The spirit of partnership in farming… the story of two vegetable farmers

Nelson (middle) introduces labourers on the farm to Mrs. Foriwaa Dwommoh - Tain DCE

One of the basic forms of business is partnership. Entering into a business partnership, among others, has the advantage of generating more capital to start a common venture.

However, the strategic business practice is not very common in this part of the world. People are more fascinated with being sole owners of business ventures rather than co-owning. Lack of better appreciation for the principles of partnership has made it not to be a preferred choice for many people. Moreover, the fear of not getting the needed mutual trust is also another key factor that has discouraged business players from upholding it.

The story of two young men in the Tain district of Bono Region is a sharp contrast to the usual Ghanaian individualist business approach, particularly in agriculture. Upon a critical analysis of the business environment in the country, two young men agreed to pursue the concept of partnership in order to open a new chapter in the agricultural sector. The duo – Nelson Asare and Emmanuel Donkor – are graduates of University of Development Studies (UDS) and University of Education respectively.

The pair were privately engaged with different non-governmental organisations (NGOs) after their national service. The genesis of their friendship started somewhere in 2013 during the period of their national service. Their comradeship was limited to usual ‘boys boys’ affair until they realised the reality in partnership to harness a common economic goal.

There is an adage that “two heads are better than one”. They pooled resources together to realise a startup capital of GH¢30,000 to kick-start a five-acre okra farm at Tainso, a village in the Tain district of the Bono Region. It would have been very difficult for an individual graduate to cough up that much, particularly from personal savings; but thanks to their spirit of partnership, it was less difficult to come up with the money.

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It is mostly businesswise to cultivate vegetables in the dry seasons; demand for vegetables like okra is very high, especially by hotels and restaurants. To this end, the two started their farm during the peak of this year’s harmattan in order to optimise returns from the farm.

They procured a diesel-powered water pump and other equipment to facilitate an irrigation network on the farm. For the time being there are three permanent workers on the farms, while a number of casual labourers are engaged when the need arises. The pair have a vision of expanding the farm to encompass cultivation of other vegetables such as cabbage, tomatoes, carrots and cucumber. The immediate challenge to actualising that dream is access to finance and irrigation infrastructure.

In an interaction with B&FT, Nelson Asare said: “We will require two or three pumping machines or possibly highly powerful machine to serve that same purpose. We are aware of the difficulty in accessing an agricultural loan, and therefore we are looking beyond external funding. We are banking our hopes on plough-back profit to reinvest in the farm. Per our estimation, we can realise about GH¢300,000 from this particular farm”.

This reignites the need for more flexible and affordable agricultural loans to entice and motivate the teeming unemployed youth to venture into the sector. Besides, provision of more farm implements such as tractors and irrigation infrastructure to promote all-year farming is also of essence if the country really wants to promote mechanised farming so as to boost productivity.

Emmanuel Donkor on his part mentioned inadequate extension services in the system, especially with the introduction of modern agronomic practices to take care of pests and diseases which pose serious threats to open-field vegetable farming. “The few agric extension agents (AEAs) in the district are collaborative, but we need more AEAs who are well-resourced in terms of logistics and up-to-date knowhow.”

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He also urged the youth to embrace the concept of partnership to be able to explore opportunities in the agricultural space. “So many individuals and countries have done it through partnerships; develop the network when you’re in school.”

Meanwhile, the DCE for Tain, Charity Foriwaa Dwommoh, has paid a working visit to the okra farm of the two graduates. She also used the opportunity to introduce National Builders Corps (NABCO) beneficiaries in the district to farming. This was to whet the appetite of the graduates in appreciating the dynamics of farming so that they can pursue it as a preferred career choice after the three-year NABCO programme.

On the basis of the district’s rich competitive edge, especially in arable lands and human resources, she expressed the Assembly’s commitment to supporting youth in agriculture to enhance productivity in the district and the country at large. “We have made provision for technical, logistics and finance inputs to assist motivated graduates pursue that course. If we have to liaise with the Microfinance and Small Loans Centre (MASLOC) for assistance, we’ll do that to help reduce graduate unemployment.”

The DCE also underscored the importance of partnerships in unearthing business opportunities, particularly among the youth, saying: “The world is changing and you can’t be a lone ranger; no man is an island now. Partnership is the best way forward; it could friends, family-members or an association”. The Tain District Assembly later presented five waterholes, measuring about 60 metres each, to Nelson and Emmanuel to aid their irrigation system.

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