Who said farming in Ghana is not lucrative, or even attractive? Well, gone are the days when only the poor and the underprivileged considered it the only way of making ends meet. That theory has changed, with the help of bold young men like Anthony Poore – Founder and Managing Director of Agriaccess Ghana Ltd., a company that has impacted the lives of as many as 32,000 farmers and is transforming agriculture into a viable business. Read on as he shares his story with the B&FT’s Inspiring Startups.
Anthony Tuosegma Poore was born and bred in Piisi – a suburb of Wa, Upper West Region of Ghana. He is a product of the Wa Technical Institute, where he studied carpentry and joinery. He later developed an interest in Accounting and so took a private exam popularly known as Nov-Dec in Ghana, and passed to gain him admission to the Wa Polytechnic where he graduated with HND in Accounting in 2009. He also holds a Banking and Finance certificate from the Chartered Institute of Bankers (CIB) in Accra.
Farming is not new to Anthony, as that was the occupation of his parents growing up. While a student at the Wa polytechnic, he engaged in producing sorghum to support his education
Fortunately for him, Technoserve Ghana had a project that supported farmers in sorghum production. His farm was chosen among the model farms that the organisation assisted to boost their capacity to produce and supply large corporations. This opened a very large door that has forever changed his business.
Guinness Ghana came calling
After successfully going through the capacity building training, an enormous opportunity opened for Anthony’s Agriacess Ghana Ltd. He was informed by the project manager of Technoserve Ghana that Guinness Ghana Ltd., a leading beverage manufacturer in the country, was looking for farmers to supply it with sorghum.
The contract was to supply 300mt of sorghum per year. Anthony wasted no chance. He took up the challenge and, quite amazingly, he was able to supply not 300mt, but 1,960mt! since then, he has been a constant supplier of sorghum to the company.
Adopting a working module
To ensure that he is able to constantly meet and, if possible, exceed demand, Anthony has a module that brings together farmers who are trained and supported with funds, inputs, and other essentials to supply him with sorghum; and he in turn supplies to Guinness Ghana.
With the help of this model, in 2012 he was able to support 300 farmers; but currently he supports more than 2,500 farmers yearly. With a business that he started at age 27 with virtually nothing and just two workers, Agriaccess now has 14 permanent employees, 24 temporary, and another 500 workers within the value chain.
Yes, this is how far a business that started as a subsistence farming has gone – proof that there is money in the soil.
Impact on the community
Coming from a background where poverty is the order of the day, and inheriting farming from his parents, Anthony is well aware of the plight of farmers in the community. So, his goal is to help liberate as many farmers as possible from the grip of poverty.
Before he started roping farmers into what he calls ‘nucleus farming’, most of the farmers, he said, could only afford to farm on an acre of land. But with his support most of them are doing more than two acres now, double their previous capacity.
As part of his support, he provides the farmers with fertiliser and quality seeds on credit basis; and agronomic support—teaching them best farming methods—at no cost, and provides them a ready market for their produce.
As a result, farmers who could not further their children’s education are now able to do so, even to the tertiary level.
Agriaccess Ghana Ltd. wants to be a company that enhances agriculture commodity production and marketing, on both the local and international front, by building a competitive edge with quality and quantity.
A major challenge that has been the bane of most farmers in the country is the age-old financial constraints. Agriculture is seen as a high-risk business by many banks, and that makes them reluctant to lend to players in the sector. So, if the farmer doesn’t get some support from any NGO or raise funds on his own, it becomes very difficult for him or her to expand production and go commercial.
Another challenge facing farmers in the country is irrigation issues. Farmers in the country continue to rely on the mercy of the weather for irrigation. So, when the weather fails yield is highly affected; and that ends up in many losses to the farmers.
How education has contributed to the success of his business
Anthony says studying accounting has been very beneficial to his business. It has helped him become more analytical in his business. He is able to plan ahead and keep his books very well to track the performance of his business. He maintains his accounting background has helped him see the business side of agriculture.
How government can support
For him, an area government should really take seriously is policies that are geared toward boosting agriculture. He said most of the policies are good on paper, but when it comes to their implementation, they turn out not to be able to support those who the policies are targeted at —the farmers. So, government should be able to design the policies to target and boost the capacity of farmers doing subsistence farming to expand and go commercial
Advise to the youth
“I will say there is a lot of opportunity in the agric sector. They should not look at the challenges alone. The opportunities are there, so I would advise people who have the desire to go into agric to take advantage of it. If you really want to be successful in Ghana as a young person, you should look at the agriculture sector.”
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