The Ghanaian youth, indeed, is an integral component to the growth and sustainability of the country’s agricultural sector. Over the years, conversations on how to get more young people interested in the sector continues to mount.
In 2020, the unemployment rate in Ghana was at approximately 4.53 percent of the total labor force. Youth and women represent the active workforce in the country, contributing significantly to Ghana’s socio-economic development. However, they also represent the portion of the population who are most vulnerable due to the lack of opportunities.
These challenges have turned some Ghanaian youth and young women to become a burden to themselves and the state. For instance, the rise in unemployment among the youth has pushed many youths into deviant activities such as armed robbery, internet fraud, low income, and agents of political violence, hawkers and prostitution. Hence, an urgent need to address unemployment and the lack of skills training opportunities among these groups
It is encouraging to observe collaborations starting to take shape between policymakers and organizations in that country like Agrihouse Foundation, that are invested in inspiring and empowering young Ghanaians who are want to venture into the agricultural sector, especially, in the face of unemployment which keeps rising.
For example, the annual Agricultural Students’ Career Guidance Mentorship Dialogue and Bootcamp, powered by Agrihouse Foundation, continues to brings together agricultural students, beginner agribusinesses and start-ups to help them appreciate the pivotal role they are expected to play towards sustaining the food security of the nation through creative and innovative agriculture.
Devotedly supported by Member of Parliament for the Korle Klottey Constituency, Dr. Zanetor Agyeman Rawlings, in the past four years, AG-STUD has enlightened students about the many opportunities available in the field of agriculture and in agribusiness; over 500 students from 30 different schools have been supported with start-up capital to enable them start their agri-businesses. Furthermore, over 1000 agri-business students and beginner agri-businesses have been groomed by mentors, coaches and trainers from different organizations.
As the official patron of the Bootcamp, the Member of Parliament has described the platform as a proactive and forward-thinking initiative, investing in the capacity of young Ghanaians interested in agriculture.
The National Agricultural Capacity Building & Business Setup Roadshow
It is in this light that Dr. Zenator Rawlings and Agrihouse Foundation believe it is possible to invest even more in the agri-youth of Ghana, through the implementation of the ‘National Agricultural Capacity-Building and Business Set-up Roadshow— an initiative that seeks to offer free training and create employment for young people, women and person with disability (PWD’s) across the country.
The last population report from the Ghana Statistical Service (GSS) in 2019 showed that Ghana’s population is over 31 million with more than half of the population represented by young women and the youth in general. This section of the population; young women and the youth, however, continues to be faced with several challenges makes it difficult for them to fully explore career-driven opportunities, and access sustainable income opportunities. For instance, the rise in unemployment among the youth has pushed many youths into deviant activities such as armed robbery, internet fraudsters, low income, and agents of political violence, hawkers and prostitution.
The National Agricultural Capacity Building & Business Setup Roadshow, will therefore address unemployment and the lack of skills training opportunities by:
- Providing rabbit and mushroom training for 27,000 young people within the last three quarters of 2021. Thus, 12,000 (second quarter), 10,000 (third quarter) and 10,000 (last quarter) young people.
- Distribute 2 rabbits (a buck and does) to young people after training to start their rabbit breeding and Support with cash to get the initial resources needed.
- Developing rabbit and mushroom farmer leaders in the communities who will ultimately take over the programme and train younger ones.
- Support beneficiaries of mushroom farming with all resources they will need to start.
- Coordinating market activities for young people; liaise with restaurants and chops-bars to get a ready market for rabbit meat.
- Teach beneficiaries how to keep records, market produce and accounts.
- Train them on how to use social media to sell their produce.
The project dubbed, “It Is Possible,” is aiming to train 27,500 people in mushroom farming and rabbit rearing over a period of three years, and provide logistics and mentorship support for participants to enable them set-up and grow their own agri-businesses.
Each beneficiary can either choose a training in Mushroom Farming or Rabbit Farming. Aside from the training in these two fields, all the 27,000 beneficiaries would also be trained in the following areas: Branding and Advertising Marketing and Sales Accounts and Bookkeeping Communication Skills Becoming an Entrepreneur and how to manage in a Cooperative.
The target group for this project are young women and the youth in general. Special focus will be placed on these groups; any youth between 15–48 years, Unemployed graduates, Persons with disabilities who are unable to engage in formal employment, Young women and People looking for additional revenue.
The project will take place in all 16 regions including Oti Region, Bono East Region, Ahafo Region, Bono Region, North East Region, Savannah Region, Western North Region, Western Region, Volta Region, Greater Accra Region, Eastern Region, Ashanti Region, Central Region, Northern Region, Upper East Region and Upper West Region.
3-days Intensive Piloting in Accra (Klottey Korle Constituency)
In the meantime, the programme, with the tagline, “It Is Possible,” is set to be piloted for three days in Accra, in the Klottey Korle Constituency with initial number of two hundred trainees. The young people chosen will work with trainers to draw a timetable convenient to them and take one lesson at a time. A demonstration of rabbit or mushroom farm will be set up so young beneficiaries’ get practical hands-on training. At the end of the training, a rabbit and mushroom meal would be served to give the young farmers a positive experience they will always remember.
After young farmers have been well trained, they would be given a doe (female) and a buck (male rabbit) to start their farms. The initial stock given to farmers would be about 2- 3 months old to enable the animal to acclimatize to its environment and be ready to breed in two or more months. In addition, those who chose mushroom farming would be provided with all the materials they will need. The training will focus on the following areas:
- Rabbit or Mushroom Production
- Processing & Packaging
- Accounting & Book-keeping
- Stock Distribution
- Marketing (Branding)
- Leadership Development
Why a focus on Rabbit and Mushroom Farming?
According to rabbit breeders in Ghana, more people are switching to the consumption of rabbits considered to be a great source of white meat compared to meat from other animals. There has been a steady rise in the consumption of this delicacy. This transforms into great market opportunities for rabbit farmers and as such guaranteed success and profitability.
Furthermore, keeping rabbits does not demand much physical strength; and being small animals they do not require a lot of input to start breeding, making it less capital intensive. Also, in Ghana where the land tenure system doesn’t favour young people, getting a small piece of land or space in the backyard wouldn’t be too much of a problem for young people venturing into breeding rabbits.
Like rabbit farming, one does not need much space for mushroom farming. According to experts, mushrooms help boost the immune system. Multiple commercial mushroom species have been shown to grow over 200 types of agricultural residue, including corncobs, bamboo shoots, potato leaves, soybean hulls, and peanut shells. Mushroom farming is not capital intensive and the youth can be engaged in that field since it is a rising market in Ghana, Africa and the world.
Supporting Young Mushroom and Rabbit Farmers
Funds made available for the project will be used to help trainees construct modern rabbit hutches and acquire rabbits. These rabbits raised can be sold to restaurants, khebab joints and chop-bars. The young ones can also be sold to those who will want to get into rabbit farming. The youth will be encouraged to use some of the animals in dishes prepared at home and over time, it is expected to close the protein gaps in the community. The young people who will benefit from this project will help the youth gain sustainable income and this will eventually reduce the rate of youth unemployment. The sales from the rabbit or mushroom sales would contribute to the family income thereby increasing the purchasing power of the family and ultimately reducing poverty.
After successfully going through the training, trained young people would be empowered to start their rabbit and mushroom farms falling on the project coordinators/trainers when they need technical assistance. After 3 months where the rabbits and mushrooms would have multiplied, there would be exhibitions showing what the young people have achieved and if possible have rabbits and mushrooms on sale, meals prepared from rabbits and mushrooms on show.
A Call for More Corporate Support
At a cheque presentation ceremony in Accra, sponsors of the project, Meat Processors, Parbi Meat, and construction company, Jodi Construction, donated cheques for GHC 100,000 and GHC 62, 100, respectively, to be used to kick start a six weeks pilot of the project in the Klottey Korle Constituency with an initial number of 200 trainees.
Speaking at the event, Dr. Zenator Agyeman Rawlings explained that the essence of the project, beyond job creation, was to broaden the horizon of young people to be informed on the endless opportunities, including technology and finance in the agricultural sector. She said the country was currently facing a situation of explosive youth unemployment which needed to be addressed with pragmatic measures, “the idea is to minimize the concern with regard to unemployed people in Ghana which is becoming a concern for all of us,” the MP stressed.
She said this project would help many young people earn their own money even in the midst of a pandemic and an economic downturn in the country, and considerably reduce the issue of galamsey. “The fact is, things are difficult and if there was ever a time to get as many young people involved in something that will empower them financially, this is the time. If we are talking about issues such as galamsey and the degradation of our environment and we are saying that people should stop doing that, which they should, we must also provide them with an alternate that also provides them with the financial stability,” Dr. Rawlings noted.
The Executive Director of Agrihouse Foundation, the implementing partner organization of the project, Alberta Nana Akyaa Akosa, in a brief media interview, noted that Agrihouse Foundation considers the It is Possible Roadshow a scale-up of the Agricultural Students and Mentorship Programme, among others, seeks to build more young agripreneurs in the country. She said, Dr. Agyeman Rawlings, like Agrihouse Foundation, is passionate about the youth and agriculture, and was therefore excited that such a noble initiative was finally becoming a reality. She used the opportunity to call for more corporate support, emphasizing the importance of such projects in these times, having the potential to break the cycle of poverty among the youth and within families.
For his part, the administrator of Jodi Construction, Mr. Isaac Kojo Nti, said Jodi Construction was committed to helping build the capacity of the in agriculture. He said by meeting the right standards, Ghanaian agricultural products could compete with foreign products, and therefore urged young people in the country to register and participate in the roadshow when it makes a stop in their region.