Agrihouse Foundation, a few weeks ago, brought together about sixty students from sixteen agricultural colleges in the country, to participate in highly anticipated and impactful Agricultural Career Guidance Mentorship Dialogue Bootcamp (AG-STUD-AFRICA).
In its fourth year, the 5-day Bootcamp annually brings together agricultural students, beginner agribusinesses and start-ups to help them appreciate the pivotal role they are expected to play, in building resilience and preparedness towards sustaining the food security of the nation through creative and innovative agriculture.
This year, the Bootcamp was on theme, “We have Enabled and Established the Agri-youth! Time to Scale-Up them-Up to Feed Ghana,” a call on corporate institutions, development partners, Government and stakeholders to join hands with Agrihouse Foundation, to support in scaling-up Agri-businesses that have been established by young Ghanaians working in the agricultural sector, whiles supporting other promising youth to identify and build career paths within the value chain.
The Bootcamp hosted students from Kwadaso Agric College, Ohawo Agric College, Fair River Farm Institute, Damango Agric College, Ejura Agric College, Methodist University, Northern Hub, KNUST, All Nations University, University of Ghana, Central University, UCC, Gh media, Christian College University and Adidome Farm Institute.
The 5-day bootcamp was supported by organizations including, OCP Africa, Agricultrural Development Bank, Co-operative Development Foundation of Canada (CDF-Canada), 4r Solution, Soya Beans Meal, Nanam, B-Diet, ADDFRA, Holland Akokor, New Okaff Industries, Kovi, My Barnes, Africa Business Bureau (abb) and IWAD. Representatives of the organizations showed up in their numbers, many of them serving as mentors, coaches and trainers. They included:
Hon. Dr. Zanetor Agyeman Rawlings, Patron of AG-STUD and MP of Klottey Korle Constituency; Mr. Samuel Oduro-Asare, Country Manager of OCP Africa in Ghana; Madam Nana Pomaa, a industrious Rabbit & Piggery Farmer based in the Ashanti Region; Madam Regina Richardson, Ag. Country Manager of AGRA; Mr. Danquah-Addo-Yobo, West-Africa Regional Director of Yara International; Madam Shirley Tony Kum, Corporate Communications Manager of Vivo Energy Ghana; Mrs. Tucci Ivowi, CEO of Ghana Commodity Exchange; Mr. James Boateng, National 2018 Best Farmer; Ing. Busia Dawuni, Manging Director of IWAD Ghana; and Mr. Samuel Wangul of Agricultural & Advocacy Lead (4R-NSP, CDF Canada).
The rest are Mr. Theophilus Djorbuah of Yara Ghana; Mr. Nicholas Nikoi of ADB; Mr. Alex Attakora, Chief Operating Officer Technical and Logistics Group, Jospong Group of Companies; Mr. Haidar Malhas, Manager, Irrigation Service – Interplast; Mr. Desmond Bress-Biney, Business Consultant; Madam Carianne De Boer, Chief of Party GPP; Mr. Prosper Ahmed Amuquandoh; Energy Consultant – IWAD; Mr. Kenneth Barnes, CEO – My Barnes; Mr. Mark Segbefia, Supply Chain Manager at OCP Africa; Mr. Kojo Amissah; COO – Sokoni Limited; Mr. Chris Ibyisintabyo, World Food Programme; Mr. Andrews Ahiaku of Food, Agricultural Finance & SME Banking Professional; and Richard Nunekpebu, Founder & Chief Farmer of Anyako Farms ltd.
Day 1— Opening Ceremony & Agri-Ted Mentorship Talk
At the opening ceremony, Ms. Alberta Nana Akyaa Akosa, Executive Director of Agrihouse Foundation, said, the 5- day bootcamp was a scale up of the last 3 events, employing more practical, action oriented, creative and innovative structures, that will drive and engineer speed for growth, amongst the campers. She noted that the growing list of schools was a clear indication of the positive socio-economic impacts the program was having on participants.
Briefly highlighting impacts of the Bootcamp over the years, Ms. Akosa said, AG-STUD AFRICA has introduced participating students and groups to several opportunities within the agricultural value chain; the platform continues to educate them with relevant knowledge and skills on how to harness such opportunities.
As a result, over 600 students from 30 different schools who have participated in previous editions of AG-STUD have been have taught to be self-reliant, and supported with start-up capital to help them start their own agri-businesses. Indirectly, the bootcamp has benefitted over 1000 agri-business students and beginner agribusinesses enabling them to develop strong and bankable business plans. About 43 successful businesses are presently, being run by students who have participated in AG-STUD.
“In this 4th year, our objective is to support start-up agribusinesses to survive and sustain, to help our young agripreneurs, to be more resilient to feed their household, community and the nation. We intend to assist our business clubs with opening bank accounts, seed capital to commence the Agribusiness idea/ initiative; a start-up input pack for farming and a business plan to direct their business idea. We will keep checking-up on them as a way of monitoring, to help them establish themselves,” she added.
Several aluminas of the Bootcamp were present to share impact stories of AGSTUD. Obed, who participated in 2008 described his experience 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. Four years down the line, Obed and his colleagues are running a thriving mushroom agribusiness in Accra. Mustapha from All Nations (and northern hub) has established over 5 acres of cowpea and watermelon farm. Khadija from Fair River is now into Dawada Processing, whiles Alex from Kwadaso is doing an amazing job with his Grasscuttor Farm.
Agri-Ted Mentorship Talk
Even as these young agripreneurs strive to achieve the best with their start-ups, there is no doubt they need encouragement to keep them going. The bootcamp therefore provides a motivational platform for the students through the agri-ted talk session. In this session, accomplished agribusiness men and women share their life story and journey to success with the students, to enable them grasp a clear vision of what they can also become as they continue to work hard.
The agri-ted mentorship session hosted notable personalities like, Nana Pomaa, a Rabbit and Piggery Farmer based in the Asante region. She said, even as National Ambulance Service Officer some years ago, she was passionate animal farming. Thus, when she had an opportunity to get into the sector, she took the chance. She revealed that in the middle of the pandemic, she lost a number of pigs because of poisoning. However, through it all, she has been confident and encouraged to work harder. She therefore encouraged the students, especially, the young girls to venture into the agric sector because it was possible to be successful as a women farmer in Ghana.
For his part, the Country Director of OCP Africa in Ghana, Mr. Samuel Oduro-Asare, told the students the story of how he started farming at a young age, “I was raised in the village. My mother was a chop-bar operator. I started a farm under the Volta River Authority power transmission lines in my community. I used to plant maize, I and made a lot of money out of it. I used some of the money to start rearing rabbits and goats, sheep and pigs. I was around 28 by then. When I went to the university, I did not read agriculture. I read economics, but because of my love and passion for agriculture, I ended up working in the agric sector. I never spend my weekend in Accra. On weekends, I am in the village, on my farm. Therefore, I am encouraging you to do same. Agriculture is one of the safest jobs. Don’t spend your money on expensive phones when it can buy you seeds, fertilizer and tools you need for farming,” he narrated.
“No Business is easy to build,” Regional Director of Yara International, Mr. Danquah Addo-Yobo, for his part reiterated to agric students and beginner agripreneurs. He said, even as they strived to start their own farms and agribusinesses, they must know that, it is not going to be an easy feat to achieve, but with hard work, planning and business strategies in place, they can make it happen. “Adapt and find solutions through the difficulties; your ability to overcome challenges takes you to the next level,” he stressed.
Mr. Addo-Yobo also urged the young agripreneurs to avoid repeating mistakes, but instead learn from others, “there are business principles that work across all industries, so it doesn’t matter which area of agric you are in, understand your market and you can learn from others,” he encouraged.
Highlighting the importance of a business strategy, Mr. Addo-Yobo encouraged the young agripreneurs to work on solid business strategies that will help them navigate the vision and missions they have for their agribusinesses, “hope is not a strategy. So, you must have a conscious plan to build your business,” he stressed.
On his part, the 2018 best farmer, Mr. James Boateng, shared his journey and progress as a farmer with the students. He said his interest in farming developed in 2002. He started with 3 archers, but today he has more than a 1000 archers for food crops, and livestock and fisheries.
Touching on his professional life, he revealed he spent 32 years in British American tobacco; coco cola, card berry. His time in corporate world he described as glory days, “but more significantly, the power of his life comes from agriculture,” he stressed. He therefore urged the students to take agriculture seriously and work on their ideas and business plans.
In a short presentation, Country Manager for Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) Madam Regina Richson, also inspired the young students and agripreneurs with her story of how she ventured into the agricultural sector. She said, it wasn’t her first choice program when she applied to go to the university, but halfway into the program, she developed love and interest for the course. But unfortunately, throughout her four years of studying agriculture in KNUST, she never had a practical lessons like Agrihouse was offering through AG-STUD Bootcamp. She therefore praised Agrihouse for such a innovative initiative and urged more corporate organizations to lend their technical and financial support.
Touching on challenges in the agriculture sector, she said they abound, but so are opportunities, and therefore encouraged the students not to give up, even when it seemed tough. She used the opportunity to praise AG-STUD Alumina’s’ who were at the bootcamp, to share their experiences and agri-initiatives they have been involved in.
She said, AGRA is an alliance led by Africans with roots in farming communities across the continent that understands that African farmers need uniquely African solutions designed to meet their specific environmental and agricultural needs so they can sustainably boost production and gain access to rapidly growing agriculture markets.
She noted, since 2006, AGRA has been working with partners across Africa to deliver a set of proven solutions to smallholder farmers and thousands of indigenous African agriculture enterprises. The alliance has built the systems and tools for Africa’s agriculture; high quality seeds, better soil health, access to markets and credit, and coupled by stronger farmer organizations and agriculture policies.
The Legal and Corporate Affairs Lead of Accra Brewery Limited, Mr. Solomon Ayiah, for his part, urged the Agri-students and beginner agripreneurs to make the most of the practical knowledge the Bootcamp was offering.
He said unemployment was still a big challenge in the country, thus, an opportunity to study agriculture and explore the opportunities it has to offer, is the way out.
He said AG-STUD AFRICA is a laudable initiative for students to make the most of, and was therefore looking forward to a time when students from the bootcamp will start supplying ABL with raw materials like maize, needed in the production of beer and malt.
Touching on alcohol consumption, he urged the room of young people to be responsible consumers of alcohol. He stressed on the need to stay away from drunk driving, and encouraged them to become the responsible ones among their friends; to ensure their colleagues are drinking responsibly at social functions and avoiding drunk driving.
Day 2— AG-VOYAGE: An Agricultural learning Trip
As part of the Bootcamp, the agri-students had an opportunity to visit the Ghana Commodity Exchange (GCX) and CSIR— Food Research Institute, to learn about the functions and operations of both institutions; how their activities influenced the agricultural sector, and opportunities they could start taking advantage of, as beginner agripreneurs.
At GCX, they were educated on the operations and activities of the Ghana Commodity Exchange. The Ghana Commodity Exchange is a private company limited by shares, structured as a Public Private Partnership, with the government of Ghana currently the sole shareholder. The aim of the exchange is to establish linkages between agricultural and commodity producers and buyers, to secure competitive prices for their products, assuring the market quantity and quality as well as timely settlement of their trade. Ghana Commodity Exchange’s Management team is led by Mrs. Tucci Goka Ivowi, the CEO, and Mr. Robert Dowuono Owoo, as COO.
At CSIR, the students learned that the institution is the foremost national science and technology institution in Ghana, mandated to carry out scientific and technological research for national development. The Council was established in its present form by NLC Decree 293 of 10 October 1968 and re-established by CSIR Act 521 of 26 November 1996. The Council, however, traces its ancestry to the erstwhile National Research Council (NRC), which was established by the Research Act 21 of August 1958. The students toured the various laboratories in the institution, being able to ask questions and interact with the scientists.
Day 3 & 4— Competence-based Training and Mentorship Sessions
Day 3 and 4 of the Bootcamp saw the students participate in various training sessions, lead by knowledgeable heads and departmental heads of various institutions in the country. They went to training sessions under various topics including, Farm management development skills; financial modeling, planning and securing financing; leadership and development training; market identification and development; how to develop an idea into a business plan; tips on writing a business proposal.
The rest are, writing a business proposal from a development partners perspective; identifying opportunities within the agric value chain; competitive analysis into putting together a business plan; thinking outside the box in developing a sustainable and winning business plan. Others are financial, market analysis and opportunities in developing a winning business plan; developing and securing infrastructure; understanding local food systems; quality food safety management principles; and accessing risk management.
Day 5— Business Ideas Presentation
On the last day of the Bootcamp, the students were tasked with presenting their agribusiness ideas and plans in groups, according to their schools. Their efforts were judged by a panel of judges assembled by Agrihouse Foundation, who cut across the various areas within agric value chain. This year the Bootcamp hosted students from Kwadaso Agric College, Ohawo Agric College, Fair River Farm Institute, Damango Agric College, Ejura Agric College, Methodist University, Northern Hub, KNUST, All Nations University, University of Ghana, Central University, UCC, Gh media, Christian College University and Adidome Farm Institute.
In her closing remarks, the patron of AG-STUD Bootcamp and MP for Klottey Korle Constituency, Hon. Zanetor Agyeman Rawlings urged the students to make the most of all the practical lessons and words of encouragement they had received, whiles praising Agrihouse Foundation for the noble initiative that AG-STUD is. She extended gratitude to all partners and sponsors who supported the idea this year and encouraged more partners to come on board next year.