AfricaLive: Please tell readers a bit about the DNA of Agrihouse Foundation and your motivation for starting the enterprise.
Alberta Nana Akyaa Akosa: The Agrihouse Foundation was born out of passion and knowledge seeking. I got started after attending many conferences and feeling confident that I had all I needed to get it off the ground. We have put together a good group of ambitious youth made of small holder farmers. I am pleased that we have young hardworking, ambitious women in the group as well. Our organisation seeks to nourish the minds and lives of youth who are curious and seek to know their place in society.
We are an intervention for the youth when it comes to agriculture, and we seek to help them in that regard. Ghana has seven agriculture focused colleges; we gather some of the best students from these institutions and share our platform. We then help them acquire seed capital to get their agriculture businesses off the ground. The heaviest emphasis does not go to getting seed capital but rather getting the youth to formulate and believe in their ideas. Our organisation grew from passion, to actionable steps so that we can create an impact in communities.
Our passion for empowering women has also led us to start the Women in Food and Agriculture Leadership Forum, which helps empower women in the space. We have moved to ensure that all facets in the agriculture sector are growing in tandem. An overemphasis on crop farming leads to the neglect of animal rearing. Both need equal attention if our industry is going to achieve maximum potential. Our Livestock, Poultry and Fisheries Training and Trade show is an initiative that helps animal rearing catch up with crop farming in terms of importance.
Linking smallholder farmers with the buyers is a big need in our industry. We have provided a platform that does just that. Initiatives like that exist because of our ability to transfer ideas from our minds and execute them to impact real life situations. We have done well so far in changing narratives, and perspectives in terms of agriculture.
AfricaLive: The launch of the African Continental Free Trade Area will be going ahead in early 2021, hopefully acting as a catalyst for driving Intra-African trade. What are your ambitions, both in the short term and long term, when it comes to trading internationally?
Alberta Nana Akyaa Akosa: Growing up, agriculture was more of a punishment, so it baffled even my parents when it chose this field. We started this organisation without a clear picture of what the future would hold. All I knew is I wanted it to be an entity that brings about impactful change in the lives of struggling youth. We are still on the growth path and every day we have a clear picture of where we are headed. We have impacted many young people’s lives and some of them have gone on to become agribusiness people.
We are glad that we are getting some international attention as well. People in Liberia, Nigeria and other places have called us to go introduce our interventions in their jurisdictions. Our long term plan is to explore possibilities and opportunities in other countries, but we must have a solid foundation at home first.
AfricaLive: You have mentioned that you bring interventions to societies. Please share an example of one and how it works.
Alberta Nana Akyaa Akosa: A good example is the annual boot camp we hold to cultivate agribusiness people. Like I mentioned before, we have seven agri colleges in Ghana. Students are drawn from these institutions to join our boot camp and learn all they can about becoming agri-preneurs. The platform allows young people to present their ideas and we support them to bring them to life. We assemble groups of mentors and winners every year to come in and advise young people at the boot camp.
It is also a big opportunity to network and learn from each other. At the end of the day, young people are leaving with some knowledge on how to get started with their businesses or expand existing ones. Our intervention is basically picking up students as they are and developing their ideation capabilities and putting them in a position to execute. Aside from the boot camp, we also document and cover women who are into agriculture all over the country.
AfricaLive: You mentioned that you help smallholder farmers to connect to buyers. How do you ensure that small farmers produce quality and uphold high standards?
Alberta Nana Akyaa Akosa: Currently we are working with a young woman in the central region who has her own farming organisation. A businesswoman like her needs specialised training because she’s losing a lot by not being mechanised enough. She also needs training on safety standards that need to be observed. We improve the condition of such farmers by helping them better their practises and aligning their needs with those of value chain actors.
AfricaLive: What do you believe is the future of agriculture and agribusinesses in Ghana?
Alberta Nana Akyaa Akosa: I believe the future is now. About a decade ago, the conversations that were being had about agriculture were very different. We have come to a point where it’s no longer a shame to be a farmer. Every day we are creating the future, with everyone along the value chain playing their part. Our youth have shown that with the right support, they can do wonders. We are calling for as well as forming partnerships that will see us grow in areas of crop improvement and mechanisation. I believe that we are setting ourselves up nicely to become a food secure country.