Did you know that farming is so lucrative? It is rather unfortunate the mentality many have about farming in Ghana, maybe in part because it has not been made attractive enough due to the continuous use of outmoded farming methods. But this young man, Maxwell, is changing the mindset of the youth about farming. At just 23, he is making strides with a mango farm he inherited from his father. Read his story as shared with B&FT’s Inspiring Startups.
Maxwell Kofi Lee was born and bred in Somanya-Trom in the Eastern Region of Ghana. He is a product of Sra Presbyterian JHS. Maxwell is a born farmer. His late father was a mango farmer, and as a son he used to always be in the farm with his father when away from school. However, Maxwell had a different interest in life. He is a talented footballer and had a keen interest in building a career around football, and had the goal of one day representing his country at the senior national level.
So, after completing junior high, he made a decision not to continue to senior high school but focus on finding a football club outside Ghana. At that time his father had already passed-away, and as the firstborn he was naturally successor to the mango farm.
But Maxwell says he wasn’t really interested in farming, so he sold the mangoes for that farming season and used the proceeds on travelling to Dubai in search of a club. His mission was not successful, and so he returned to Ghana – but still had not lost interest in playing football abroad.
Again, after another mango season, he used the proceeds to travel back to Dubai on the same mission with which he went previously. But, again, he was not successful in finding a club, and so he came back to Ghana.
It was at this point that he sat down and reflected on his life – and realised it would be better to switch his career to farming than to waste money on an adventure he had twice not been successful at when trying. Besides, it was the mango farm’s proceeds he used to embark on his travels, indicating the business was lucrative – so the earlier he focused on it, the better.
MKL Farms begins operations
Though mango farming was not new to him, he wanted to do it right once he took it as his full-time job. So, he understudied one German investor who was also into mango farming in the town. There, he learned how to nurse and graft seedlings and other good farming practices that would aid him produce to standard.
After acquiring that training, he started managing his father’s 10-acre mango plantation. To date, he has been able to add extra five acres to the farm. That is not all: he also invests in other 10-acre farms belonging to different farmers. Again, he currently has about 50,000 mango seedlings nursed for sale. He employs five permanent staff and, due to implementing the high standards he learned from the German farmer, he has Blue Skies company as his main market.
Maxwell has the vision of expanding his mango farm to become one of the largest in the country, whereby he will have the capacity to export to other countries.
One challenge Maxwell says it is affecting mango farmers in the country is unavailability of ready-market for their products. Because it is a seasonal fruit, there is always a glut during its season and the lack of adequate mango processors always results in their perishing – pushing farmers into losses.
Again, there is the poor road network linking mango farms and major markets of the country. This also results in heavy losses to the farmers, as some of the mangoes perish before they reach their destination markets.
Another pressing issue he has realised in the industry is financial constraints. He says most of the farmers do not have enough capital to implement best farming practices, or buy modern machines that would improve yield. For example, farmers still rely on natural rainfall for irrigation – which has become largely unpredictable due to climate change, and as a result of this some of the mangoes ripen prematurely and get spoilt. If farmers have adequate capital, Maxwell says, they would install modern irrigation systems in their farms to avert this problem.
How government should assist
Maxwell says government should help address the financial challenges of farmers by providing a funding scheme specifically tailored to helping farmers have easy and affordable access to capital.
Again, to help address some of the post-harvest losses, he said, government should improve the road networks linking farming communities and cities where there is market for their produce.
Advice to the youth
“Young people should disabuse their minds of the idea that farming is for the poor and underprivileged in society. Through farming, I have been able to complete a two-bedroom for my mother and bought a truck for the farm. All these came from money I realised from farming. So, farming is not a bad profession.”
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