As the Business Development Intern on the FEATS project in Ghana, I had the opportunity to help an entrepreneur start a cashew aggregation business that will improve the lives of 250+ farmers and the lives of their families and communities. I supported this entrepreneur by developing the business strategy and operational plan to successfully and sustainably start his small business. In the process, I have learned a lot about the farming value chain and the challenges faced by entrepreneurs and farmers in a developing country like Ghana.
Very simply, a cashew aggregator buys cashew from farmers and sells it to off-takers such as traders and domestic processors. The role aggregators play in the Canadian market is very different from the role they play here in Ghana. The average farm size in Canada was 780 acres in 2011. By comparison, farmers cultivate an average of 5 acres each in the region where this aggregator operates. This means 156 farmers are needed to cultivate the same amount of land. That’s a lot of farmers to manage. Farmers in Ghana also need a lot more support and an aggregator cannot simply buy harvests from farmers at the end of the season. Farmers require not only financing for inputs, but also training in good agricultural practices, environmental sustainability, child-labour, gender-inclusion and business management. By providing access to the market, financing and capacity building, this aggregator will not only ensure a stable supply of raw cashew nuts for his own operations, but will also help farmers develop a business mindset and move from subsistence farming to commercial farming. As farmers earn more, the trickledown effect to their families and communities is substantial.
It has been an enlightening experience to work with this entrepreneur and to see the challenges he faces in starting an agricultural business in Ghana. While there are still roadblocks and challenges to work through, the agricultural industry in Ghana is heading in an exciting direction and has the potential to bring farmers, which account for 60% of the labour force, out of the poverty line.