This past week I visited the Ejura Agricultural College (EAC) to see how our Agribusiness and Entrepreneurship (A & E) Project is coming along there.
Just a quick recap – my job for the next few months will be to oversee the implementation of the A & E project at all five of Ghana’s public agricultural colleges. The project is a practical component that has been added to the A & E college course to give students experiential training in entrepreneurship. Throughout the semester, students design and implement an agribusiness. Students gain valuable knowledge and skills related to entrepreneurship, innovation and social responsibility. The project has been running at two of the five public agricultural colleges for two years. This semester, we have scaled it to the remaining 3 colleges, making it a national initiative. For EAC, this is their first time running the project component of the A & E course and EWB is helping to support this first iteration. More info on my work at: https://unfinishedstories.net/ewb-my-work/.
Ejura is located about two hours North East of Kumasi. It’s quite a large town, with a hugggge market on Mondays. It’s principally a farming community, with maize and yams the most important crops. As the rains have just started in the area, the roads were clogged with tractors on the way to plough. The A & E lecturer, Bright Akoto, tells me that many of the tractors come from a program that the government has started, selling them on credit to the farmers.
I started my visit off by attending the second year students’ A & E lecture. The lecture reviewed different business models and structures. After class, I met with each of the groups and asked about their businesses, offering suggestions and answering questions. The agribusinesses are pretty varied: plantain chips with groundnuts, fresh fish, maize cakes, coconut ice cream (my mouth was watering as they described this one!), yoghurt processing, etc.. I pushed the students to think about how their product differed from others in the market – what was their innovation, their niche in the market? One group explained that they had found a way to process cassava into a higher quality flour than is offered anywhere in the area. Overall, the students were so excited to tell me about their projects. They explained that they found the course quite hard at first, as it was their first time doing anything like this it was quite overwhelming. Now that they have done their business plans and are starting to implement, they are really enjoying themselves, learning a lot and realizing that they are actually able to start agribusinesses themselves!
I followed up these meetings by asking them what they wanted to do after school. Some responded that they want to work in government or continue their education, but the majority responded that they wanted to start their own agribusiness. One young man excitedly told me that he loved rabbit farming and used to keep some rabbits when he was younger, but had to sell them when he came to school. He just can’t wait to get back to the rabbit business.
In the afternoon, I met with Mr. Akoto, the A & E lecturer. The students have a great mentor in Mr. Akoto, an entrepreneur himself. As well as teaching at the college, he has a successful kente business. He explains that he started from very small and grew his business to the success that it is today. He tries to inspire this same entrepreneurial spirit in his students, explaining to me that the he wants the students to understand that, although there are challenges to doing business in Ghana, they can start small and slowly grow to be successful entrepreneurs.
Day two was similar, meeting the 300 year students that are also doing the A & E project for this first iteration. I had a nice lunch meeting with Mr. Akoto and the college’s principal and then it was time to get back to Kumasi before the Easter Holiday travelling rush.
From what I saw this week, the A & E project is going through a fantastic first iteration at the Ejura Agricultural College. Students are enthusiastic about their businesses and gaining valuable skills and confidence in entrepreneurship, team work and innovation. I can’t wait until I go back in May, when they will be selling their products – oh, I’m going to eat so well on that trip…my mouth is watering just thinking of that coconut ice cream.