Entrepreneur Matches Farmers to Buyers “I am always asking myself, ‘What can I do better?’ Whatever the difficulties, I search and search for solutions ... sometimes I even find solutions that I realize are not the best - but I toss it up to experience,” says George Sodjinou. His perseverance explains much of his agribusiness success today. Sodjinou recalls a time when his first business failed and many of his peers left Togo to escape its many hardships. However, he rejected the option and instead contemplated his next venture. “I saw the demand for soy rising in my country. We were consuming soy milk and oil,” he stated. Coming from a family of farmers, Sodjinou valued farmers’ opinions, recalling, “They told me they would prefer to grow soy instead of cotton, knowing they could always eat their soy if they couldn’t sell it.”
was contacted by a processing plant in Ghana seeking additional soy supplies for its operations, and he eventually contracted with two other major buyers, including a poultry farm, which also needed large quantities of soy. 1000s+ partnered with Agrinova to assist farmers to southern Togo. “They had the technicians who helped the cooperatives raise soy production, but they didn’t have anyone to purchase the final product,” says Sodjinou. To address this dilemma, 1000s+ entered a cooperative agreement with the Togolese bank, BRS. 1000s+ also provided Sodjinou with skilled financial advisors to develop a business plan in support of a loan.
businessman shows that to survive in
agribusiness, one must concentrate on production and
Taking this into consideration, he established a company for trading soy, Agrobusiness Contract (ABC). He sold 500 kilos of high-quality soy seeds to local farmers, promising to purchase their crops at market price. Having already located a buyer, he was able to pay producers cash for their commodity. Impressed by his ability to match producers and buyers, a French NGO, Centre International de Development et de Reserche (CIDR), contracted Sodjinou to identify buyers for the project’s soy farmers. In 1998, CIDR negotiated the acquisition of Sodjinou’s enterprise. As part of his contract terms, he trained farmers to manage the operation themselves.
find new markets.
Seeing a possible opportunity in exporting soy, he formed a new company, Agrinova and journeyed to neighboring countries in search of large soy processors. Sodjinou’s investigative work proved worthwhile. In 2004, he
After several negotiations, BRS agreed to offer Agrinova 8,000,000 FCFA for the purchase of 90 tons of soy. This loan agreement was not only good news for Sodjinou, but also for over 200 soy farmers and their families. “Once you have a buyer for the finished product, the cycle is completed,” says Sodjinou.
Today only 20 percent of Agrinova’s soy is sold in Togo; the rest is exported to Ghana and Benin. But the increase in worldwide demand for soy means that this model can be replicated, benefiting soy cooperatives throughout Togo.