the raising, processing and distribution of high-quality animal protein. We also raise livestock to meet demand of special occasions.
We’ve been in the business of raising animals since 2017. However, we started with the commercial sales of livestock since 2015. We are mainly into animal husbandry; we raise animals like Rams, Goats, Turkey, Rabbits, Local Chicken, Ducks, etc. The beauty of our model is not only in the raising; we also process these animals upon maturity. That is, we smoke them, package and distribute them to our customers. We relate with our customers directly, thereby cutting off the middle men. We are in control of our supply chain. This didn’t happen overnight though. It took a lot of commitment to get to where we are now.
Once our animals reach maturity, we slaughter, smoke them, package them and distribute them. The processing aspect didn’t start until January 2019 and we’ve come a long way since then. Our new processing facility was launched in 2020 because we have to increase capacity due to demand.
Like I mentioned earlier, we process almost all the animals we breed, from the farm, to the slaughter house, to the processing house. Some of our smoked products include, smoked ram, smoked goat, smoked guinea fowl, smoked chicken, smoked rabbit, smoked duck and smoked turkey. We are all about healthy eating. We are trying to promote white meat and also healthy red meat. So, we try to give our customers as many options as possible. And most importantly, we want their meat to be delivered fresh.
We do not only sell; we also educate our customers on the nutritional and health benefits of all our meat products. We also take them through all the processes their meats go through before reaching their table which means that all our meat products can be traced. So, basically, we are an advocate of people knowing the origin of what they consume and TAD Farms lives up to that. All our meats products are premium quality.
Apart from the above, we also lessen the burden on our clients who desire to have their own livestock for special occasions, like, Salah, Christmas, Wedding, and social occasions. We provided, when available, the best raised livestock for them.
What motivated your decision to go into farming after law school?
A few things motivated me. First, is my passion for farming, I have always loved the idea of raising animals. Second, is my charity organisation. Just as a Yoruba adage that says, once hunger can be sorted out, then there isn’t much to worry about. So, I needed to find a way of making both work in other to contribute my little quota to my immediate environment.
While I was studying Law in England, I had the habit of visiting Nairaland – an online Nigerian Forum – and I love visiting the agriculture section at my free time. I read so much about farming, from cassava farming to maize farming to pig farming to poultry etc, that I started feeling like a farmer already. It really ignited my interest in farming. Nairaland helped me a lot. I just couldn’t wait to return to Nigeria after my degree to start up farming then.
On my return to Nigeria, I had to serve and also went to Law School. I was posted to Abuja for service. I met a friend who was a farmer. He owned a farm in Keffi but works in Abuja. So, while conversing with him, the farming idea came up again and we shared ideas on what steps to take. I had to figure out what was in abundant in the North that could be sold in the south West. So, we came up with rams and cows.
Luckily, the Salah was about 4 months away and I knew it was a big market down south.
My friend and I decided to take a tour to one of the biggest ram markets in Katsina state. The market is called Muadua. My friend assisted in taking care of my rams till I was ready to move them to Ibadan few weeks to Sallah. Since 2015, we’ve been selling rams. Those periods made me, they shaped me and helped me grow into the farmer I am today.
We eventually set up our own facility to breed the animals in the South instead of the North and commenced full scale business in Ibadan with everything done at Tad Farm in 2017.
Did you face discouragements from professional colleagues, family members and others?
No I didn’t. Everyone encouraged me. Though they were a bit skeptical at first. They thought I was an “ajebutter” (spoilt child) so I would not have been able to survive the first few months (laughs) but to their surprise we are going to our third year now. My parents however, have been very encouraging and supportive.
What were the challenges you faced when you wanted to start?
My first challenge was getting the right team to work with. Getting reliable staff with motivation to deliver.
Has there ever been a time you feel like quitting and go back to the UK?
Yes, a lot of times I want to pack my bags and just relocate but something keeps holding me back. I think it is the hope I have for this beautiful country. Every time, I keep giving her another chance. It’s a challenging country to be honest but I’m trying my best to make something out of it by contributing my own quota to the progress of the country.
When you wanted to start, did you undergo a crash program on Agric training?
Yes I did. I went to a pig village in Oke Aro for training. I also visited a few farms in the south west too. Then I spoke with a couple of professionals who had experience in the industry.
One thing that discourages people from going into agribusiness is theft of produce. How do you check that?
My workers understand the consequences of theft. I do not encourage any form of dishonesty. However, I always encourage honesty and open mindedness: it could be with gifts or money. I also have not had any issue with the village as I see them as a family. They are part of me and I am part of them.
Another is the invasion of cows on your crops…
Not at all. My farm is fully fenced with wire mesh.
Do you face any difficulties marketing your products?
No I do not. I use social media to maximum effect as I realize many are either too busy with work or far away. I also benefit from referrals from happy customers.
How easy was it for you to raise funds for your massive project?
I saved up some money but at some point, it wasn’t enough so I had to raise funds from my parents. Along the line, friends invested in the business too, have seen how far we have come and the potentials of our company.
The Federal Government has various agricultural funds, have you benefited from any of these funds?
No I haven’t. Everything we have done with the farm and the processing facility has been done without the help of the government.
What is your advice to the government in the area of policy on Agric?
The government has a lot to contribute to support the farmers. Beyond funding, there are things that the government is in the best position to undertake. Infrastructure for one: Having a good road network is vital for farmers as many times their goods have to reach the market and subsequently the end users. Farmers cultivating perishable products cannot afford to keep their produce for a certain number of days and also many customers appreciate fresh farm products.
Power is another area that the government can support. To make agriculture more enticing for youth, the government needs to provide incentives and also support the efforts of the farmers. There is also a need to widen agricultural insurance to support farmers in minimizing loss. Subsidize farm machinery. Make farm machinery affordable for farmers .The government also needs to protect local farmers from foreign competitors and encourage patronizing of local producers. Ban on imported foodstuffs should be enforced. Another area is the cost of production. When the costs of production for locally made raw materials are low, importation of these raw materials will not be attractive while local producers can export and earn foreign exchange on their products.
Most importantly, I urge the government to support secondary industries in the processing and manufacturing sector. It will stimulate industrialization and also lead to more employment generation in general. Above all, farmers benefit more from this as they are the primary supplier of raw materials.
What do you see as lasting solutions to the incessant herders / farmers clashes?
Banning open grazing is the lasting solution. Herders need to embrace modern ways of rearing their animals.
Your meat processing project, how acceptable has it been?
It has been very acceptable. I mean, who would think people would accept eating rabbit meat on this scale? All our smoked meat products are hot cake especially the goat meat and rabbit meat. It is mind blowing o. Lol!
You recently started a Car Wash business, what’s the idea behind this business move?
I understand the business of Agriculture to a large extent. I wanted to maximise the full potential of my farm. The car wash was just to support our smoked meat outlet which is located in the same place. We also wanted our customers to enjoy the variety of our smoked meat products as e dey hot from the oven to the table. The car wash was to support the meat products.
What are your expansion plans?
We have an outlet in Ibadan already; we hope to open more all over the south-west. We want to be your number one smoked meat plug in Nigeria. When you think of smoked meat, we want you to think Tad Farms Nigeria.
And with our NAFDAC APPROVAL, beyond the sky is our limit.
What are your future plans for your farm?
The future is to become an Agric tourist farm, where people from all classes can visit, learn and enjoy the farm. We are trying to change the narrative. Farming isn’t as boring as you think. You can farm and enjoy every bit of it.
When not on the farm, how do you unwind?
I travel, I party and I watch movies. Life is too short innit? We work hard and we play hard.
What advice do you have for young people who are interested in what you do?
Gain as much knowledge as you can on the kind of farming that interests you. Read as much as you can on the internet, information is everywhere. Use your mobile phone to your advantage. Then, equip yourself with practical skills. Get your hands dirty! Do the dirty work. Nothing is beneath you on the farm so you have to do the job. Practice makes perfect. Be patient with yourself and be ready to make mistakes. No farmer got it right from the start. We make mistakes, learn, relearn and unlearn.
Most importantly, farming is not a ponzi scheme. It is not a get rich quick scheme. It takes dedication, commitment, hard work and patience.
Additional materials credit: The News and The Tribune