Alberta Nana Akyaa Akosa
Lead Consultant and Founder – Agrihouse Communications and Agrihouse Foundation
The launch-pad for future agric professionals
Available Statistics suggest Africa has the largest youth population in the world. While this indication is a positive one in many respects, it has not reflected in the continents hugely important agriculture industry.
The apparent disconnect that exists between the continent’s youth population and the agriculture industry is worrying as experts projections have consistently tipped agriculture as the surest path to socio-economic development for the African continent.
Agrihouse foundation, a leading pro-agric establishment with a desire to bridge the existing gap, launched the Agric students Career and Mentorship Dialogue, capacity boot camp event dubbed AGSTUD Africa 2018.
AGSTUD Africa 2018 is a student capacity building boot-camp which was calculated to specifically attract students of agricultural science. The maiden edition of the programme was held from 20th-23rd February in Accra at M plaza Hotel.
A total of 20 institutions and 320 students participated in the event which included:
Kwame Nkrumah University Of Science And Technology (KNUST), University of Ghana, (Legon), Wenchi Senior High School,Asuansi Farm Institute,Kwadaso Agricultural College, Damango Agricultural College,Fairriver Barekese SHS,Amasaman SHS,Saint Thomas Aquainas ,Manhean SHS,Ngleshie Amanfro SHS, Central University ,Oreilly SHS, labone SHS,Ashaiman SHS and Ghanata SHS.
Agrihouse Foundation is a non-governmental agricultural capacity building organization, with a special focus on the promotion of, and changing perception of agriculture through tactical programs and initiatives for students, women, farmers, farming associations, agribusinesses and the entire actors within the value chain.
The foundation’s initiatives focuses on empowerment, grooming, leadership, best practices, management training programs, etc. that leads to effecting positive change in the mind, field, economy and translate to the community.
In her inaugural address, Team Lead for Agrihouse Foundation, Alberta Nana Akyaa Akosa, stressed the need to fully equip the youth to take the reins of the agriculture industry. According to her, simply involving the youth in agriculture wasn’t good enough. She proffered a fully equipped agric student population as the definite solution to youth agric apathy.
“We believe the future of agriculture belongs to the youth. That is why we have designed this event to ensure that we provide an avenue for training the next generation of agric industry professional’s. This event is the first of many initiatives that we have outlined to aid renewed efforts aimed at repositioning the agric industry for optimum impact. ” she affirmed.
Agrihouse Foundation received a strong arm of support as The National Farmers and Fishermen Award Winners Association, Ghana; (NFFAWAG) partnered the main organizers to ensure a successful event.
The National Farmers and Fishermen Award Winners Association, Ghana, (NFFAWAG) is a flagship farmer-organization dedicated to spurring farmers for excellence in the agriculture sector.
The association is a wholly pro agrIc association established in response to the need to have a true agricultural umbrella body that works to address the peculiar needs of the Ghanaian farmer; with a view of helping them to fulfill their occupational potential under the best of conditions like their counterparts in the developed world.
The association’s membership combines past winners of the prestigious National Best Farmer awards and other farmers who are drawn to the central objective of bringing together farmers and giving them a platform to move their enterprise to great heights.
According to Mr. Nene Davies Korboe, the chairman of the association, agric is a viable wealth creation tool that young people must appreciate to realize their dreams of financial independence.
He explained in his mentorship session with participants, how he has managed to create wealth through management of acres of mango plantations that are a source of fresh organic fruits for many markets. He challenged the students to take their destinies in their own hands and venture into the industry with a mindset of integrity and a desire to achieve excellence.
The event was a three day event with various event modules .The event opened with a ceremony which had a representative of the Brazilian ambassador to Ghana in attendance to share with participants the narrative of the role of agriculture in the rapid growth of the Brazilian economy. He extoled the efforts of the Ghanaian government in promoting agric and assured that the Ghanaian economy would blossom with the renewed efforts of government.
The CEO of Goat Masters Mr. Gideon Konotey led the participants in a session on starting an agri-business. He spoke effusively about the many grass- to-grace stories which abound of young individuals who turned their backs on white-collar jobs in Accra in favour of agric enterprises. He indicated that the agric industry presents the best opportunity for jobs as it has proven to be a sector with boundless possibilities.
The day climaxed after a sequence of other inspiring sessions led by industry stalwarts with years of experience. As each speaker took to the podium, the consensus in their rhetoric was that of a need to look in the direction of agric for wealth creation opportunities.
The second day of AGSTUD began with the same euphoria that was noticeable on the first day of the event. Students stormed the Mplaza Hotel visibly poised for another day of enthralling program itinerary. If the students came expecting another great day, their expectations were surpassed as speakers took turns to deliver inspirational sessions which were intermittently met with rapturous applause from excited participants.
As the main feature of day two, participants numbering over 500 were taken on a tour of key industry enterprises to have a first –hand experience of the operational structures of these industry players.
The tour bus made its first stop at Blue Skies fruit processing company where participants were taken through the nitty-gritties of fresh fruit processing. Mr. Alistair Djimatey the Public Relations Officer and Foundation Manager of Blue Skies who led the tour explained that the company serves major European retail stores across Europe with a variety of fresh organic fruits from Ghana. He went on to add that from the reception of the fruits from farmers through to when they are loaded on planes en-route to Europe, their products are handled in adherence to the most stringent food safety standards.
According to him, the company is easily one of the biggest employers of labour in the private sector as it engages both farmers and factory hands in direct and indirect employment. The efforts of these are complimented by a world class team of skilled professional staff who oversee the day-to-day activities of Blue Skies.
After an exciting time at Blue Skies, the team made its next stop at Adieso in the Easter Region. Here the team visited HPW, A dry fruit processing company redefining fruit processing in Ghana. At the firms sprawling facility overlooking an endless stretch of lush green farmlands in the outskirts of Adieso community, the team was led by the Head of operations, Mr. James Obeng who after an initial video presentation, took the participants on a tour of the firms operational departments for participants to better appreciate what HPW does.
The team left Adieso having learnt of the fundamental processes involved in dry fruit processing and how the trend is increasingly becoming an investment attraction; especially as the demand for dry fruit continues to increase in Europe and other parts of the world.
Though visibly tired from the first two trips, participants didn’t turn down further trips to Yara Ghana, John Deere and Dizengoff; where like the afore -mentioned trips, participants were taken through the operational nitty-gritties of the firms and their contribution to the development of the Ghanaian agric industry.
Speaking on his experience during the tour, Prince Antwi a participant from Central University praised Agrihouse Foundation for an “incredible experience” .He noted that the tour had given him a much needed insight into the roles played by some key actors in the agric value chain.
“I am truly blessed to have been part of this program and particularly this tour. Today I have learnt that there is more to agriculture than meets the eye. I am hopeful the experience garnered here today will embolden me for success in the future when I am ready to pursue my dreams in the industry.”
Dignitaries and mentors
AGSTUD Africa 2018 attracted a host of dignitaries that included MP for Korle Klottey Constituency, Zenator Rawlings. The lawmaker graced the event on the third day and made sure to inspire the expectants students with her concise speech. She encouraged the students to believe in their chosen career path and work hard at all times to ensure chaste success. She bemoaned the lack of creativity among young people and underscored the need to prioritize creativity, hard work and excellence.
Other mentors who made sure the participants were never short of inspiration included:
Mr. Davies Narh Kroboe (NFFAWAG)
Berle Baryeh Kenmegne,Nana Adwoah Sifa (John Deere)
Castro Antwi Danso (ESOKO)
Desmond Nii Out,Kojo Nyansakyere (Supreme Engineering)
Mr. Andrew Ahiaku (Barclays Bank)
Mr. Ahmad Hashemi (Dizengoff Ghana)
Mr. Baa (A1 Bread)
- Gideon Konotey (Goat Masters)
Brooke Nuwati Anison (GNPC)
Michael Boateng (GIZ CAAADP ATVET)
Participants of AGSTUD Africa 2018 were provided mentorship opportunities to interact with industry stalwarts. These sessions saw mentors give advice to students on how to better position themselves for success in the agric industry.
Technology foundation, ISPACE trained participants on how to effectively use technology to advance ideas that will promote agric concepts that have huge marketing potential.
The idea behind this module was to help participants develop agric projects with the potential of solving known industry challenges.
Student Mentor Pairing
To address the challenge of inexperience among young school leavers and graduate alike, the event paired participants with seasoned industry personalities who assumed the role of mentors to the participants.
The idea is hinged on a larger plan which will see over 100 agribusiness take-off. The mentor –student relationship built during the event is expected to blossom long after the event to act as an avenue for bringing innovative pro-agric ideas to light.
This, the organisers believe will help alleviate the unemployment challenge that continues to bedevil the country.
Exhibition boots were setup for participating students to showcase their ingenuity and exhibiting institutions didn’t disappoint.
All exhibitors were impressive with their conceptions which gave great enthusiasm that given the right support; the Ghanaian has indisputable ability to think, create and deliver excellence.
To draw the curtains on the event, H.E. Former President Jerry John Rawlins hosted participants to lunch at his residence where participating students had the rare privilege of interacting with him. The former president who is a known agric enthusiast was visibly elated at the visit and admonished the students to prioritise their studies, to ensure that they leave school poised for the challenges inherent in the corporate world.
In his address to the students the, the ex-president recounted an incident where he handed the over control of an airplane he was manning to famous American, blind singer Stevie Wonder .He described how shocked he was when to his amazement the visually impaired singer steadily flew the plane before landing safely, unassisted.
According to the former president, the feat which many still find hard to believe is demonstration of what a man can do notwithstanding their circumstance or perceived limitations.
He assured that there were immeasurable opportunities in the agric sector and all participants had to do was, dream, work and achieve.
Innovation was rewarded at AGSTUD Africa 2018 as Asuansi Farm Institute carted away the prize for most innovative exhibition team. The team was able to prepare a mushroom kebab, wine, bread and chips; much to the delight of participants who took turns to enjoy the ingenious culinary treat by the Asuansi Farm Institute team.
Wenchi Senior High School placed second with the design of a specialized machine that could pluck maize seeds off the cob into a receptacle. Many participants applauded the team, for creating an invention that could greatly decrease the time used for processing maize in large quantities when improved upon.
Kwadaso Agricultural College also proved their mettle by preparing cakes, tea-bags, lip-gloss, chips and cooking oil which were all derived from the moringa plant. The team placed third.
The winning team was rewarded by GIZ with an opportunity to attend the Agric Innovation Conference in Dakar, Senegal.
In exploring the idea of giving future editions of the event an African outlook, Landmark University from Nigeria was invited to participate. The invitation was obliged and two female’s participants, a professor and a student were sent to partake in the event. The visiting Nigerian team delivered a stellar presentation of their own on the third and final day of the event.
After the event there was a general consensus among participants that their time at the event was well spent. For some, the experience had left an indelible mark that they wouldn’t forget.
Acknowledging the impact of the event,Yaa Oguabi Osei-Mensah had kind words for the organizers.
“I am particularly grateful to the organizers for coming up with such a great initiative. This is the direction agric should be heading and am hopeful that other organizations in the industry will take a cue from what Agrihouse Foundation has done.” she concluded.
Corroborating the former’s commentary, another student representing ST. Johns Grammar,
Martha Nyame Baidoo, of ST. Johns Grammar thanked the organizers for giving her the Opportunity to better appreciate what opportunities the agric industry has to offer her after school.
According to the organizers, plans are already at an advanced stage to build on the success of the event. The event was developed with a vision of becoming a yearly ritual for raising a formidable crop of agriculture professional to fill key industry roles in the foreseeable future.
Project Coordinator for Agrihouse Foundation, Miss Yoki Tee-Kodua expressed confidence that the event will be better in 2019.
“We are excited at the success we have achieved with this maiden edition of the event. We are however not going to rest on our oars; by this time next year, I am confident that we shall have a bigger, better and more impactful AGSTUD Africa 2019.
The plan is to create an event that will be renowned on the African continent as a hub for preparing fine talent for the agriculture industry labour market.” she concluded.
Several agric institutions have already expressed interest to participate in the next edition of the event slated for 2019.
The event’s success is down to hard work, but beyond that, Agrihouse Foundation acknowledges the staunch partnership support received from a pool of establishments who showed faith in the potential of raising the next generation of skilled labour for the agric industry. AGSTUD Africa 2018 was collectively sponsored by, National Farmers and Fishermen Award Winners Association (NFFAWAG), Ministry of Food and Agriculture, ISPACE Foundation, Amplifiers, Goat Masters, Blue Skies, Dizengoff, AFGRI John Deere and Yara Ghana.