Agrihouse Foundation recently organised a highly successful and impactful sixth edition of its annual Agricultural Students’ Career Guidance & Mentorship Dialogue Bootcamp (AGSTUD Africa) in Accra on the theme ‘5 years of Grooming, Training and Empowerment – Where we Are now with our Agribusiness’.
In the welcome address at the opening ceremony, the Executive Director of Agrihouse Foundation, Alberta Nana Akyaa Akosa, said annually, the bootcamp converges agriculture students, beginner agribusinesses and agriculture enthusiasts from across agric colleges, universities and Senior High Schools in the country to receive mentoring and coaching in various capacity-building and competence-based training activities. The sessions and activities enlightened the students about the agricultural market as well as empowered them to start and oversee sustainable agri-businesses in their schools and within their communities.
She therefore urged the beneficiaries to prioritise networking among themselves as they learn from the resource personnel available. She said networking is a fundamental key to the success of any business, and therefore, it was important for the beneficiaries to get to know one another beyond casual friendship.
She urged them to discuss their business ideas among themselves, forge strategic friendships that will lead to more business collaborations after the 5-day AG-STUD Bootcamp. “Make the most out of the 5 days here. Make strategic friendships and then continue from here,” she stressed.
Deputy Minister for Food and Agriculture: “Agric creates more opportunities for young people”
For his part, the Deputy Minister for Food and Agriculture, Yaw Frimpong-Addo, who delivered the Keynote motivational address, urged the beneficiaries to make the most of the bootcamp. He urged them to learn from the past beneficiaries, mentors and industry experts who were present to impart knowledge.
He noted that agriculture would continue to play a critical role in the economic transformation of the country, adding that while the country’s population has been projected to increase by 4.3 million people between 2022 and 2027, a well-developed agricultural industry will help provide food and jobs to stimulate further economic growth.
He therefore commended Agrihouse Foundation for investing in and introducing interventional projects like AG-STUD Bootcamp, which is helping young Ghanaians build futures in the agricultural sector.
2022 National Best Farmer: “Fail seven times rise up eight”
For his part, the 2022 National Best Farmer, Nana Yaw Sarpong Siriboe, urged the agric students to approach agriculture like any other business. He said the youth has all the potentials needed to develop and positively change the face of agriculture in the county, and therefore commended Agrihouse Foundation for working with stakeholders to promote agric entrepreneurship among the Ghanaian youth.
While using his own story to encourage the young beneficiaries, he stressed on the need for mentorship, which he said, when taken seriously, would prevent the young agriprenuers from repeating mistakes. He also urged the young people not to give up in the face of challenges which were bound to come.
“I have been in farming for the past twenty-two (22) years. I have won awards and gained great recognition. Many people know my success story as the National Best Farmer. However, I have come from a humble beginning from Ejusu Juaben Municipal Best Farmer in 2014 to the Ashanti Regional Best Oil Palm Farmer in 2015 to the Ashanti Regional first runner-up in 2016 to the national first runner-up in 2019 and finally to the National Best Farmer in 2022,” he said.
He added: “It has been a long and tortuous journey. I have gone through the mill and every stage of the journey comes with its own peculiar struggles. However, like every successful entrepreneur, struggles and challenges are inevitable. If there is a successful entrepreneur here who has not seen struggles and challenges, then I am sorry to say that his vision is not big enough. I am here to announce to you that tough times will always come. The only difference between some of us who have made it and those who did not is that we never quitted. Fail seven times rise up eight!”
Madam Nora Goa: “Challenges open fresh opportunities for business”
The Managing Director of LK International, Madam Nora Goa, highlighted challenges faced by businesses in today’s competitive business landscape. She emphasised that in order to thrive and succeed, it is crucial for entrepreneurs to proactively identify new markets for business expansion. Madam Gao shared her expertise on how to identify and tap into new markets for sustainable growth.
Ms. Gao explained that exploring new markets can open fresh opportunities for businesses. She advised the participants to conduct a thorough market research to identify potential markets that align with their products or services. This includes understanding the demand for their products, market size, customer preferences, and competitive landscape. Ms. Gao also encouraged students to think creatively and consider untapped markets or niche segments that may offer significant growth potential.
Mr. Ebenezer Acheampong: “Don’t live to impress”
Mr. Ebenezer Acheampong, Senior Elder of the Church of Pentecost (Ghana), empowered the students with a financial talk on the topic ‘The Gospel and Discipline of Financial Management’. He outlined principles of financial success. “Nothing can be done without law and order,” he said. He also noted that people are attracted to quality goods and services and therefore urged the young agripreneurs to focus on producing quality products for the market. He stressed the need for investing as an agribusiness, adding that it was important to differentiate liabilities from assets. He further urged the young agribusiness owners to live within their means, stressing that living to impress should not be the goal for an entrepreneur.
Participating colleges, universities and high schools
The 5-day bootcamp hosted about three hundred and fifty (350) campers and non-campers this year. About 125 of the beneficiaries were fully camped while the rest were day-campers drawn from selected Senior High Schools, including, Accra Academy Senior High School, and O’ Reilly Senior High School, Ashaiman Senior High School, Ngleshi Amanfro Senior High School, and Chemu Senior High School.
Participating colleges were Adidome Agric College, Asuansi Farm Institute, Damango Agric College, Ejura Agricultural College, Kwadaso Agric College, Wenchi Farm Institute, Ohawu Agric College, and Fair River Agric Institute, Veterinary College and Animal Health Production and college.
The universities included Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, University of Ghana, University of Cape Coast, Methodist University, University of Development Studies, All Nations University, Ghana Christian University College, and the University of Energy & Natural Resources, Central University.
During the 5-day bootcamp, the participants were taken through competence-based, capacity-building and field training sessions that were structured to achieve specific goals, purposes and targets. Focused sessions included Agri-Growth, Agri-Inspire and Mind-Set Shaping sessions, which shaped mindsets and assisted the participants to articulate their business ideas. The Agri-Voyage, Agri–Booster and Agri-Value session grew and activated teamwork and pushed out the creative and innovative composures of the beneficiaries, which helped them develop their art of public speaking, persuasive, negotiating abilities, presentation skills, problem-solving tactics and dynamics. Throughout the bootcamp, participants on a daily basis, were taken through health, mental and disciplinary drills.
Representatives of Agrimonti, Naanam Ventures, FDA, GEPA, AGRA, KL International, MOFA, CPC, GIPC, NPRA, ADB, Dizengoff, OCP Ghana, Carbon AV, Cocoa Processing Company, Broadspectrum Ghana, Blue Skies, Mastercard Foundation, Newmont, and Yara Ghana served as mentors, coaches and trainers throughout the 5 days.
Female agribusiness students win top cash prizes
Three female agribusiness students and aspiring agripreneurs emerged as winners of cash prizes at the 6th Agricultural Students Career Guidance and Mentorship Dialogue bootcamp (AG-STUD) held in Accra on Monday 27th March to Friday 31st March, 2023.
Charlotte Yawa Sodzedo, 24, of Adidome Farm Institute, won the maiden Agromonti Ultimate Prize Pitch, while Grace Idani of Central University and Angela Afia Pokuaa of University of Cape-coast, both won the Nanam Ventures Ultimate Prize Pitch.
Nine (9) final year agribusiness students competed for the Ultimate Prize Pitch designed to allow the aspiring agripreneurs demonstrate how they were each going to develop, grow and sustain their business ideas within a period of two years.
After a tightly contested session, judges adjudged Charlotte Yawa Sodzedo the overall winner of the Prize Pitch, declaring the ideas and initiatives she plans to put in place to grow and sustain her agribusiness as most practical and smart.
In partnership with Agrihouse Foundation, Agromonti will set up a state-of-the-art input dealer business estimated at GH¢35,000 for Charlotte in her community of residence. Nanam Ventures awarded Grace and Angela GH¢2000 and GH¢1000 respectively, as seed capital to enable them to kick-start their agribusiness projects.
Executive Director of Agrihouse Foundation Alberta Nana Akyaa Akosa expressed her excited about the outcome of this year’s AG-STUD Bootcamp, and she was much impressed that three females won the challenge, adding that this shows that women are beginning to take charge in the agriculture sector.
She commended the three young women for winning the top prizes and encouraged them to focus on pursuing their dreams with the support they have received.
She also extended gratitude to Agromonti and Nanam Ventures for investing in the aspirations of the young Agripreneurs. She said Agrihouse Foundation is also committed to empowering more young people to realise their agri-futures through the AG-STUD Bootcamp.
She noted that the partnership with Agromonti to set up an Input Dealer Business in any region for the ultimate winner of the challenge was a huge milestone and a significant boost in building strategic career paths for young agribusiness professionals straight after school.
This milestone, she added, would also contribute strongly to the government’s efforts, over the years, in making quality input and resources more accessible by ensuring that there is an input dealer establishment in every district.
Speaking after her win, an overjoyed and emotional Charlotte Yawa Sodzedo thanked Agromonti and Agrihouse Foundation for the honour while promising to manage and sustain the investment when it is finally set up.
Grace Idani and Angela Afia Pokuaa both thanked Nanam Ventures for providing them with seed capitals to start their agribusiness projects. They also promised to work hard and pay the support forward to other beneficiaries of the bootcamp in some years to come.
Beneficiary impacts & success stories
Past beneficiaries, including Obed Asamoah, Solomon Benambemon, Mamaga Mary Hundo, and Perfect M.A Nyikplorkpo, who were at the event, shared their inspiring success stories with participants to motivate them to make the most of the 5-day bootcamp experience.
Obed Asamoah, who was part of the 2019 cohorts, received a seed capital of GH¢500 to start his mushroom farm. Within two years, Obed scaled up his production and currently supplies to African shops in the US and UK on order. For a while, he served as a trainer at Agrihouse Foundation Livestock, Poultry, Fisheries Training and Tradeshow. Through hard work, Obed has now earned a scholarship to pursue graduate studies in Asia.
Perfect M.A Nyikplorkpo, a former student of Adidome Farm Institute and a 2021 and 2022 beneficiary of AG-STUD Bootcamp, is into lettuce production. She processes moringa into tea, moringa spices and natural spices. Having registered with the Food and Drugs Authority, she has her products on the market and in supermarkets across the country.
Mamaga Mary Hundo is a 2022 beneficiary located in the Oti Region. Mary is into agri processing, processing groundnut into paste as well as soya processing. Mary processes soya beans into soya milk and soya power, which can be used in different foods because of its high protein content. Through her innovation and creativity, she has come up with her own mix of gari and soya powder, which she sells with the help of her employee. Her agribusiness is called Mamaga’s Kitchen.
Solomon Benambemon, a 2020 beneficiary of AG-STUD and former Managing Director of AG-STUD Kwadaso Business Club, is presently an agronomist at Jubaili Agrotech Limited. While in school, he worked on a livestock project with his mates. When he left school, he rented a piece of land and started vegetable production, including garden eggs and pepper. After 3 months of cultivation, he started earning some money from the weekly sales of the produce. Shortly after, through the support of Agrihouse Foundation, he landed a job at Jubaili Agrotech Limited. “I work as the senior agronomist for the organisation and by the grace of God, I have had the opportunity to travel to Nigeria, Togo, Benin and most principal parts of Ghana and still aiming for more and better experiences in the future. All of these were made possible because of the exposure I got from AG-STUD,” Solomon shares.
James Elikem Brown, a past student of Nglieshie Amanfrom SHS, who was part of the bootcamp in 2019, is among our shining examples. James presently runs a 3-acre pineapple farm, where he has employed some of his colleagues. In the past year, he ventured into producing pineapple juice, which he registered with the Food and Drugs Authority.
Dauda Mustapha, a former student of the All-Nations University, who was part of the AG-STUD Bootcamp in 2020, was supported with agric inputs to start a watermelon farm. Through the training and leadership skills acquired at the bootcamp, he diversified by going into cowpea production as well. Presently, he has added 5 acres of yellow corn to his crop production and is supplying to poultry farmers in the Northern Region.
Mustapha, also from the All Nations University, also owns an 80-acre watermelon and cowpea farm after participating in AG-STUD in 2019 and 2020.
Ella, a 2019 beneficiary from KNUST, is running a thriving mushroom farm through the seed capital given her. Beyond her daily sales, Ella serves as a trainer in her community, training over 200 people so far.
In the last 5 years, the bootcamp has directly groomed, trained and empowered over one thousand two hundred beneficiaries, and indirectly, about ten thousand participants who have established sustainable agri-businesses in their schools and within their communities.