Celestine Emefa…the stylish lady redefining farming
Yes, she is a farmer, and a proud farmer indeed! I was taken aback when she first told me. But after showing me pictures and videos of her farm, I doubted no more. So, I asked why such an elegant modish lady would choose a profession so undesired by the youth? Her reason touched my heart. It was based on changing lives of women in her community. Read about her.
Celestine Emefa Quashie, born in Afife in the Ketu North district of the Volta Region, is the last of six children. She attended Wisdom International School in Agbozome for her Junior High education, and completed her secondary education at Keta Business Secondary School where she studied General Arts and completed in 2007.
After her secondary school, she gained admission at the University of Winneba to study languages. But after just a year into the course, she could not identify with the course and so abandoned it and applied for a business programme at the University of Professional Studies, Accra (UPSA). There, she studied Marketing for her first degree; and is currently pursuing her MBA in the same university.
How her interest in farming began
Emefa grew up fully aware of farming as the main occupation of the people in her community. Her own mother was a farmer who cultivated corn, cassava, and sweet potato, and Emefa always followed her mother to the farm on weekends when she was a young girl.
Again, those who schooled in especially rural areas would remember very well when pupils were encouraged to own backyard gardens so they could practice what they learned in Agric Science in school. Emefa had a backyard garden where she grew watermelon and other crops. So, farming has always been something known to her.
But that is not the main reason she chose to enter farming. Emefa saw at first hand, the struggles women farmers went through in her community to support their families. So she thought about what she could do to improve their lives commercially.
“I was worried about the women farmers in my community. Even though they had farmed for a very long time, they were still living in poverty and I just wanted to find a way of helping them improve on their standard of living and make life worth living for them.”
Out of the passion to help the women, she initiated processes to set up an enterprise that will drive her agenda and passion. She registered her farm with the name Mamagah Farms; and worked to acquire a 100-acre land in her village for a five-year period, and started a maize and pepper farm.
What she does is that, she directly employs some of the women who do not have their own farms to work on her farm. Then, with those who have their own farms, she employs the services of experts to offer technical support and teach them the better farming methods that could increase their yield; and also provides modern tools and machines for cultivation and harvesting.
The twist and turns
While every farmer’s prior expectation is having a good yield, such was not the case with Emefa’s first farm due to certain inexperience on her part that resulted in significant losses.
“Certain things delayed and so I was late in planting. Normally for pepper, by first week in May, you should be done transplanting. But I started cultivating the land in late April and was able to transplant in early June. So, at a point that the rains got heavier, our pepper had started growing and our farm got flooded, destroying more than half the yield.”
But Emefa would not be discouraged by this calamity. She is known by her friends as a resilient and daring lady. As daring as she is, she decided to give it another try. But of course, this time, to right all the wrongs she made.
Remember, Emefa has a bigger project than owning a personal commercial farm. She wants to help other women in her community to commercialise their farms so they could benefit from their sweat. But because that requires very huge money to do, capital constraints limit how far she wants to carry this project.
Another challenge that she has come across is dealing with the ugly perception about farming, especially the fact that she is a graduate. There are a lot who feel farming is not dignifying for her sort.
“Some people look at me and wonder why a graduate will be interested in farming; an occupation they think is for the uneducated and poor in the society.”
But Emefa would not allow these challenges to surmount her vision for doing what she loves best.
How education has helped her
As a first-degree holder in marketing and a current MBA student, education has no doubt played an important role in her business.
“For me, education is the foundation to a successful business. Through education I am able to read and understand things very well. If I am to enter into any partnership or contract with someone, I can read and understand the terms well.
Also, education has taught me to look beyond the surface. The women in my community may be poor because they didn’t think about taking their business to next level. But I have learned that every business should think about expansion and growth. So I believe education has really done a lot for me.”
How she advertises her products
Mamagah Farms has not let the advantage social media offers businesses slip through its fingers. Emefa makes sure that her Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat accounts are flooded with images and footages of her farming activities.
How she stands out
Emefa wants to use her all to change the perception about farming—that, it is a job for the unlettered or poor in the society. So, she has decided to make farming look attractive by her outlook. Just imagine her dressed neatly, sometimes even in her makeups, to the farm. Trust me, at the sight of her, if not for her wellington boots, and some other tools you see her carry, you wouldn’t believe she is on her way to the farm.
Mamagah Farms wants to be the leading organisation that will empower women in agriculture across the country and beyond.
How government can support
For Emefa, government should pay more attention by putting in place, programmes that focus on women in farming, as they make up a large number of smallholder farmers.
Advise for the youth
“For me, I keep saying there are so many things the youth can do. If that job you are looking for is not coming, identify something you are good at and take your chances. You will succeed.”