Who says beautiful ladies are only interested in beauty pageants or white-collar jobs? Well, whoever still entertains such thoughts has not yet met Nana Ama – a young and beautiful lady who took the bold step to become a pig farmer. Yes, a pig farmer; and a good one indeed. Some still do not understand why she chose this occupation. She explains to the B&FT’s Inspiring Startups what moved her to make such a bold decision and how far she has brought the business.
Nana Ama Da-Costa was born and bred in the capital city of Accra. She is a past student of the Labone Senior High School – 2011 year-group. She has a degree in marketing from the University of Professional Studies, Accra (UPSA). After university, she worked with a shipping and logistics company in Accra where she felt comfortable with the job. Currently, she is a second-year law student at the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA).
Growing up, Nana Ama had always been interested in something related to farming, especially with regard to animal rearing. But she didn’t know how to start or where to even turn to for advice. It remained a fantasy until 2016, when she actually made it a point to start a piggery. Unfortunately, when she broke the news to her family members and friends, she was met with stiff opposition.
People around her could not fathom why a beautiful young lady her age would think of going into agriculture; and to make matters worse, to rear pigs. Some felt something was actually wrong with her and that was why she entertained such ‘wild’ thoughts. To them, it was shocking and unthinkable for a graduate with a comfortable job to come up with such an idea. The backlash from family and friends discouraged her, and so she couldn’t muster the courage to start a piggery that year.
But some dreams never go away; they linger till the dreamer does everything possible to make them a reality. Such was the type of dream Nana Ama had about rearing pigs. It never went away. So, in 2019 she gathered her last bit of courage – this time damning whatever people would say, to start her piggery. She resigned from her lucrative work and took the bull by the horns.
Starting Costa Farms
Even though Nana Ama said she entertained some fears when contemplating leaving her job to go into entrepreneurship, especially agriculture, she felt it was the right time to start. With the little savings she had, she secured a land and constructed a pen for the animals. Then she bought a pregnant pig and two young female piglets. Currently, the farm has expanded to the point where she has over 40 pigs and employs a farm manager who takes care of daily activities in the farm.
Looking back, Nana Ama says she has never regretted her decision. She feels a sense of accomplishment knowing that she didn’t give up on her dream but chased it – even when those closest to her didn’t fully throw their weight behind her.
In the next five years, Nana Ama says, she wants to expand Costa Farms and start a factory that will process the meat. Then she wants to add the production of other livestock and a poultry farm to the piggery.
One of the challenges she encountered, which she admits was the result of a mistake on her part, is that she didn’t do enough research and information-gathering about what she wanted to do when she started. The passion with which she was driven clouded her vision, and so she didn’t really take time to find more information about the business; and that eventually cost her a lot. She didn’t know she had to raise a particular breed; she didn’t know she had to construct the pigsty in a certain style; she didn’t know the right feed-formula to give the pigs. So, after a few months she realised she had got everything wrong from the start – and initially that cost her a lot of money.
Another challenge she grapples with on a daily basis is the cost of feed. To take very good care of the animals for them to breed well, it is necessary to formulate the right type of feed for them; and that is also expensive.
The impact of coronavirus
For Nana Ama, the coronavirus has rather had both positive and negative impacts on her business. Since the virus came with restrictions on international trade, demand for locally produced items increased, and that includes meat. So, for her, the pandemic came to increase demand for her products. On the other hand, the negative impact of the virus she is experiencing is an increase in prices of products – which includes disinfectants for cleaning the farm and feed for the animals.
How education has transformed her business
Education, she says, has impacted greatly on her business. When she started reading widely and researching how to manage a pig farm, she has gained enormous knowledge about the process. Now, she can formulate her own feed for the animals; she knows what type of breed to rear; she knows what type of medicines and vaccines to give them; she knows what type of environment to provide for the animals to keep them healthy. With that knowledge, she is able to save money as certain things can be done by her without necessarily hiring someone else.
How important is economic empowerment of women?
Women, she says, can play a very important role in the community if they are economically empowered. She feels if women are supported to be entrepreneurs or have means of income, they can complement men in the development of society as they would have the ability and capacity to also assist others to come out of poverty.
How government should support entrepreneurs
Nana Ama says if government puts in plenty resources to assist entrepreneurs, especially those in agriculture, farmers will have adequate capacity to produce and meet local demand for food so that there will be a drastic reduction of imports.
And again, when it comes to funding, she says, government should have a designated fund that young people can tap into at very cheap interest rates to start their business. This, she says, will encourage the youth to think outside the box and see what job they can create rather than looking for jobs.
“The only thing I will tell my fellow young people is if you have the determination and the will to do something, do it. Don’t focus on the challenges you will encounter. Perseverance is very important in entrepreneurship. People that have made it in life never stopped accepting new challenges.”