On October 20, 2022, Genesis International Limited (GIL), a social enterprise in the business of transforming Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) into successful ventures, while financially empowering communities and promoting technology-driven entrepreneurship in order to bring small businesses into the digital economy held a webinar for their Youth Empowerment Accelerator Program. According to Genesis International Limited's Founder and CEO; Makeda Antoine-Cambridge; "the objective of this program is to train 3,960 students to help empower these entrepreneurs with tools, techniques, and skills to build a successful agribusiness."
As an agribusiness expert in the sector, the CEO of Organic Trade and Investments (OTI); Esthy Ama Asante was invited by GIL's associates; Cole Africa to take part in the webinar as a panelist to share her experience and journey.
Dubbed "The rise of women farmers and sustainability in agriculture,” the webinar commenced with an open speech by Bevon Charles of Akata Farms, followed by a panel discussion moderated by Makeda Antoine-Cambridge.
We captured the topic discussed by OTI's CEO.
1. What has been your experience in this agricultural space?
The agricultural sector in Ghana is faced with many challenges. However, it’s up to us, as entrepreneurs in that sector to leverage on these challenges and create opportunities.
A private company can make a significant impact in the communities they are operating only if the right framework is put in place.
There is the need to empower the youths and also improve young rural men and women’s access to education, building the capacity of this population to incorporate new technologies and agricultural skills in their everyday activities if we want to remain competitive and meet markets’ expectations. At OTI, we are currently practicing smart agriculture.
2. Tell us of your biggest challenges and greatest lessons.
There are many challenges in the agribusiness sector in Ghana. Some of these challenges are beyond our control. Lack of financial support in the agriculture sector, lack of proper infrastructure, insufficient understanding of the market expectations, and the high cost of logistics are some of the difficulties that are pulling the sector back. How we dealt with the problems is that we saw them as opportunities. And from there, we drew solutions to close these gaps. Through technology, business strategies, and partnerships.
3. What are some of the opportunities that exist in this space today?
Agriculture is the sustainable sector we should take advantage of to maintain our food security. It is constantly growing and presents lots of opportunities. The sector needs to be well structured. The career paths involve everything from organic crop farming, horticulture, food processing, establishing a packaging material company, data collection, export trading of semi-finished and transformed agricultural produce, and raising livestock to integrate and build sophisticated technologies such as Apps to help farmers be more productive and competitive (moisture sensors, GPS technology, etc.).
4. What would you say to a young Agripreneur nervous about the future?
The future is now. Millions of lives depend on entrepreneurs in the agricultural space (we are feeding the nation). And as an entrepreneur, your aim is to bring about solutions to the many problems you’ve identified in a sector or your community. Don’t be part of the problem. Visualize and create a world where the agriculture space provides jobs, where the farming sector and food manufacturing industry are well structured and financially independent; come and add on to the sector for us to create innovatively, and good industrial practices aimed at protecting our biodiversity and regenerating our renewable resources. Being nervous is not a solution.
5. What is unique about what our regions can bring to the table regarding food security?
Africa's food import bill has more than tripled, reaching about US$35 billion. The continent of Africa remains an importer of food while we have more than 60% of the world's uncultivated arable land. This clearly shows that we could feed the growing population of Africa and the world at large if were we to structure the agricultural sector well. We are also blessed with the sun all year round – and this is a natural resource to generate renewable energy.
Why must we focus on selected few crops whiles we have a range of diverse crops we have discarded? We have the likes of fonio (a naturally gluten-free grain grown in the northern part of Ghana), Bambara seeds, etc.
Those of us in the Agric sector know that circular agriculture if practiced on a wide scale, can reduce resource requirements and the ecological footprint of agriculture. The shea fruits show us how blessed we are. In a circular economy, organic resources such as those from food by-products, are free from contaminants and can safely be returned to the soil in the form of organic fertilizer. At Organic Trade and Investments (OTI), after pressing the seed for oil, the by-products are used as organic fertilizers.