Reasons such as, agriculture is for the aged and uneducated; the sector is capital and labour intensive, and yet very unattractive, risky and unprofitable venture are a few but dire narratives that have shrouded the sector for long time. At the recent 5th Agricultural Students Career Guidance and Mentorship Dialogue Bootcamp (AG-STUD-AFRICA) Bootcamp, organized by Agrihouse Foundation, yet another unpleasant factor dominated the conversations when agric-students and beginner agribusiness representatives started opening up about why most young Ghanaians seemed to avoid the sector. In consensus, the talked about disparaging comments and ridicules most of them have suffered and continue to receive from friends and even sometimes teachers, because they have decided to pursue career paths in the agricultural sector.
A second year agricultural science student of Accra Academy High School noted that, “On my first day at school, a teacher impolitely asked me why I have chosen to study agriculture. The way he asked the question, really dampened my spirit,” he said, “so I went back home and told my mother I didn’t want to pursue agriculture. I wanted to become a General science student.” According to him and his colleagues, some teachers come to class and condescendingly, compare them to their peers pursuing General Science, and even tell them that, they would never be as intelligent as General Science students. Although these comments have no scientific bases, the students say that continuously being at the receiving end dampens their enthusiasm as students pursuing agriculture, and they want it to stop. “We want our teachers, general science and art students to know that without agric nothing is possible now. Wealth is now in the dirt,” they proclaimed to roaring applause from their colleagues.
Empowering the Agri-Youth through Digitization
This year’s 5-day Bootcamp was on the theme, “Digitalization – The Enabler, The Game Changer, and the Future for the Agri-Youth.” The event attracted notable personalities including H.E the Vice President, Dr. Alhaji Mahamudu Bawumia, Member of Parliament for the Korle-Klottey Constituency, Hon. Dr. Zanetor Agyeman-Rawlings, and Country Manager of OCP Africa, Mr. Samuel Oduro-Asare, Managing Director of Agricultural Development Bank, Dr. John Kofi Mensah, and the CEO of My Barnes Limited, Mr. Kenneth Barnes, among other. It also brought together over three hundred (300) participants across various sectors, including seventy (70) agri-students and beginner agribusinesses, from twenty-one (21) agric colleges and institutions across the country; and resource persons from academia, government, agric institutions, policy and administration, marketing and finance, as well as public and private sector executives. This year, the event helped the agric-students, and beginner agribusinesses, who are the direct beneficiaries, to understand and appreciate digital trends, and their influence on the agricultural sector. It further motivated and shaped the mindsets of the students to develop interests in carving Agribusiness- digitalization futures, in line with policies and programs in place for young Ghanaians who are into, or interested in the agric sector. Participating schools included University of Ghana, University of Cape Coast, All Nations University, Ghana Christian University College, Methodist University, University of Energy and Natural resources, University for Development Studies, GH Media School, and Landmark University- Nigeria. Others include, Fair River Agric Institute, Labone Senior High School, O’Reilly Senior High School, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Accra Girls Senior High School, Accra Academy High School, Ashesi University, and Adidome Agric Institute. The rest are Asuansi Farm Institute, Damango Agric College, Ejura Agric College, Kwadaso Agric College, Wenchi Farm Institute, Ohawu Agric College, Veterinary College, Northern Youth Hub, Ashaiman Senior High School, Ngleshi Amanfro Senior High School, and Animal Health Institute.
Day one: AG-VOYAGE & AGRI-TED TALK
The AG-VOYAGE took the agric-students to UTV, one of Ghana’s reputable media houses in Accra. The visit created opportunity for the beneficiaries to discover how media establishments and practitioners are contributing to the development of the value chain through communications, news reportages, and TV Shows. Ayekoo TV Show, on UTV is a prime example. During the visit, the host, reiterated the important of agriculture in national development and how by giving the value chain actors a platform to tell their success stories, share challenges, seek for collaborations and partnerships, it is adding to the grow of the sector. The students got opportunities to ask questions and briefly tours the various departments of the organization. The next stop was an experience at the Jubilee House, which for almost all of them, was a first. At the humble request of Agrihouse Foundation, H.E the Vice President, Dr. Alhaji Mahamudu Bawumia, accepted an invitation to host the official opening event of the Bootcamp, ‘The Agri-Ted Talk,’ and further be a mentor for the session, alongside notable dignitaries including, MP for the Korle-Klottey Constituency, Hon. Dr. Zanetor Agyeman-Rawlings; and Country Manager of OCP Africa, Mr. Samuel Oduro-Asare. Others are, the Managing Director of Agricultural Development Bank, Dr. John Kofi Mensah, and Chairman of the National Farmers and Fishermen Award Winners Association (NFFAWAG), Mr. Davies Korboe.
‘Agri-Ted Talk’ Mentorship
In his mentorship session, he said Government was building a vibrant and modern nation that is characterized by strong systems and institutions, including the agricultural sector. He noted, with each policy and project, government sought to end the vicious cycle of rhetoric and under-development. “Our government is pursuing an economic transformation agenda through digitalization,” he said. According to him, Ghana and the rest of the world is at the point of the ‘fourth industrial revolution,’ which is a revolution going to be based on data— and in light of this, from the farms to the factory floors, and offices, Government is digitalizing how data is collected stored, and used to improve economic activities. “Government sees digitalization as a way of de-risking the agric sector of the many perceived and real risks that exist,” he said. “We are essentially focusing on trying to build the Enablers to allow Ghana be competitive in the fourth industrial revolution,” he explained, “If you don’t have data, you cannot analyze, and you cannot take effective decisions; whether it’s on your farms, or in the office. You need data to decide when it is the best time to plant, harvest, put in fertilizer, how much water the plant needs, and to know the nature of the soil— all of this requires data.”He therefore praised Agrihouse Foundation for focusing on digitization as the theme for this year’s bootcamp, and encouraged the seventy (70) Camper to make the most of the opportunity, as well as government driven initiatives aimed at building a sustainable entrepreneurial ventures, particularly in the area of agriculture.
For her part, the Patron of the Agricultural Students Career Guidance and Mentorship Dialogue Bootcamp, and MP for Korle-Klottey Constituency, Hon. Dr. Zanetor Agyeman Rawlings advised Campers to work together and in doing so, learn to support one another. She said the agricultural value chain is filled with many examples of synergy, and everyone who understands agriculture, also appreciates the power of collaborations. “If you understand what it takes to make your group work, you can minimize conflicts and and allow the progress of your team,” she said. She urged the Campers to learning new skills, which may directly not be line with their primary interests. She added, “Knowing where your weaknesses are,” she stressed, “and finding the right people who can support you, because no one is able to do everything on their own. Don’t be afraid to have people around you who are know more than you do. You are better off when you have people who have more expertise around you.”
The Managing Director of Agricultural Development Bank (ADB), Dr. John Kofi Mensah express his excitement on the success of the Ag-Stud initiative. He said developing countries needed to support the growth and development of their agricultural sector, which in many cases is the backbone of the national economy. He said ADB would continue giving the needed support to everyone in the agribusiness sector to start something for the future.
The Country Director of OCP Africa in Ghana, Mr. Samuel Oduro-Asare, charged the participants to always have the ‘I can do spirit’ in starting at beginning with little resources available to them so they will be able to stay relevant in whatever they are doing. We at OCP Africa are always ready support AG-STUD and we are still committed to supporting you more this year, Mr. Oduro assured the participants.
The Chairman of the National Farmers and Fishermen Award Winners Association (NFFAWAG), Mr. Davies Korboe, for his part, praised the Vice –President for hosting the Opening Event of the AG-STUD Bootcamp. “We are making history today. This the first time a sitting Vice-President is hosting our future agribusiness captains. This is important because if you look at the aged to youth bracket in agriculture, if nothing is done about it in the next three years; you will not find anybody in the sector. We at NFAWAG support Agrihouse. And I congratulate the youth for taking up agriculture, because it takes passion and discipline to become a successful agripreneur,”
For her part, Executive Director of Agrihouse Foundation, Alberta Nana Akyaa Akosa Sarpong charged government to make the studying of Agribusiness a compulsory subject at all levels of the educational system. She said agribusiness needs to be more attraction, and more appealing for the youth, as it is a gateway to enjoying a good and healthy lifestyle, “we need agriculture to be more action-oriented, than talk-oriented,” she said.
According to her, in the past five (5) years, Agrihouse Foundation has been working to produce sustainable young farmers, and integral value chain actors through the AG-STUD Bootcamp, which essentially boosts and drive the youth to appreciate the opportunities within the agricultural sector.
The Bootcamp, further helps the students and beginner agribusinesses to chart career paths that go long way to invest in and secure the food security of the country. “At Agrihouse Foundation, we believe the youth are the frontline in the movement to change the agricultural systems and food security equation in Ghana today. Since its inception, the AG-STUD Bootcamp has worked to bridge gabs in the agric sector, and helped our agric students and beginner agribusinesses to practically explore opportunities within the sector,” she said.
She revealed, AG-STUD, has in total produced over 12,ooo participants within the past four (4) years, adding that the number of participating schools have also increased from eight (8) to thirty (30) institutions. “The next step for us is the burning passion to establish a practical, digitized Academy for training Ghana’s sustainable and technologically inclined Agribusinesses. To this end, we have acquired a 10-acre land at Bamvim, Tamale, in the Northern Region. We have secured the support of the Israeli Embassy, to develop the architectural layout,” she noted. She used the opportunities to reiterate the need for private and public partnerships, which she said would help Agrihouse establish the Training Academy for Agribusinesses, as it is the vision. She thanked the Vice-President and all other personalities for their willingness to be part of the Opening Event of the 5th AG-STUD Bootcamp.
Day two: AG-VOYAGE & AGRI-BOOSTER
Early the next morning, in the company of abled chaperons, the Campers found themselves on the Nsawam-Aburi road, leading to the Golden River Farm Limited. The educational trip helped them understand the production and management processes involved in pineapple farming. On arrival, the farm manager, Mr. Wiafe welcomed the group warmly and proceeded to lead them into the 600 acre farm, as he detailed the operations, values and overall goals of the establishment. In a mentoring session, he urged the students stay focused and maintain a clear vision for their agricultural ambitions. When they asked about internship opportunities, he gave them the go ahead to put in applications, which indeed brought joy for the Campers. The AG-VOYAGE continued to Agromoti Limited, where the Country Director, Mr. Benjamin Offei inspired the agric-students with life story and journey into agribusiness. He urged them to continue working diligently on their agribusiness startups, and pledged his company’s continuous support towards AG-STUD Bootcamp. Later in the day, when they returned to the GNAT HALL and Hostel where they were staying, they ate lunch and rested for a while before the ‘AGRI-BOOSTER’ Session commenced with their Coaches. During the session, they were taken through topic including-: Ways to Access and Link Buyers Digitally; Using Social Media to Advance Agribusiness – The Success Factors; Developing Financial Proposals to Secure Funds; Building and Leading a reputable Agribusiness; Exploring Career opportunities in the Agric sector. Coaches for the session were-: CEO of MyBArnes, Mr. Kenneth Barnes; Renowned Entertainment and Lifestyle Blogger, Mr. Yemmy Baba; Mr. Alistair Djimatey, and Mr. Frank Thomas Osei-Tutu of Demeter Ghana Limited.
Day three: AGRI-INSPIRE
The Day three sessions, including, AG-Open Chat, Business Developed Planning with Coaches and Coach-Team Pair-Ups were designed to influence the perspectives of the Campers, as well as guide them identify viable career opportunities within the agric-value chain. It started with the ‘AG-Open Chat’ which saw the students break into groups to brainstorm, and discuss challenges they face as agric students, and make a list of their expectations for AG-STUD 2022. After that hour and half session, they went into the ‘Business Development Planning’ session, with their coaches. They explored topics such as-: How to develop an idea in a business, which was handled by Mr. Samuel Osew-Kwatia of Broadspectrum Limited. Others included-: Key steps to writing winning proposals, handled by Mr. Jerry Kangbo Laari of Digo Farms Limited. Also, Leadership Skills and the Art of Public Speaking, coordinated by Madam Adelaide Abbiw-Williams of SES HD Plus. Mr. Anthony Dzamefe of Caveman facilitated Personal/Corporate Branding- the Winning Guide. Handling Communications, Madam Barbara Humphrey-Ackuney of Yara guide them through topics like, the power of messaging; interview etiquettes, message development and coping with a tough audience. To wrap up the session, Mr. Selorm Ohene of PWC took the campers through the power of persuasive marketing: the business of negotiating.
Day four: AGRI-FUTURE
Day 4 was all about ‘Competency-Based Training’, which helped the agri-students and beginner agribusinesses to start laying positive foundations towards creating sustainable agri-futures. Topics handled included-: A Pesewa a Day: Planning your Financial Future, which was facilitated by Mr. Kwame Attrams of the Agricultural Development Bank. Nanam Ventures took the students through, the Art of Agribusiness Marketing: 5 things all Agripreneurs must know. Mr. Chris Ibyisintabyo of the World Food Programme handled the topic, Saving the Agri-Future, Through Talent and Creativity. Madam Nana Akua S. Yeboah took them through Way of Ensuring Quality and Food Safety Management Principles. Mr. Alistair Djimatey took them through how to building and leading a reputable and sustainable organization. A resource person from the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre was also present to help them explore attractive and limitless opportunities in agriculture.
Day Five: AGRI-VALUE
Day 5 of the Bootcamp firmed up learnings, weighed the outcomes of the 5-day bootcamp, through practical exercises, and forged a growth path for the agribusiness students. The day started with a Role Play exercise, which saw the students work in groups to present effective ways of publicizing an agribusiness brand or product. They demonstrated abilities such as, negotiating skills, presenting skills, and jingle development skills. In all they worked in ten groups, namely:- Cheetah, Tiger, Ravens, sharks, Jaguar, Dolphins, Eagles, Leopard, Zebra and Falcon. The ‘Agribusiness Concept Presentation’ Session followed immediately after the role-play exercise, which gave the students opportunity to present the agribusiness ideas and plans they have been working on with a panel of judges.
For her part, the Member of Parliament for the Korle-Klottey Constituency, and Patron of the AG-STUD Bootcamp, Hon. Dr. Zanetor Rawlings, urged the agric-students and beginner agribusinesses to continue courageously on their chosen path and be assured of consistent and sustainable support from all stakeholders. “I cannot imagine why anyone will possibly think of demeaning agric as a subject. Everyone needs food and agric is the basis of that. It is the science behind the production of any kind of food. Anyone who does not understand the value of agric to human existence, does not understand why we are here. So be assured, you are in the right path,” she said. To buttress her point, the Member of Parliament donated three new laptops to the Bootcamp, which she hoped would help the participants execute their tasks and assignments during the period. She encouraged the agri-students to work together, and have the confidence they are making a difference as young agripreneurs. “I am encouraged by the fact that we have two secondary schools here. Do not let anyone discourage you. Bear in mind, you have heavyweights in this room and some who are not here but have been with you throughout the sessions, who understand your value and are willing to invest in you. Every time you feel like you are struggling, just look around, reach out, you are not alone. We are here for you,” she encouraged.
For his part, the Country Manager of OCP Africa said encouraged the students to hit the ground running with their agribusiness ideas as they went back to their campuses. “You are not going back the same as you came. As you go back to school, you should be different from your colleagues. You should standout out, because you are going back as potential agripreneurs,” he stressed.
He said OCP would continue to offer support to the Bootcamp, to ensure its scale-up and further impacts. In the past five years, OCP Africa has been sponsors of the annual AG-STUD-Bootcamp, providing financial and technical support that have helped to empower, equip, scale-up and build the capacity of over 1,200 participants. Annual Campers have been beneficiaries of free bags of fertilizers, mentorship, agronomic services, and soil testing services.
For his part, the CEO of MyBarnes Limited, Mr. Kenneth Barnes, underscored the need for perseverance and courage in the face of challenges and discouragements. He said, “You will face challenges in this sector, but the burning desire will help you overcome them. At MyBarnes we have had our share of difficulties, but we continue to build on our interest and speed. I will encourage you to do the same; if you have passion, faith and a burning desire to achieve, you will overcome the challenges.”
In a short address read on his behalf the Managing Director of Agricultural Development Bank, Dr. John Kofi Mensah described investing in agriculture as a game-changer, and therefore commended the agric-students for choosing to build a life and make a live as agric value chain actors.
He added, “ADB is proud to be associated with the Agrihouse brand, and we are committed to deepen our involvement in your programs in future. ADB and Agrihouse share a common noble vision, which is to promote and take agribusiness to the next level. Our continuous support for agrihouse activities is borne out of the fact that Agrihouse serves as a complement to the role ADB is playing in the agric space. With this great partnership and collaboration, underpinned by unity of purpose, ADB and Agrihouse will push the agribusiness agenda to assume its rightful place in the national discourse”
The Executive Director of Agrihouse Foundation, Alberta Nana Akyaa Akosa Sarpong, brought the 5-day Bootcamp to a close by expressing gratitude to all sponsors and collaborating institutions of this year’s event. Sponsors including, Agricultural Development Bank (ADB), OCP, Broadspectrum, Nanam Ventures, Bdiet, Kofi Venyo and Demeter. Collaborating Institutions are the National Farmers and Fishermen Award Winners Association (NFFAWAG); and the Ministry of Food and Agriculture.
She also expressed gratitude to all resources persons who served the vision of the Bootcamp in the capacities of mentors, trainers, coaches and speakers. She also used the opportunity to encourage the students to remain focused and determined as they worked towards building sustainable careers within the agric value chain. She urged them to make the most of the practical lessons they have received, as well as the inceptives and support packages the bootcamp has afforded them.