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Alumni Voices: Meet the alum bettering the lives of Nigeria's farmers

In the first of our new video series, "Alumni Voices," Lola Masha talks to us about her company's services and impact, and the value of her experience at McKinsey.
Video

For those who prefer to read, below is a transcript of the video.

Hello, this is Lola Masha, and I am the Deputy Managing Director of Babban Gona.

What is Babban Gona?

Babban Gona is a social enterprise that works with smallholder farmers in Northern Nigeria to increase their yields, to improve their incomes, and to overall better their lives.

Babban Gona's services

We provide three major services.

The first is access to financing. I think the first challenge that most poor rural farmers have is access to the right financing from financial institutions or from other organizations. And what we do is we go out and raise funding from large investors domestically and internationally and we then on-lend those funds in a form of input financing to our smallholder farmers.

The second service that we provide is access to agronomy best practices and training during the planting season. A lot of our farmers have not been formally taught on global best practices to get the most yield from the crops. They often do things the way that it’s been done in generations past. So what we aim to do is bring in best in class knowledge, world class global practices to ensure the investment goes a very long way. We provide extensive training on fertilizer application, on agribusiness management, and on overall plant production management to ensure that they get the most out of their crops and get the best yields possible.

The third service that we provide is access to marketing services at harvest. We aggregate grains from our smallholder farmers and we’re able to negotiate best pricing on their behalf with large off-takers domestically in Nigeria. We then pass any premium pricing that we’re able to get on their behalf back to our smallholder farmers in the form of bonus payments throughout the year.

Babban Gona's impact

In terms of the impacts that we have made to date, we’ve worked with cumulatively over 250,000 farmers. We’ve expanded across 19 states in Nigeria, across the country, and we have supported over 100,000 hectares. This past season we planted over 55,000 hectares of grains both of maize and rice. I’m very proud of the work that we do in supporting agriculture and agribusiness in Nigeria and we still have a long way to go in achieving our goals of reaching a large number of farmers across the country.

McKinsey’s influence and impact

I spent time in the U.S., as well as in Europe, Asia and in Africa, in Nigeria specifically. Those opportunities, frankly, are very rare to find in any organization. And having to have the opportunity, in my early career, again, was truly valuable for me, and very critical in my career journey.

If I think back to my experience at McKinsey I think what stands out for me is the level of support that you get throughout the journey. I will forever be thankful to Alex Gouvea as one of my mentors during my time at McKinsey. I’m not even sure if he realizes how much of an impact he made in my journey. But he was very supportive from my very first day at the Firm in Chicago. From the interview process, and ensuring that I felt comfortable in that space, where, frankly, was a little bit alien, a little bit uncomfortable for me. So I do want to thank him for that support. I also want to thank a range of friends and mentors and colleagues that truly made my time at McKinsey a very fulfilling and successful one.

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