Ghana currently faces 12% youth unemployment rate, and more than 50% underemployment— both higher than overall unemployment rates in Sub-Saharan African countries. Despite major investments by both government and private sector, this challenge will intensify if job opportunities remain limited, a new World Bank report has indicated.
At the recently ended 4th Agricultural Students’ Career Guidance Mentorship Dialogue and Bootcamp (AG-STUD AFRICA), organized by Agrihouse Foundation, all organizing sponsors, mentors, trainers and coaches who were present and engaged with the agri-students and agriprenurs at the 5-day bootcamp, alluded to the above statement in one way or another.
OCP Africa, the main organizing sponsor, represented by Country Manager in Ghana, Mr. Samuel Oduro-Asare, in an opening remark on the first day of the bootcamp, encouraged the young students and agripreneurs to make the most of the opportunities the sessions of the bootcamp would introduce them to in the course of five day, stressing that, the country’s agricultural sector was a viable space for young people to explore and reiterated OCP support towards young agripreneurs, “In Ghana, what we (OCP Africa) have done is to help develop the youth, to get into agribusiness, and we have done a lot” he said, “OCP has established a program called Impulse; with impulse what we do is receive business plans from young people in Africa like yourselves. When these plans come to us, we do assessments; we have judges who go through them and for those who qualify, we take them through mentorship programmes. We judge their efforts, and those who do well, we give them money to start their businesses. When they start their businesses, OCP supports them contracts,” he revealed, “Last year, we gave two of them that contracts that run into millions of Ghana cedis. They are young people— in their twenties and in their thirties,” he said, “so if you are really planning to get into agribusiness, it is something good. You really have to pursue it,” he noted.
As a subsidiary of OCP Group – a leading global provider of phosphate and its derivatives with almost 100 years of experience – OCP AFRICA was created in 2016 to contribute to the sustainable development of African agriculture. The company has over the years develop fertilizer solutions customized to local conditions and crop needs, “We also work with partners in many different African governments, non-profits and private enterprises to connect farmers to the agricultural services, knowledge, and resources they need in order to prosper,” Mr. Oduro-Asare revealed.
OCP AFRICA understands the diversity and complex needs of Africa’s soils, he said, and that is why the company is committed to offering the right fertilizer products at the right time, in the right place, at the right price. Based in Morocco, with a presence in 18 countries, as well as 12 subsidiaries and employees representing 17 nationalities, OCP AFRICA is proud to be a multicultural African company working hand-in-hand with farmers and partners across the continent, “it is in our DNA to help smallholder farmers thrive and prosper” he stressed.
Mr. Oduro-Asare noted that over the years OCP Africa has invested heavily in networking, to develop strategic partnerships with governments, institutions, experts and other players in the agricultural field to provide the full range of support farmers needs to prosper, “We are committed to working hand-in-hand with the people who will make this a reality; our African smallholder farmers, to enable them move from subsistence to more modern ways of farming.”
OCP Smallholder Farmer Support Systems
OCP AFRICA is working to bring together partners throughout the value chain to provide the full range of support farmers need to thrive, including skills training and free-soil testing in some countries, and access to financing, insurance and markets. One example is the OCP School Lab program. The School Lab is a mobile soil laboratory that travels to meet farmers where they are, helps them test their soil, and then makes fertilizer application recommendations for their soil and crop mix for free. School Lab has already helped 350,000 farmers across Kenya, Nigeria, Togo, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Tanzania and Côte d’Ivoire, and hope to reach 500,000 within three years. Another smallholder farmer support championed by OCP is the Agribooster; a unique initiative for food crops that provides farmers with support for every aspect of the agricultural value chain. First launched as a pilot in Côte d’Ivoire, Agribooster connects farmers to financing and insurance, works with local extension agents to train them on proper fertilizer use, collaborates with other providers to ensure they have the right fertilizer and other inputs, and in some cases, buys their harvest at a pre-agreed price.
Furthermore, the company carries out field trials programs in Africa to address crop production issues that limit increased and sustained crop yields and smallholder farmers income, resulting mainly from low inputs (in particular fertilizers), inappropriate fertilizer products use and poor crop management. These field trials are designed and implemented to determine the best inputs that can be offered to smallholder farmers depending on their country, their crops and agroecological specificities.
OCP Infrastructure & Agri-tech Innovations
One of OCP AFRICA’s primary goals is to assist smallholder farmers in making the transition from subsistence to commercial farming, including through the development of infrastructure across the African continent.
OCP AFRICA heavily invests in production and logistics, and in many countries, this includes fertilizer blending and storage facilities. We have furthered this growth in African countries in several meaningful ways, including through the creation of blending facilities, fertilizer storage initiatives and the development of fertilizer supply partnerships. These projects are important because they allow us to reduce costs and be more agile and responsive to local needs.
In line with innovative agricultural practices, OCP AFRICA, continues to explores digital agriculture and other innovations that can increase crop yields and assist farmers with other necessary inputs, services and marketing. In several African countries, the company is working with partners to provide technology services for African farmers, to develop a digital-commerce solution that leverages mobile technology and last-mile agent networks to connect smallholder farmers with agri-input suppliers, financial service providers and commodity buyers.
OCP & AG-STUD BOOTCAMP
In light of the above initiatives and partnerships greatly championed OCP, it was no surprise at all when Mr. Oduro-Asare, announced a pledge on behalf of his organization— he said OCP Africa was ready to supply fertilizers to students who were willing to go into agriculture in the next three years, “we are also ready to provide mentorship, agronomic services, and soil testing services at no cost,” he announced, “and we are ready to build your capacity. Based on how it goes, you are likely to get contracts from OCP,” he stated and his words were welcomed with applause. “Agriculture is the deal,” Mr. Oduro-Asare stressed when the applause subsided, “agriculture is going to turn around the world and Africa. And people like us are around to mentor, coach and train you, and make sure you are really making it!” he promised the young agripreneurs, even as he used his own story as a form of encouragement, “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 didn’t 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. So, 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 used the opportunity to also encourage Agrihouse Foundation to continue the good work of annually bringing agric students and beginner agribusinesses, together, and giving them such educative and practical agricultural experience through AG-STUD. He praised the team for putting together an excellent event and assured the consistent support of OCP Africa.
About AG-STUD Africa Bootcamp
Annually, the Bootcamp 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 5-day bootcamp was generously 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: Hon. Dr. Zanetor Agyeman Rawlings, MP Klottey Korle and Patron of AG-STUD; 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.
The Bootcamp hosted students from sixteen agricultural institutions in the country, including 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.