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Oct 21, 2019

Reflections from the first class of Agripreneurs

SMART Agriculture, a GEP project
SMART Agriculture, a GEP project

Ghana’s newest agricultural entrepreneurs - “agripreneurs” - were honored at a graduation ceremony last month in Nkawie, a small, rural community in central Ghana. After graduating from local agriculture university programs, Dennis, who studied crop science, and Justice, who graduated in general agriculture, completed one year immersed in technical training and business education through the Graduate Entrepreneur Program at Self-Help International. 

The Graduate Entrepreneur Program (GEP) works in tandem with the government's National Service program, which requires young people to serve in a non-profit or government space for one year. Often times, placements do not align with a person’s interests or skill-sets, so Self-Help has partnered with local institutions to recruit youth interested in agribusiness to serve and learn alongside staff agriculture specialists while simultaneously taking intensive courses related to business. 

The program aims to give recent graduates the practical experience, education and resources they need to start and run successful businesses in agriculture. 

Dennis and Justice shared some reflections on the year - read on to hear what they learned through the program. 

Teamwork and Project Design

As the first team of students to enter the program, we joined together to focus on one major project during our year long term. Urban Smart Agriculture was the name of the project and we produced cabbage, lettuce, bell pepper, cucumber, carrot, maize and raised meat rabbits using our smart and innovative system of recycling plastic and agriculture waste for agriculture use. The plastic waste was reused as a planting container and rice husk, rice ash and manure was used as plant growth media. The aim of the project with SHI was:

  • To improve gardening by using materials that are local and can be adopted by families.
  • Reduce plastic waste pollution by providing an alternative use for plastics.
  • Increase the consumption of vegetables and meat (protein).
  • Create a profitable business out of this practice of gardening.
  • Receive professional training to face the business world after national service.


Naturally, we experienced some challenges with our system such as leaching and pest infestation. Support from SHI staff at the AED helped us improve our system by using a wicking capillary irrigation system, which ensures 100% water efficiency and 0% water loss. It is also a 0% water spill system which increases the cleanliness of the system.

Learning Alongside Self-Help 

Time with the Agriculture and Entrepreneur Development (AED) team at Self-Help taught us so many lessons in application of agriculture practices, capacity building, and effective information sharing (and lots of fun!).

Several field visits with the AED staff and training sessions with Self-Help International clients exposed us to the world of a social entrepreneur and farmer. We have come to realize, through contact with farmers and students that information is useless if it is not shared, the least of information can bring change and laughter and that there is no greater joy than serving humanity. 

In reflecting on our roles in disseminating information to fellow farmers, Justice shares, “What makes me do what I do is that people laugh and I feel happy when I see them listening and think I have special knowledge to impact to them.” 

Outside of the practical agriculture information and application, we took courses from SHI staff focused on building our capacity on how to grow a business. We engaged in lessons on marketing, financial planning, report writing, and record keeping, to name a few. The most enjoyable part of this training were the times we were led through hands on activities. The program stresses learning by practice.

Grateful for the Experience

Often times graduates are forced to choose jobs based off of what is available and guaranteed versus for their joy and fulfillment in doing what they truly love to do. And especially as graduates with entrepreneurial passion, we are faced with a big question of how to start and finance our business even if we do acquire the appropriate training. 

We had so much faith in the Graduate Entrepreneur Program, it was an answer to our prayers. We felt alive and knew our dreams and passion of becoming an agriculture entrepreneur had a great chance to survive with a program like the GEP. Our dream lives because Self-Help International believed in us and the future of agriculture graduates.

We are eager to practice all the work with the knowledge we have as entrepreneurs that we gained through the GEP. We are confident of the success of our enterprises. 

Learn more about the history of this project on our sister project on GlobalGiving here, which focuses on our agriculture and youth extension work. Names of GEP graduates are used with permission.

Graduation day with 2018-19 grads + incoming GEPs
Graduation day with 2018-19 grads + incoming GEPs
Oct 16, 2019

Entering the World as New "Agripreneurs"

Young Agripreneurs - 2018/19
Young Agripreneurs - 2018/19

Ghana’s newest agricultural entrepreneurs - “agripreneurs” - were honored at a graduation ceremony last month in Nkawie, a small, rural community in central Ghana. After graduating from local agriculture university programs, Dennis Asante-Sagoe, who studied crop science, and Justice Amoka Sam, who graduated in general agriculture, completed one year immersed in technical training and business education through the Graduate Entrepreneur Program at Self-Help International. 

The Graduate Entrepreneur Program (GEP) works in tandem with the government's National Service program, which requires young people to serve in a non-profit or government space for one year. Often times, placements do not align with a person’s interests or skill-sets, so Self-Help has partnered with local institutions to recruit youth interested in agribusiness to serve and learn alongside staff agriculture specialists while simultaneously taking intensive courses related to business. 

The program aims to give recent graduates the practical experience, education and resources they need to start and run successful businesses in agriculture. 

Dennis and Justice shared some reflections on the year - read on to hear what they learned through the program. 

Teamwork and Project Design

As the first team of students to enter the program, we joined together to focus on one major project during our year long term. Urban Smart Agriculture was the name of the project and we produced cabbage, lettuce, bell pepper, cucumber, carrot, maize and raised meat rabbits using our smart and innovative system of recycling plastic and agriculture waste for agriculture use. The plastic waste was reused as a planting container and rice husk, rice ash and manure was used as plant growth media. The aim of the project with SHI was:

  • To improve gardening by using materials that are local and can be adopted by families.
  • Reduce plastic waste pollution by providing an alternative use for plastics.
  • Increase the consumption of vegetables and meat (protein).
  • Create a profitable business out of this practice of gardening.
  • Receive professional training to face the business world after national service.

Naturally, we experienced some challenges with our system such as leaching and pest infestation. Support from SHI staff at the AED helped us improve our system by using a wicking capillary irrigation system, which ensures 100% water efficiency and 0% water loss. It is also a 0% water spill system which increases the cleanliness of the system.

Learning Alongside Self-Help 

Time with the Agriculture and Entrepreneur Development (AED) team at Self-Help taught us so many lessons in application of agriculture practices, capacity building, and effective information sharing (and lots of fun!).

Several field visits with the AED staff and training sessions with Self-Help International clients exposed us to the world of a social entrepreneur and farmer. We have come to realize, through contact with farmers and students that information is useless if it is not shared, the least of information can bring change and laughter and that there is no greater joy than serving humanity. 

In reflecting on our roles in disseminating information to fellow farmers, Justice shares, “What makes me do what I do is that people laugh and I feel happy when I see them listening and think I have special knowledge to impact to them.” 

Outside of the practical agriculture information and application, we took courses from SHI staff focused on building our capacity on how to grow a business. We engaged in lessons on marketing, financial planning, report writing, and record keeping, to name a few. The most enjoyable part of this training were the times we were led through hands on activities. The program stresses learning by practice.

Grateful for the Experience

Often times graduates are forced to choose jobs based off of what is available and guaranteed versus for their joy and fulfillment in doing what they truly love to do. And especially as graduates with entrepreneurial passion, we are faced with a big question of how to start and finance our business even if we do acquire the appropriate training. 

We had so much faith in the Graduate Entrepreneur Program, it was an answer to our prayers. We felt alive and knew our dreams and passion of becoming an agriculture entrepreneur had a great chance to survive with a program like the GEP. Our dream lives because Self-Help International believed in us and the future of agriculture graduates.

We are eager to practice all the work with the knowledge we have as entrepreneurs that we gained through the GEP. We are confident of the success of our enterprises. 

In the future, reports to this project on GlobalGiving will focus on our agriculture and youth extention work. Follow update about the Graduate Entreprenuer Program here: https://www.globalgiving.org/projects/agripreneurs/

Full names of GEP graduates are used with permission.

Showing off urban SMART agriculture in action
Showing off urban SMART agriculture in action
2018-19 Graduates with incoming 2019-20 GEPs
2018-19 Graduates with incoming 2019-20 GEPs
Oct 16, 2019

Who would have thought?! - Ayishetu's Pride & Joy

“I can’t explain enough what Self-Help International’s Micro-Credit program has done for me. Who would have thought that I could also have a university student in my house?” 

Ayishetu is a mother of 8 children and lives in Worapong, a small community in the Ashanti Region of Ghana. She’s been the community’s food vendor for years. She began by selling koko, a popular porridge made from millet. She had always planned on expanding her business to also sell other foods but her resources were limited, and because of the size of her family, she felt that establishing a personal savings account at a traditional bank was not possible.

Ayishetu was introduced to Self-Help about four years ago through mutual friends. “Initially, I was nervous to join because I have witnessed similar programs [not work]. But, I also realized that life was a bit less burdensome for the ones who mustered courage and committed to the program. Besides, the people from Self-Help were very nice and polite; and after attending one of their meetings, I decided to join. They gave me GHC 200 (approximately $50 USD) for a start; it was too small for me but I gratefully accepted it and decided to commit to the program.”

Ayishetu has diligently managed the loans and accessed higher amounts to continue to grow and expand her business, and recently received a loan of GHC 1000 (approximately 200 USD). The financing has allowed her to diversify and add four other menu items in her food vending business: banku, abetee, emo-tuo (rice ball) and waakye, all popular local dishes, to her previous koko. 

“I started selling waakye with the initial GHC 200 I received; patronage was very high and thankfully, they taught us how to save, even with a small income. I started saving small amounts everyday with the rural bank in our area. By the end of the payment period, I was able to generate the initial capital from my savings, even after repaying my loan. They increased the loan a bit and I added the GHC200 that I have saved to the GHC300 they gave in the second disbursement. I started with the banku and abetee in addition to the kooko and waakye. I continued to intensify my savings to add my final venture, rice-balls.”

Ayishetu now operates five different food vending businesses. She has also hired extra hands to help with the preparation and selling of the meals, creating new jobs in her community. “The children used to help me a lot, but when our income started improving, my husband and I decided to enroll them in school. Through this program, we have been able to send our first child to the university; it was a miracle. Now I can also boast of a son who is a university student in the capital.” Two of her children have completed senior high school, and they want to continue to the nursing training college. Her other children are enrolled in Junior High and Senior High Schools. 

When Self-Help International staff last visited her home, they observed another endeavor Ayishetu has been able to pursue with the proceeds from her business. “I am renovating this room to await my son’s return from the university. I want him to feel welcome when he returns home.”

Though she was initially weary of the program, Ayishetu now fully endorses it and encourages others to join as well. “I am encouraging my fellow women to use me as a yardstick to measure the successes and the improvements in my family’s life. If they are ready to help themselves and improve their living conditions, Self-Help will help them to help themselves.”

October 16 is World Food Day! Celebrate by making a gift to empower mothers like Ayishetu to provide for their families!

 
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