It’s no secret that Agriculture is the main driving force behind Ghana’s economy, accounting for approximately 42% of the country’s GDP and employing 54% of its work force. Quite unfortunately, it is also no secret that most young Ghanaians carry around distorted views about the agricultural sector; their role in the sector and whether or not the area has viable opportunities to offer.
In light of these concerns, for some years now, the government of Ghana and the ministry of agriculture have rolled out several agricultural projects and initiatives such as, planting for food and jobs; rearing for food and jobs; planting for exports and rural development; one district, one factory project; tree crop development board; training extension officers, among others, all with the goal of changing the mindset of the young Ghanaian about agriculture.
On the private front, Agrihouse Foundation is at the forefront of agricultural capacity building, innovation and project management in the country, with special focus on changing the perception of, and consciously shaping the conversation around agriculture. Agrihouse undertakes a number of agricultural interventional projects and events, all year round, for farmers, agric students, agribusinesses, households into backyard farming, among others, through its intentional and well-thought projects such as, Agricultural Students Career Guidance and Mentorship Dialogues Bootcamp (AG- STUD); Livestock Poultry & Fisheries Trade Show (LiPF); Women in Food and Agricultural Leadership Forum (WOFAGRIC) and Gold in the Soil Awards; Annual Pre-Harvest Agribusiness Conference and Exhibitions; The Agrihouse Agri-Woman Market Place; Agri-Watch; 1 household, 1 Garden Initiative (1h,1g).
Last week Wednesday, Agrihouse launched the 4th edition of Agricultural Students Career Guidance and Mentorship Dialogues Bootcamp (AG- STUD 2021) at the forecourt of its office premises, under strict COVID-19 protocol observations. This year’s bootcamp, which is on the theme, “We have Enabled and Established the Agri-youth! Time to scale them up to feed Ghana,” seeks to educate and empower students, beginner agribusinesses and participants with knowledge in best farming practices, particularly, in line with fertilizer application and proper use of inputs, farm management skills, agribusiness knowledge, industry innovations, soft skills and other competence based training sessions, that are critical to helping the Agri-youth become more resilient and positioned to support feed their communities and Ghana as a whole.
The successful launch was graced by agri-stakeholders and organizations, dignitaries and students who are passionate about youth in agriculture and consequently, share in the vision that Agrihouse is championing. They included, Hon. Dr. Zanetor Agyeman Rawlings, member of parliament for Korle Klottey Constituency; Madam Carianne De Boer, Chief of Party of the United States Department of Agriculture, Ghana Poultry Project; Madam Dorothy Effah of Alliance for a Green Resolution In Africa (AGRA) ; Prof. Julius Kofi Hangan, of the Department of Animal farm, University of Cape-Coast; Dr. Takemore Chagormoka, Seedco Ghana Regional Manager for West and Central Africa; Mr. Nesta Quarshie, Business Development Manager of OCP Africa; Mr. Selorm Amevor, Head of Marketing and Communications at Agricultural Development Bank; some alumina’s of AG-STUD, from All Nations University, KNUST, Legon, Fair River Institute and Kwadaso.
The Agricultural students career guidance and mentorship dialogue bootcamp is an Agri-booster and capacity building initiative, intentionally designed to empower the Ghanaian youth in a futuristic way that also feed into the country’s agricultural objective of achieving food security, while providing sustainable employment.
The bootcamp was initiated 4years ago by Agrihouse Foundation, when through an independent observation process, research and survey revealed that; most Agric students, beginner agribusinesses and prospective young Agriprenuers basically had little or no mentoring, training and coaching to encourage/help them develop their business plans; most had no understanding and appreciation for the career paths and job opportunities Agribusiness could offer, even though some had great ideas; a number of students were doing more Theory lessons in school, than practical; some were not aware that input dealers also operated in functional and structured offices as a business, with CSR activities and not merely selling fertilizers through distributors; and most youth people haven’t been able to embrace the full meaning of agriculture and agribusiness.
In light of the above concerns, Agrihouse Foundation resolved to contribute to a national agenda, by creating AG-STUD, to enable and attract young Ghanaians into Agribusiness; reduce graduate unemployment by creating jobs; empower the youth to appreciate the various opportunities within the agricultural value chain; guide them to approach agriculture creativity, to enable them create jobs within the value chain; provide young people with mentors, coaches, and trainers, to help them articulate their Agri-business ideas and develop bankable business plans; support them with seed capitals and starter-up packs, for their businesses; and direct and empower them to be much more self-resilient. And successfully, in the past four years, Agrihouse Foundation has been making such noble impacts in the lives of many young people in the country, through AG-STUD.
Immense Successes & Counting…
In 2018 Obed was selected by his school to participate in the very first AG-STUD bootcamp. An agricultural student of the University of Ghana who was still trying to firmly ground his feet in his chosen area of study. The 5-day bootcamp that sought to empower young people interested in agriculture with knowledge and skills innovative farming and starting an agribusiness seemed like something worth participating in. Intrigued but still unsure what to expect, Obed registered for the bootcamp and participated in the whole event. Today, he describes his experience at AG-STUD 2018 as life transforming— he left the bootcamp with a fully set-up bank account for his business; seed capital to commence his mushroom growing Agribusiness, a start-up input pack for farming and a business plan to guide his activities. But more importantly, in the company of new found teammates who shared in the vision of starting Mushfarm Industry, and with the support of Agrihouse foundation. Four years down the line, Obed and his colleagues are running a thriving mushroom agribusiness in Accra; Ella from KNUST who has been running a Kumasi branch of the business is scaling-up now and expanding her mushroom business to Accra as well. As part of running his agribusiness, Obed serves as a Trainer during Agrihouse Projects.
Many more students who have participated in AG-STUD have similar inspiring and impactful stories to share. Mustapha from All Nations (and northern hub) has established over 5 acres of cowpea and watermelon farm. Furthermore, Khadija from Fair River is now into Dawada Processing, whiles Alex from Kwadaso is doing an amazing job with his Grasscuttor Farm.
Through AG-STUD, participating students and groups have been made aware of the many opportunities available in the field of agriculture and in agribusiness; the platform continues to impact them with relevant knowledge and skills on how to harness such opportunities in the sector; over 500 students from 30 different schools who have participated in various editions of the event have been have taught to be self-reliant, and have been supported with start-up capital to enable them start their agri-businesses; over 1000 agri-business students and beginner agribusinesses have been groomed by mentors, coaches and trainers from diverse organizations, thus enabling them to develop strong and bankable business plans. Through AG-STUD over 250 agri-students and beginner agribusinesses have been established by some participants, and over 27 successful businesses are run by students who have participated in AG-STUD.
AG-STUD Business clubs established in schools include University for Development Studies AG-STUD Business club, University of Cape Coast AG-STUD business Club, Fair River Farm Institute AG-STUD Business Club Unit, University of Energy and Natural Resources Business Club, University of Ghana AG-STUD Business Club Unit, Asuansi Farm Institute AG-STUD Business Club Unit, Kwadaso Agricultural College AG-STUD Business Club Unit and Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology AG-STUD Business Club Unit. These start-up agribusinesses and clubs have been equipped and skilled to engage in crops and livestock production activities such as, Vegetable Production, Maize and rice Production, Poultry and Honey Production, Vegetable Production, Fruit and Coconut Oil Processing, Rearing of Rabbit, Grasscutter and Quails, and Production of Organic Fertilizer.
A Call to Action— ADB, AGRA & OCP Call for Intensified Agri-youth Initiatives
Organizing partners like the Agriculture Development Bank (ADB), Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa and OCP Ghana who were present at the 2021 launch of AG-STUD Bootcamp, all called for intensified efforts as a country towards the mitigation of a possible COVID-19 food drought, as being predicted by some global organizations. They all noted that Ghana has an opportunity, not just to feed itself in these times, but also feed other African countries. But that will only be the case if Ghana scales-up focus on all areas along its agricultural chain.
The Head of Marketing and Communications at ADB, Mr. Selorm Amevor, used the opportunity to call on young Ghanaians especially, to rethink their perceptions about Agriculture. He said the country needed more young people to take up the responsibility of feeding and security the food baskets of the country. But it was rather unfortunate that most Ghanaians actively in the sector now were in their old ages, whiles young people continued to bemoan graduate unemployment and roam the streets of the capitals. He thanked Agrihouse for the incredible work it is doing in the agricultural sector, noting that, Agrihouse has now become almost a department of ADB, considering the effective and impactful collaborations the two organizations undertake consistently. He said ADB open to more collaborations with Agrihouse Foundation.
In the same light, in a speech read on his behalf, the Regional Head of Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), Mr. Foster Boateng, said AG-STUD was a good initiative, training the youth and building their capacity, while exposing them to the development and scaling out of technologies in agriculture. He said, transforming agriculture into a highly productive and sustainable system requires strong human and institutional capacities, thus, AGRA’s capacity building initiatives took a holistic approach at educating, training and mentoring. He noted that, Agrihouse was therefore working in the right direction, providing real opportunities for the youth, and that was why his outfit is committed to partnering Agrihouse to develop and inspire new generations of young agripreneurs in the country.
For her part, the Member of Parliament for the Korle Klottey Constituency, and patron of AG-STUD, Hon. Dr. Zanetor Agyeman Rawlings, described Agrihouse Foundation as proactive and forward-thinking organization investing in human capacity building for the youth and individual Ghanaians interested in agriculture.
She said it was impressive to see how the organization was continuously working, and not just talking; how it was constantly on the ground, working with students and investing in agri-startups for the youth. She said AG-STUD was a sustainable, profitable and worthwhile initiative because it empowered the Ghanaian agri-youth with practical knowledge that enabled him or her to make money and also put food on our tables in the country. She also used the opportunity to also commend the different organizations that consistently come on board as partners and sponsors to support Agrihouse with its projects and events.
Touching on Ghana’s agricultural sector, the member of parliaments, noted that Government must not be the sole engine running the country’s agricultural sector. She said the agricultural sector was a multibillion industry, which Ghana had not quite tapped into yet, emphasizing the private sector must lead the agenda in greater portions, for government to supplement the such efforts.
Dr. Zanetor Agyeman Rawlings, also noted that, in as much we are looking to make the most of agriculture, in terms of yield and profit, as a country, we should also pay needed attention to the nutritional values the sector provides.
She said, in these times of COVID-19, we must all pay extra attention to the meals we are consuming and ensure they are providing us with the nutritional supplements our body needs to fight the virus when infected. She said Ghana’s agricultural sector must also begin to research into how nutritional or food supplements can be developed from the food crops we produce. According to her, the vitamins and nutritional supplements producing industry is a global multibillion industry, and it’s about time Ghana paid attention to the sector and started investing in it.
Chief of Party at the United States Department of Agriculture, Ghana Poultry Project (GPP), Ms. Carianne de Boer, in her address, noted that young people were keenly interested in modernized agriculture that enables them to use phones, new technologies and computers. She said the myth that young people do not like agriculture was untrue, but instead young people want to experience farming or agricultural activities that do not limit their imagination, potential and modern commercial prospects.
According to Ms. Carianne de Boer, to engage and empower young people in agriculture, the sector needs to address their aspirations, such as, making social mobility a central target. She said this would help young people appreciate and approach farming as a real business that they could take up, to help them generate income, to cater for themselves and their families.
She said, now was the time to seriously apply the value chain perspective and market system approaches to youth in agriculture, “Young men and women can do amazingly well across any agricultural value chain— in transport, marketing, production, value addition, input supplies, and many more, using new skills for new forms of agriculture,” she emphasized. She also applauded Agrihouse Foundation for its youth initiative project, AG-STUD, “It is now up to us as stakeholders to ensure that our public and donor investor policies truly reflect the resilient and prosperous future, we envision by taking a fresh look at our youth in agriculture and consider more serious and robust approaches to enable the youth gain access to knowledge, finance and modern technology” she stated.
For her part, the Executive Director of Agrihouse Foundation, Ms. Alberta Nana Aykaa Akosa, noted that, this year’s edition of AG-STUD seeks to empower the agri-youth to become a resilient and effective food producer, in line with the food security goals of the country. She said the theme for this year’s bootcamp was, “We have Enabled and Established the agri-youth! Time to scale them up to feed Ghana,” and therefore, the event was expected to be more practical than previous editions. This year, AG-STUD, as seeks to empower students and participants with knowledge in best farming practices, particularly, in line with fertilizer application and appropriate use of inputs, farm management skills, Agribusiness knowledge, industry innovations and other competence-based training sessions. At the end of AG-STUD 2021, the students should walk away, knowing how to select the right fertilizers for their crops; developing businesses and be able to sustain it, to enhance nutrition and support economic development.
She used the opportunity to extend immense gratitude to sponsors and partnering organizations who were present to support the launch of AG-STUD. They included: MINISTRY OF FOOD AND AGRICULTURE (MOFA), NATIONAL FARMERS AND FISHERMEN AWARD WINNERS ASSOCIATION OF GHANA (NFFAWAG), OCP GHANA, AGRIC DEVELOPMENT BANK, HOLLAND AKOKOR, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE (USDA), THE GHANA POULTRY PROJECT (GPP), ROCKLAND FARMERS LIMITED, NANAAM VENTURES, SOYA BEANS MEAL LIMITED, PETROSOL AND NEW OKAFF INDUSTRIES LIMITED.
This year, the 5-days bootcamp is scheduled to start from Monday, 12 April to Friday, April and will include the following schools: Kwadaso Agric College, Damango Agric College, Wenchi Agric College (formerly a farm institute), Asuansi Farm Institute, Fair River, Adidome Ejura, Ohaw Agric College (formerly Farm Institute), KNUST – Agric Department, Legon – Agric Department, Central University, UCC, Ghana Christian university college, All Nations University, University of Energy and Natural Resources and University of Development Studies.
2021 AG-STUD Activities Include
Item 1— Military Disciplinary Drills
Item 2— Agri Mentorship Talk with Industry leaders on topics such as, life stories, leading an organization, the do’s and don’ts, top 10 communications strategies, not to miss, in building your agribusiness, how do I leverage social media to positively influence growth as a beginner agribusiness? The disease to please, the transition: my journey from the corporate world to a farmer; how I started, where I am now and where I want to go.
Item 1— Military Disciplinary Drills
Items 2— Ag Voyage (Tour)
Item 3— Business Idea Presentations (Meet your Coach brainstorming session, discussing aspirations and visions for the future after bootcamp.
Item 4— Discussing 4R Farming practices.
Item 1— Military Disciplinary Drill
Item 2—Competency-based Training/mentoring session: discussing the need for planning for the economic sustainability of a new farm enterprise, in the areas of, Business planning, Farm Management Development skills, Financial Modelling, Planning and Securing Financing Leadership, Market Identification and Development, Production knowledge, Vision for the Farm/ Agribusiness.
Item 3— Business Development Planning with Group Coaches
Item 1— Military Disciplinary Drills
Item 2— Competency-based Training/Mentoring Session, discussing the need for planning for the economic sustainability of a new farming enterprise, under topics such as 4R Farming Practices, Crop Nutrition, Developing or securing infrastructure, Marketing and Brand Development product of value, knowledge and experience, Production knowledge, Quality and Food Safety Management principles, Risk Management, Understanding the local food systems, Vision for the Farm/ Agribusiness.
Item 3— My Time session, including, group development of student’s business plan, and coaches passing through to support students.
Item 4— At the table with the CEO
Item 1— Military Disciplinary Drills
Item 2— Presentations on, Socio-Economic Recovery & Building Resilience– Role of the Agri-Youth, and Utilizing Digital platforms innovatively, to build brands.
Item 3— AG-STUD Campers Final Business Presentation on Post 2020 Bootcamp; our work till date, challenges and scaling-up.
Item 4— Judges/Coaches Feedback, discussing fallouts and what can be improved. Followed by 2021 Business presentation, done by all camping institutions.
Item 5— Presentation of seed capital/input to all participating schools for the commencement or scaling up of their Farms/ Agri-business
(Kwadaso, Fair River, Asuansi, Ohawu, Adidome, Animal Health, UDS, UCC, KNUST, Christian College, All Nations, Damango, Ejura, Wenchi)
Item 6— Dinner/ Photo opportunities/ Departure