Mabel-Ann Akoto-Kwudzo is the leader of Okata Farms – a company that produces and processes rice and other crops in Ghana where nearly all of the out-growers are women. She believes that farming provides a way to empower women and therefore encourages as many women as possible to engage in farming, enabling them to become financially independent and afford education for their children.
My father, my late dad - inspired me greatly because he had a farm. I wanted to be a farmer even while I was studying my bachelor’s degree in child psychology because, in some ways, I love the land. Then, I decided to be a farmer. I told my husband about my idea and he said: No! You can’t do farming! But I still want to do farming.
I started with maize, later I added rice to the farming. I have to add value to all the products that I am doing. Therefore, I added the processing to my product. I also planted cocoa, and these crops are being processed into a finished product. At that moment, I realize that we, Ghana, import so much rice from Vietnam and Thailand.
Then I got the idea to incorporate women into farming because they are part of our country. In Ghana, women are not allowed to inherit land. So, I told the chiefs of the various villages where we have wetlands for rice growing to give me the land and let the women farm the land. Some of the lands are also hired to them. That is how the out-growers come on board. Now, I have around 3,000 female out-growers under Okata Farms.
I want to be a farmer because I want to feed human beings. It led me to receive several awards, for example, National Best Small Scale Agro Processor in 2015 and First Runner Up for the Best Farmer Award in Ghana 2017. All of the awards boost my confidence in farming.
Some people see becoming a farmer as a punishment. They don’t have a farm, don’t do mechanized farming, and don’t see farming as a business. But I want to change that scenario and I want to bring more mechanizers and tools. It can be youth to help the farmer. Today, the youth come for farming and work as farmers for me because there are no other jobs for them.
We want to bring them all into farming and then you have to help them. It is because if you do mechanized farming for them, they will enjoy it and it can provide the maximum profit in farming. So that’s our next agenda. There is also a high demand for rice at the moment. Therefore, when you bring the youth on board, we will succeed and succeed well.
I enjoy being in the natural environment. It is refreshing! Because our farm is organic, we don’t use chemicals. So, I enjoy being there. Most importantly, I enjoy seeing the women who used to rely on their husbands for money and now become independent. It is because they have their farm so they can bring their own produce and can get money for themselves.
By doing so, they can then educate their children. Because of a lack of money in the past, they were not sending their children to school. Now, they can be the breadwinner for their home. It’s a joy to see that you have been able to transform a whole society.
We have many challenges, but the main challenge is financing agriculture in our country. Because you want to help many people, but you can’t reach out to all of them. So, you have to just help a few. For example, buying equipment for farmers. Little by little equipment is provided to help all the farmers. We are going to produce more and when we produce more, we can send some commodities to West Africa, Europe, and globally. So, they can enjoy good food from Africa.
I hope to get people at AgUnity who understand our problem to help us overcome this situation. Then get investors so the farmers can produce the desired commodities. After that, we can buy all the crops, later process them, then package them, and finally sell the commodities.
First, I hope AgUnity becomes a full partner with us so we cannot only use the application but also export our commodities to Australia. I hope in the future, the application can support farmers regarding the weather forecast, the right time to harvest the rice, and how to process the crops. It will be very useful for us as farmers.
I want to say one thing, one of our historians said: if you educate a man, you educate an individual, but if you educate a woman, you educate a nation. Since we introduced farming to the women, they have become the breadwinners in their homes. It encouraged women from all 16 regions in Ghana. It also helps to boost our economy. When we can achieve this, it will flow out to the whole of West Africa and then Africans can stand on their own. We won’t be needing money to boost our economy anymore. So, I encouraged as many women as I can to get out there and enjoy farming, because most of our women are now educated and enjoying what is now a totally different way of farming.