Highlighting major challenges that face agribusiness students, some beneficiaries of this year’s 5th Agricultural Students Career Guidance and Mentorship Dialogue Bootcamp (AG-STUD-AFRICA) Bootcamp, have further used the opportunity to call on their teachers and colleagues to stop diminishing and undervaluing their choice to pursue agric as an academic program.

H. E the Vice President of Ghana, Alhaji Mahamudu Bawumia

The students made the passionate plea last week Friday, at the closing event of the annual 5-day capacity-building Bootcamp, organized by Agrihouse Foundation. The event, which attracted the attention of H.E the Vice President, Dr. Alhaji Mahamudu Bawumia, also brought together over three hundred (300) participants, including seventy (70) agri-students and beginner agribusinesses, from twenty-one (21) agric colleges and institutions across the country, as well as, resources persons from the fields of academia, government, agric institutions, policymakers, and public and private sector executives.

During the ‘Agribusiness Plan Presentation,’ which forms a major part of the bootcamp, the student’s revealed instances of when their teachers and peers have insulted and ridiculed them for choosing to study agriculture. Danquah Newton Kelly, 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.

Their words received rousing applause from their friends and resource persons who were present. Some tears were even shed, and consequently, the mentors, trainers and coaches who had been with them throughout the five days; guiding their efforts, as well as teaching inspiring them, used the opportunity to drum home more words of empowerment.

Hon. Dr. Zanetor Agyeman- Rawlings

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”

Ms Alberta Nana Akyaa Sarpong, Executive Director of Agrihouse Foundation

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.

About 5th AG-STUD Bootcamp

This year, the 70 students-campers are from 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.

The five (5) day Bootcamp, allows the students to work in teams to develop their art of public speaking, negotiating abilities and presentation skills. The activities further enable them to explore their creative and wear their innovative hats, which is expected to assist them identify challenges and propose solutions, in line with the overall Theme AG-STUD.

For the 5-day period, a number of mentors, coaches, speakers and trainers from various organizations, including ADB, OCP, MOFA, GIPC, FDA, Nanam Ventures, Mobraz, HD+ , Sonal Global, Kofi Venyo, Bdiet and NPRA among others, equip, coach, train and guide the campers through thematic focuses on Communication, E-Agric, and Food Safety Management principles. Others topics include how to attractive limitless investment Agric opportunities, digital marketing, financial proposal development, Do’s and Dont’s in building an Agribusiness and saving the agri-future through talents and creativity and many more.