Kola Masha is a Nigerian social entrepreneur and founder of Babban Gona, using his firm as a medium for job creation and security stability in Nigeria.
Masha, a recipient of a Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship, believes that there’s a business solution to halting the spread of insecurity. He founded Babban Gona in 2010 to bring jobs and stability to his home country of Nigeria.
Although, economic factors drive disaffected men and women to join radical groups, young people are more vulnerable to extremist recruitment when they feel they have no other options: no jobs, no wages, no ability to put food on the table.
In rural Nigeria, which suffers from high youth unemployment and multiple violent insurgencies, this dynamic is a ticking time bomb. And it threatens not only thousands of lives, but the economic wellbeing and investment health of Africa’s most populous nation.
Although religion is the major underlining factor in the operations of Boko Haram, economic factors cannot be downplayed. For Masha, the only way to make Nigeria secure again is to cut off the oxygen to radical groups, which are: no jobs, no wages, and inability to feed one’s family.
“Due to high demand for labor and low skill requirements, farming has the potential to create jobs and draw millions of young people into the sector,” Masha told Forbes.
After his studies at MIT and Harvard and working in leadership positions with top organizations, Masha decided to return to Nigeria in 2007 and contribute his quota to the development of Nigeria through job creation.
He moved to a small town in Northern Nigeria that has experienced insurgencies and bombings to unlock the power of agriculture in addressing unemployment.
Inspired by his U.S. grandfather, a small farm holder who was able to get out of poverty in South Dakota through the power of cooperatives, Masha established a similar model called Babban Gona, which means “Great Farm” in Hausa language.
Babban Gona provides services such as loans, agribusiness training, and provision of storage facilities for subsistence farmers in rural communities.
The firm, which specializes in supporting maize farming is present in six Nigerian states and has so far provided its 100,000 farmer members with different farming-related services to improve their business.
One of the services offered is the provision of storage facilities for farmers during harvest season. Due to insufficient storage facilities for community-level farmers, a lot of farm produce is often wasted.
Masha firmly believes that agriculture is Nigeria’s job creation engine because it is massive, labor-intensive, and has tremendous growth potential.