Story captured by Miriam Hird-Younger, as part of the series "Investing in Youth in Agriculture - Engineers Without Borders Canada (EWB) in Ghana." This Wednesday, this AgEx Venture Leader brings to us the success story of Emmanuel Akotia, a Ghanaian youth champion who led his fellow students through the pilot of the revamped Internal Attachment Program developed by EWB and Kwadaso Agricultural College.
Agriculture...A poor man´s work?
The minute you meet Emmanuel Akotia, who usually goes by 'Emma', you’re struck by his confidence and friendly manner. He’s open and easy going. And if you’re talking about agriculture, Emma has a lot to share. His social media profile picture features him in boots, holding a cutlass, with the quote “I am proud to be a farmer”.
In Ghana, not all the youth would proudly state their love for agriculture. Most youth want cushy jobs in an office with a suit and tie and air conditioning! Agriculture is perceived as ‘poor man’s work’, full of drudgery and difficulty, with few opportunities for self-advancement.
Emma doesn’t see it that way. He sees the potential, the opportunities and the financial benefits of investing in agriculture. In 2013, as the head first year student (at the time), Emma led his fellow students through the pilot of the revamped Internal Attachment Program developed by Engineers Without Borders Canada (EWB) and Kwadaso Agricultural College.
Exploring farmer livelihoods
The program includes a one week rural placement where students live and work alongside rural farmers. For some, it was their first foray to a rural farm! Many students were hesitant saying “we can’t go to the village.” However, Emma supported the college in organizing the students for the program, and he himself also participated in this pilot. He explains the program as "we went to learn about the problems on the farm and give a helping hand in one way or another".
When he came back, Emma was full of new insights and surprises of rural and farmer livelihoods in Ghana. He better understood the culture of farmers in the community and the challenges of technology adoption. He built skills in community entry and problem solving. In the end, Emma was surprised by the gender challenges that he saw in the field as well as by the sheer number of female farmers. Learning something on paper in a classroom is definitely different than seeing and experiencing it yourself.
A born and bred leader
A year later, Emma still keeps in close contact with the family he stayed with. The family even gave him his own plot of land in the area so that he could start his own farm with some of his fellow students. Now, while still in college, he’s able to gain a lot of practical experience. He, along with three other student colleagues, used this plot to produce maize the year following their placement. This experience will be very useful when he starts his own career – as an agricultural entrepreneur with cash crops and a poultry farmer.
At Kwadaso Agricultural College Emma is the head of the Student Representative Council. He is a born and bred leader. As he prepares to graduate in early 2015, he is set to continue that leadership, showing Ghanaian youth that you can become a successful business person in agriculture. Emma has a vision of a growing and profitable agricultural sector in Ghana, and we expect that his story and vision will inspire youth not only across the country but also across the globe!
You can reach Emma by phone at +233542997448.