Have you ever thought of getting into the farming sector in Ghana? Here we interview Kofi Debrah, a British born Ghanaian who moved back to Ghana to pursue his dreams of getting into the agriculture industry.
Why and when did you move to Ghana?
I moved to Ghana in 2009 to set up a music festival, it is now in its 7th edition, www.asabaako.com, the next one will take place over Ghana’s independence weekend on Busua Beach in the Western Region close to Takoradi. My professional background is in music specifically organising music festivals and running music venues. I worked with the Notting Hill Carnival organising committee for 8 years before moving to Ghana, it was great experience to go through in preparation for Ghana because it’s a complex event with many different personalities and stakeholders to manage. Ghana can be an equally challenging place to operate in.
What made you get into farming?
I come from a family of farmers, initially I wasn’t that interested in it when I first moved to Ghana. I saw a lot of environmental destruction deforestation in particular. I started reading and researching into the area and found out that agriculture is one of the biggest drivers of deforestation, I became alarmed when I read that Ghana will loose all of it’s virgin rainforest in 25 years if current rates of deforestation continue, this would be disastrous for tourism and the livelihoods of people in rural areas. I then discovered that a solution is agroforestry which is the combination of forestry and agricultural technologies to help ease pressure on existing forests. Agroforestry is basically farming with trees.
What type of faming are you into?
Our focus crop is cassava which we intercrop with various tree species. We create agroforestry systems. Agroforestry is a land use management system informed by big data mathematical modelling. Trees and shrubs are grown amongst crops, combining agricultural and forestry technologies to create more diverse, productive, profitable, healthy, and regenerative landscapes.
How much was the initial investment roughly to get started?
Initial start up costs for the land and associated costs was ¢240,000 ($60,000).
Initial costs went into land and administrative costs. There’s lots of hidden costs in buying land!!
What area are you farming in and why did you choose there?
We are in the Mampong Municipal District. My uncle introduced me to the Chief and farming community in the Ashanti Mampong area, that saved us a considerable amount of time and energy building relationships, because of my uncle’s presence trust had already been established. The area is also a good place to farm. The Ashanti and Brong Ahafo regions produce a lot of food for local and international markets.
What is the procedure/steps to get a farm up and running?
It’s similar to a normal business, each area has a slightly different procedure to acquiring land. It’s best to find out what is normal practice in a particular area, one size doesn’t fit all.
Do you have to be registered as a business or have any government approval to start selling your crops?
Yes, You need an agricultural business license, I’m going through the process of gaining the other licenses, I would recommend setting up a registered company. Acquiring land is a long and frustrating process many hoops and hurdles to go through. I recommend hiring a lawyer who specialises in land to help, ideally a lawyer local to the region where the land is being acquired, every district has a slight variation of the steps needed to acquire land.
What is your advice on the best things to farm and why?
I think the staple crops are good such as yam, cassava, maize, fruit and vegetables are also good and of course trees because they help to strengthen the soil, trees such as cashew and dawadawa. As my grandad often says “the land will tell you what you can farm on it”, one must study the land where you are growing first to determine what you can grow on it.
What are your 5 tips for those wishing to start faming in Ghana?
- Speak to the farmers first, find out their issues and needs.
- Speak with buyers, find out their needs.
- Build strong links with the community where you will be farming.
- Aim to understand and map the value chain of the product(s) you are selling.
- Exercise patience.
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