Ghanaian entrepreneurs are fun people to chat with. They have seen enough movies to know that some people in this world are unbelievably wealthy, and when they compare themselves to Americans, they know that their resources and opportunities are limited. And yet they’re cheerful, optimistic, and driven. Focused. The resources that are available to our clients are used with a precision that I’m not used to seeing in America: expenditures need to maximize human capital (through nutrition or education) and financial capital (through their micro-businesses). The hyper-efficient-entrepreneur-of-the-week award goes to Koopa.
Koopa runs one of the most successful farms in our district. In fact, his farm is large enough that he was never interested in the $100-$600 micro-loans that Lumana offers. All the work on his 20 acre farm is done with a hoe, and he has a strict schedule of walking to the field at 5am every morning, stopping for a long lunch and nap, and then working all evening, when the temperature has cooled down enough for the back-breaking work. He is 33 years old, with a wife, five kids, and big plans for growing his business.
When Chris and I arrived at Koopa’s farm to say hi, he was very eager to ask for updates about Lumana’s upcoming investment in Mr Sena’s tomato processing plant. Koopa told us that he is working on a contract with Sena to sell a specified amount of tomatoes at a low price. Every year both parties would be able to predict price and quantities. With Ghana’s volatile produce markets, this would be the first time that Koopa could make reliable plans about cash flow, so the increased production of tomato puree will create almost as many tangible effects in his life as it will for Sena.
Koopa is also excited about the fish farm system that is coming to his village. Since he was a child, he wanted to develop a large fish farm. So since Lumana’s partner, Solve Farms, started talking about setting up an aquaponics business with a tilapia farm, Koopa has been trying to learn every detail about starting the farm and preparing for the fish. As Solve begins building the pond in the next few months, Koopa will be studying each step of the process.
But he knows that his fish farm will have to wait: first he needs to finish developing a 500-bird chicken farm, and finish construction on his restaurant. He’s working off of an impressive business model where he cuts out middle-men at every step. He knows that he needs more composted manure for his crops, so instead of buying from the ranches that are over a hundred kilometers from his fields, he is developing the chicken coup to access their dung as fertilizer for his produce. Since he already grows corn, he doesn’t need to buy very much chicken food—just a vitamin/mineral supplement. So he can sell eggs and meat at a higher profit. And the simple restaurant he’s building will eventually be able to sell food that primarily comes from his chicken farm, produce farm, or corn farm. One day, his fish farm will also supply the restaurant. In each of these side-businesses, Koopa will capture all the income from the farm field to the restaurant plate.
Today I spent six hours talking with Koopa about strategies for his business. After crunching numbers about chickens, loans and savings, Koopa went home to mull over the benefits of saving for several months before starting the chicken farm, as well as putting his other business expansions on hold until after he starts seeing egg revenues. I think our plans today will save him over $1,000 in interest charges (compared to plans he once had to get a loan from a formal bank). That means today is a good day in Ghana.
Lumana works with entrepreneurs from a fish monger borrowing $100 all the way up to large scale farmers to learn the best ways to create better community banks that will help everyone thrive. We believe that these poor rural communities have an endless potential that just needs a little support to get going in the right direction. Thank you so much for donating to our vision to holistically empower rural African villages to move out of poverty!