On 29 January, 2017 I was one of ~80 people that went on an agricultural research excursion across Ghana. The trip was sponsored by Kosmos Innovation Center, a social investment programme of oil company, Kosmos Energy. The aim was to acquaint us with agricultural practices and norms so we can create innovative tech solutions for problems in the industry.
Our stops on the tour were Kumasi in the Ashanti region, Sunyani in the Brong-Ahafo Region, and Tamale in the Northern Region.
We set out Sunday afternoon for Kumasi and arrived late that evening. KIC hired two Scania Marcopolo buses run by a bus company called STC. Those buses were really comfortable, making the trip very enjoyable as we were on the road a lot.
Here is a breakdown of activities that took place:
- Sunday 29th: Left Accra for Kumasi. Arrived late evening
- Monday 30th: Visited a cocoa farm courtesy of Cocoa Abrabopa. Cocoa Abrabopa is an organization that supplies cocoa farmers with quality seeds, fertilizers, chemicals, etc (called inputs) and directions on best practices. This is in return for exclusive purchase right to the final produce of the farmers.
Visited the Animal Science division of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology. We were introduced to poultry and livestock farming by the department head.
- Tuesday 31st: Visited AgriCare, a factory that processes cereals and legumes into feed for poultry.
After that, we dropped by at Darko Farms, where chickens are cut, processed and delivered to stores and other businesses.
Left Kumasi for Sunyani.
- Wednesday 1st: Visited Yedent, a factory that processes cereal crops to various Ghanaian food products.
Left Sunyani for Tamale.
- Thursday 2nd: Visited grain storehouses for Masara N’Arziki, a corporation that gives maize farmers a similar deal to what Cocoa Abrabopa offers cocoa farmers. Visited a cotton mill shortly after where we were acquainted with the process of refining cotton.
- Friday 3rd: Left Tamale for Kumasi.
- Saturday 4th: Stayed in while others went for training with the 4th Infantry Battalion of the Ghana Army. I used that time to be lazy and catch up on work and touch up on my coding.
- Sunday 5th: Joined in the training with the 4th Infantry Battalion. It was a grueling 12 hours of drilling and sadistic fun. We did morning exercises with the soldiers, team competitions, marching and rifle shooting.
- Monday 6th: Left Kumasi for Accra.
Visited Blue Skies Factory, a beverage company responsible for making the most delicious natural smoothies in West Africa. They explained their process and gave us an extensive tour of their plant.
- The agricultural industry is maturing well in Ghana though there is still so much more potential to be realized. Farmers are still using manual methods of farming as opposed to mechanizing. The managerial part seems to be doing well though with corporations like Cocoa Abrabopa and Masara N’Arziki coordinating farmers and helping them achieve best possible yield. What will even be more effective is educated farmers managing their operations so they can have a say on where their produce ends up at the end of the day.
- All the machineries we came across in the various factories were acquired before the ’60s. The factories will do much better and be more efficient if the machines were more recent. As of now, there aren’t enough raw materials to be processed anyway, so machinery will first be needed on farms to increase cultivation of land and harvest of crops.
- The cost of importing food products into the country is lower than the cost of producing those products within the country. This results in a negative impact on farmers returns where their profit margins are forced to be low due to the competition. I have no proposed solutions, but I am sure cost of business being lower will help.
- Biggest problem for managerial organizations is farmer compliance. At every factory and organization involved with getting produce from farmers, there were complaints on how farmers don’t comply enough with best practices to get the best quality and quantity of produce from their farms.
- The military is the best place to learn teamwork. We have undergone a lot of teamwork courses and practices at MEST but the tests we underwent at the 4th Infantry Battalion have been the most effective yet. All in under 12 hours.
I also learnt the most rudimentary shooting principles as well as the fact that pain is only a state of mind.
- Finally, that the tech needed in the agric ecosystem borders more on hardware solutions than software solutions. Most of these tech solutions need not be new, groundbreaking technology but implementation of existing technology tested and proven in other climes.
Over the past few years, I have been interested in agriculture and the opportunities it presents. Fortunately, this KIC excursion has given me a glimpse of different points on the full value chain along with their corresponding opportunities.
My interest in agriculture is from the agricultural processing angle. There is a need for more African countries to begin processing of crops to final consumer products as opposed to exporting raw produce and importing finished goods. This trip has opened my mind up to new possibilities and how feasible these ideas are.
My sincere hope is more young people get involved in agriculture and take full advantage of it to help bring about a social and economic revolution on the continent. My hope is with best practices applied along the whole agricultural value chain (from farm to table), hunger and poverty in Africa can be greatly reduced and Africa can reduce its dependence on Western powers.