Farming is a profession in Ghana that is often despised by, especially, the youth. It has basically been left to the poor and underprivileged in society as their means of livelihood. As a result, just a handful of youths, especially graduates, consider it among their job options when in search for one. One of such few people are the founders of Social Farm – a social enterprise that wants to rebrand agriculture and make it attractive to the youth and educated in society. Their project is touching the lives of rural women and many young ones. Read their story as the CEO and Co-founder speaks with B&FT’s Inspiring Startups.
Born into a family of five, the oldest of three siblings, Selasie Gakpey Garvey grew up in Accra. He is an old student of the Presby Boys Senior High School in Accra (Presec). From there he gained admission at the University of Ghana, Legon, where he studied Earth Science and graduated in 2014.
After national service at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), he met a friend called Edwin…who was running an NGO where he sometimes worked with him on some projects. In time, they realised it would be better to turn the NGO into a social enterprise that could have a much bigger impact on the community than they were currently making. That was when they came up with the name Social Farm.
The Social Farm Project
The main objective of Social Farm is to empower women and youth in agriculture. The project seeks to help people who are interested in farming but do not have land or knowledge of farming.
The whole thing is that Social Farm has secured a large area where portions of it are leased to farmers or entrepreneurs at a cost. Then Social Farm has the responsibility of managing the farm till harvesting, and then marketing the produce for the farmer or entrepreneur.
So, basically, Social Farm provides the land, the seeds, planting and managing the farm, and marketing of the produce – and gives the profit to the farmer or entrepreneur who invested in it, at a moderate fee.
One can well ask, how do they do it? Well, Social Farm has a team of knowledgeable and experienced people who assist at every level of the production process. Emmanuel Zu-Cudjoe, also a Co-founder and Farm Manager, has more than 45-years of experience in farming; Edwin Zu-Cudjoe, another Co-founder, also has an MBA in Social Entrepreneurship and Marketing with 12-years of experience in agribusiness, sales and marketing; Courage Kwashigah, a Co-founder, has a first degree in Business Administration and 8-years of experience in agribusiness and administration.
There is also an agronomist on the team. In all, Social Farm has seven permanent employees and 12 working on temporary terms.
Why I chose farming
For Selasie, unemployment drove him into choosing farming – something that would hardly cross the mind of any youth, as farming has been branded unattractive in Ghana. Due to the misconception about it, Selasie and his partner, through Social Farm, want to rebrand it so that many who do not find it attractive to practice the profession will, at least, be interested to invest in it.
Social Farm has the vision of growing to become a big player in the agriculture sector. It wants to be a company that inspires women and a lot of youth to venture into agriculture. In the meantime, it wants to establish a good presence in the minds of Ghanaians, especially the youth and women.
As usual, the major challenge of many businesses, not to even talk about social enterprises, is lack of adequate funds. For an enterprise that has entered a space that hardly gets support from banks, it is a challenge for it to raise the adequate capital needed for smooth operation of this business.
Again, another challenge is the attitude and general perception about farming. “People see farming as a menial job. But if we take commercial farming seriously, we can make a lot of gains as a country. It can reduce our food import bill and make the country food-sufficient.”
The role of education
For Selasie, education is an eye-opener. It has built his confidence – and his colleagues’ as well, and they are able to interact with clients in a way that will always leave them satisfied.
How government can support
“Government is doing well with the Planting for Food and Jobs, but they could do more. There are a lot of challenges in the agriculture sector that need to be looked at. Government needs to intensify agriculture education and make it an attractive profession by providing machinery support.
“Agriculture will not be attractive if we continue to farm with cutlasses and hoes. If there are modern machines available and easily accessible to farmers, the youth will be interested in agriculture.”
“My advice to them is not to see farming as a reserve for old people. It is a noble profession and they should not feel embarrassed for engaging in it. They should take the initiative by starting small, and in some few years’ time they will make it.”
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