By: Linda Dede Nyanya Godji
Mr. Ben Archen, a Ghanaian born electrical engineer who is currently living in Germany has advanced plans to start his own mechanized farms in the middle belt of Ghana to grow cereals and vegetables.
According to Mr. Archen, mechanised farming will not only provide jobs for farm hands and players in the food processing value chain, but will also provide employment for the numerous engineers churned out in the universities.
“Mechanised farming although cost intensive, can lead to employment in several engineering sectors including electrical and mechanical. Mechanical in the sense that we could produce our own machinery to meet the local needs while the pumps for irrigation farming could be powered with locally made solar panels,” he added.
He has also advised farmers to adopt mechanised farming, adding that although cost intensive, it was also time efficient which could boost higher yields in the long run.
He said he has always wanted to contribute his quota to help alleviate poverty, address unemployment, and contribute to food security, hence, his intention to manage his own mechanized farms. He also intends to collaborate with Ghanaians alike from the diaspora to operate mechanized farms on a medium to large scale in Ghana.
Mr. Ben Archen has 3 years’ work experience as a systems engineer for electrical power networks and currently is into programs management of engineering projects.
He has decided to start with cereals and vegetables for now and when successful, he will think of other fields as well. “I would say as a novice in farming I would like to see how fruitful my efforts would be and that was the reason why I opted for cereals and vegetables since they typically take 5-9 months to mature. Secondly cereals like maize and rice are staple foods which form a large part of our foods, while vegetables supplies the body with the required vitamins and should therefore be made readily available,” he said.
Even before he starts, he is very hopeful stating that the prospects for farming are high but are not mostly seen by a lot of people especially the youth.
“Agriculture is the bedrock of every country, and since it provides answers to one of the basic needs of man, that is why I have great interest in the field. Notwithstanding the fact that it is very fundamental to our very existence it is a very profitable business venture” he stressed.
Some concerns of investing in farming in Ghana.
“I think the greatest concern is the fear of the unknown. From a management point I would say getting the right hands to work on the projects while I am abroad. I believe the work ethics are different and those are my greatest fears.”
“I also think finances could be an issue in the long run, especially if I am unsuccessful in my first three years. Secondly, I do have concerns about theft as it has been alleged that most farms lose produce to thieves who come in at night to steal. I look at all these as challenges which I need to overcome to achieve my aspirations and so I will not be perturbed but remained focus and press on.”
Managing land issues
Though he has sited and acquired some lands, it still remains a challenge to him and his team.
“Land issues should be relooked at and improved with some solutions. We are struggling with that at the moment. Renting on medium term lease could be the way to go but I do not believe people should be forced to resort to leasing, because the system does not work. It is a good workaround but the underlying problem needs to be closely looked at.”
Government support to Ghanaian investors.
He appreciated government efforts in helping the agricultural sector but advised that government to step up efforts to receive blacks from the diaspora to return and possibly invest in Ghana. I believe the minimum threshold of foreigners to invest in Ghana should be looked at and reduced from the $500,000 to a smaller sum. A lot of Ghanaian born Europeans have only one citizenship and they would like to return but these individuals most at times do not have $500,000.
He studied Electrical Engineering at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels. “I started my bachelor studies in Ghana before moving to Germany and have been working there after studies” he said.
Plans of returning to settle in Ghana.
That should be the long term goal because a lot of my colleagues in the world over seem to have similar ambitions of returning home.