We’d like you to meet Robert Anyang! Robert is an agricultural value chain improvement and marketing expert. With extensive experience advancing public-private partnerships, incubating youth-owned businesses, and expanding farmers’ access to markets, Robert shares how he was destined for his current career. Robert is one reason #DevelopmentWorksHere.
1. Can you tell us about your journey in the development and agriculture sectors and why you are drawn to this work?
I was born into an average Nigerian family of six boys and five girls. This meant there were many mouths to feed, and my mum had to make constant trips to the market. When I was five, I decided that I could keep her from going to the market — and leaving me behind — if I could grow the crops we needed. This included maize, beans, and rice. I got a garden not far from home and planted some of my mum’s stock. All the crops germinated except the rice! Disappointed and annoyed with the rice, I vowed that I would conquer it and have a sufficient supply at home when I grew up.
At 16, I applied to university, hoping to get into medicine or pharmacy. In those days, African parents wanted their children to be doctors or lawyers. I was shocked when I was admitted for agriculture instead, even though I had the grades required for medicine. My father told me that agriculture was a noble career. He said the world would eventually be controlled my three types of people: the owners of the land, those who feed the world, and those who control water. That changed my mind about studying agriculture.
When I finished my degree at Lagos State Polytechnic, I entered my mandatory service with the National Youth Service Corps. I was posted to the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture. While waiting in an auditorium with about 200 other youth corpers, a man approached me and introduced himself as Professor B.N. Singh. He drove me to a large, swampy field on campus where I saw people planting something that I hadn’t seen before. He peeled back the brown covering of the seed, and I realized it was the same variety of rice that I had tried to plant as a child! I had planted the polished grain and not the brown rice seed. That was the reason it failed to germinate. This journey — including my mentors and a feeling of destiny — shaped what I’m doing today.