John Oluwafemi Ogun
John Oluwafemi Ogun

John Oluwafemi Ogun is a researcher and value chain expert in agribusiness for the organisation IMPAD Africa. With several years of experience, John has helped in formulating, implementing, monitoring and evaluating diverse agribusinesses strategies, both crops and animals.  He is a grateful awardee of the 2016 Australia Awards Short Course in Agribusiness.

Highlight

John’s project shows how a value chain approach can support projects involving vulnerable and disadvantaged people. It also reveals how value chain analysis can identify simple interventions that are inexpensive and capable of delivering remarkable improvements.

Context

Poultry is one of the most popular agribusinesses in Nigeria, and one that is often used for empowerment and economic development. However, farmers can find it difficult to establish reliable and profitable markets for eggs, especially smaller sizes, while input costs are continually rising.

Approach

John’s project focused on:

  • Minimising waste
  • Improving efficiency in production, distribution and consumption
  • Developing and communicating a better understanding of the market
  • Encouraging smooth information flow, stronger relationships and equitable distribution of income across all chain actors
  • Identifying opportunities for disadvantaged individuals to become value creating members of the chain
  • Accordingly, he conducted consumer focus group discussions and shopper observations; and interviewed 7 retailers and 12 ‘would be’ aggregators, 5 of whom were selected to help create the value chain before it would expand to more aggregator.
Focus group in discussion
Focus group discussion

Understanding the market

John undertook both consumer focus group discussions and shopper observations. Participants included mothers, artisans and university graduates and students aged between 19-41 years.

About 90% preferred large eggs with the following attributes: taste, freshness, cleanliness, colour, texture, shell hardness, price and convenience. However, he found a market segment of around 10% which would prefer small eggs, for example because they were more suitable for children, or for pastry sellers for whom the size of eggs is irrelevant. Nonetheless, 86% did not want sizes mixed up in the same package; and 7% favoured organic eggs, subject to an acceptable price.

His research also found that egg prices were 21% higher in supermarkets.

Mapping the chain

woman sitting cross legged with trays of eggs before her
Egg retailer

John then identified which activities along the chain created these attributes, and so which chain actors were responsible. Farmers were responsible for many of the activities which created value for consumers. Conversely, the aggregators, comprising disadvantaged individuals chosen to benefit from John’s project, were responsible for collecting, cleaning, storing, transporting and distributing eggs, activities which were necessary for the chain’s operation and some with scope for creating consumer value. John also found that while six of the seven retailers he identified only sold large eggs, one enterprising woman had carved out a niche by focusing on small eggs. She said by doing so, she particularly attracted mothers and those on lower incomes who were happy to buy smaller eggs.

John’s analysis also revealed the critical role of input suppliers since the quality they supplied, including choice of chick breeds, the nutrient value of feed, use of yellow maize to produce yellow yolks, and offering drugs and vaccines with strict adherence to preservation standards, influenced egg production and quality.

Findings and recommendations

“I found a lot of opportunities for improvement across the chain, so I split them into ‘Do it now’, ‘Do it soon’ and ‘Do it later’ categories, so that we had a prioritised action plan.”

The Do It Now actions included:

  • Communicate the findings on consumer research so that everyone understands the different market segments and their preferences
  • Bring all actors within the chain together to starting building relationships and share information with a common goal of developing the chain
  • Introduce the “I owe you” concept to accommodate the role of disadvantaged individuals as aggregators
  • Train poultry farmers on production, handling and management techniques for efficiency and waste minimization waste. These include getting the right breeds of chickens, regular vaccination, and feeding with improved feeds that meet nutrient requirements and contain yellow maize to meet consumers’ preference for yellow yolks.
Woman and child with plastic buckets lined with foam and filled with eggs
Egg containers with foam inserts

However, his greatest success came from introducing new low cost containers which dramatically reduce wastage from breakages during transportation. “I observed the problem across the chain, and realised everyone’s income was lower simply because on average 10% of eggs were broken in transit and were never sold. So I designed a solution from used plastic containers and some foam. These reduced breakages to less than 2%, meaning the containers pay for themselves in around 6 trips. This is ideal, because it’s cheap, and we’re using containers that would otherwise be thrown away.”

John’s Do It Soon recommendations included encouraging the most promising aggregators to become smallholder poultry farmers, and so take on more of the activities which create value, which may require micro-financing. “It will also be critical to have ongoing training and meeting with all the chain actors to strengthen relationships, boost information flow and improve collaboration. We should also investigate setting up strong and accountable farmer cooperatives based on solid business propositions and chain collaboration, rather than simply to negotiate for higher prices. This may need a chain champion to emerge, with vision and to build trust.”

The more ambitious Do It Later activities included market research on the market potential and costs implications of organic egg production, and negotiating with supermarkets to purchase eggs from local poultry farmers. “This would require a farmer cooperative to meet the demand and quality specifications of the supermarkets on time, every time, so it’s not something to try before we’ve got a lot of other things right.”

Lessons

John reported that it was really valuable to have seen Australian poultry production during his Australia Awards training. “I had the chance to visit a poultry farm near Toowoomba, and there were a lot of lessons for us in terms of managing chickens in hot climates.” The Australian poultry farmer offered to keep in touch if he could help in any way with John’s WPR project.

“More generally, I learnt never to assume. People must get into the field; engage and listen through research, and then come up with concrete evidence to support any recommendations.

“Then take it slowly: start small and take small steps. We began with just two input suppliers, two farmers, five aggregators, including widows and someone suffering from HIV, and seven retailers. But within months we have seen incomes increasing, and we can build on that.”

More information

Download a brochure about this Award, Australia Awards and the Australia Awards - Africa 2016 Agribusiness Short Course Award.

Download the brochure