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The road from Lagos to Oduroye village is long, and not particularly well-paved. But over the past few months, Ronke Aderinoye has grown to relish this bumpy journey to the countryside.

A trek that can take as much as six hours round-trip has become her de facto agricultural university. As her driver navigates the roads, Ronke passes the time devouring videos about new farming techniques on YouTube on her Android (Go edition) smartphone, saving them offline to reduce data use and ensure video quality in areas with spotty cell reception.

For today’s ride, she’s diving into a video from a Japanese chef’s YouTube channel about orange-fleshed sweet potatoes (or OFSPs for short). The chef has combined the OFSPs with soy beans and spices to create a high-protein snack—one that sounds particularly tasty to Ronke. But it’s not just the recipe that interests her—it’s what she believes OFSPs can do for Nigeria’s agricultural sector, and particularly its women farmers.

A few years ago, Ronke was not thinking at all about the hidden potential of sweet potatoes. She had a successful career in Nigeria’s banking sector, and seemed on track for a big promotion. Over her five years with the bank, Ronke had gleaned important information about financial markets in Nigeria—how companies and industries were responding to climate change, how they were easing away from fossil fuels. With time, she came to realize that Nigeria’s farms were primed for disruption. So she left her comfortable job, applied to an agriculture business incubator, and took a chance in Oduroye.

“Commuting back and forth used to take me six hours on a bad day. So I would pick all the videos about farming I wanted to watch, download them on YouTube, and then I could watch them from the road without taking up any data.”

Within a few years, Ronke had won a large contract to grow OFSPs, a rare-for-Nigeria variety of sweet potato, and it had sent her down a research rabbit hole. As she commuted to and from the countryside, she learned on YouTube that OFSPs are vitamin A-fortified and rich in beta-carotene—perfect for fighting malnutrition. She learned that farmers could grow three cycles of OFSPs in the time it took to grow a single cycle of cassava, the local crop of choice; that sweet potatoes were rugged and drought-resistant; and that they would be physically easier for female farmers to cultivate on their own compared with back-breaking cassava. In other words, OSFPs seemed like the perfect crop to shake up the Nigerian agricultural industry—especially for women.

“From the YouTube Videos, I learned that orange-fleshed sweet potatoes could bring overall farming costs down, because you could grow three cycles in the same time it took to grow one cycle of cassava.”

A photo of Ronke, who has short hair and is wearing makeup, smiling.
Ronke left a successful career in banking to research sweet potatoes and bring new farming technology to Nigeria.

In Oduroye village, Ronke convened a group of about 20 women farmers and asked if they wanted to build farming careers independent of their male counterparts. That got their attention. Then, she explained that if they banded together, it would be much easier to find a buyer for their crops. Finally, she talked about OFSPs, their nutritional benefits and relative ease of cultivation. By the end of the meeting, Ronke had convinced most of the room to join her in growing something new—and sweet.

Today, Ronke and her coalition of female farmers are exploring new creative avenues to take their potatoes to market. In addition to turning them into snacks, they’re exploring an OFSP-based baby food, OFSP flour, and converting the potatoes into a starch, an untapped domestic market. If all goes according to plan, Ronke hopes to replicate the success of this first Oduroye village trial elsewhere in Nigeria, helping fight malnutrition and empower female farmers all around the country.

How Ronke does it.

Android (Go edition).

Ronke’s round-trip drive to and from her farm in Oduroye village can take up to six hours, much of it in areas with spotty cell service. Using the YouTube app on her Android (Go edition) smartphone, she can save videos offline to watch during the ride, utilizing her long commute to stay up to date on the latest innovative farming techniques in the agricultural industry.

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YouTube.

After winning a large contract to grow orange-fleshed sweet potatoes, Ronke turned to YouTube to learn all about the crop. From these videos, she learned details like length of crop cycles and ideal conditions for cultivation, how OFSPs are nutrient rich and how they differ from more common Nigerian crops like Cassava. She also uses YouTube research to find inspiration for various uses of OFSPs—as a high-protein snack, a flour, a starch, or a baby food.

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