Nana Adjoa Sifa Amponsah is the initiator of Guzakuza, a social enterprise empowering young women to create jobs, wealth and food security. As a graduate and agripreneur herself, Amponsah is on a mission to transform the mind set of young women to start considering agriculture as a business.
With the growing rise and diversification of global food demands, which agricultural technologies stand out to you as vital in helping to increase rural productivity in Africa?
People living in rural areas lack important information regarding weather and markets, but if they have such information, they will be able to increase productivity. Most smallholder farmers in Ghana have access to mobile phones, not smart phones, just old simple phones. Companies that send climate and market data to farmers via mobile apps such as Esoko and Farmerline are increasing productivity in rural areas. I have seen it, and it is really working. So I think access to mobile phones in rural areas is one sure way to increase productivity and food security.
How is Guzakuza helping youths to increase rural access to agricultural information, training and inputs?
Guzakuza has a focus on incubation. This means we are supporting young people with ideas for innovation in agriculture. We believe that it’s alright to get the finance and the technology you need to start a business, but that if you are given all these resources and you don’t have the capacity to manage them, you will fail. We do not want businesses to fail, we want them to be sustainable. So we provide support and incubate business ideas for 6 months. After this we connect the entrepreneurs with potential investors who can back them with money, but also support them with business guidance.
Can you give any examples of young agribusinesses that are helping to close the gap between rural producers and urban consumers and how they are achieving this?
I know of Agri Impact which is a company in Ghana that provides innovative solutions to agribusinesses, and is connecting smallholder farmers to markets to boost production. They have what they call ‘farmers markets’ in the cities, where rural farmers go and take their produce to sell in urban areas. In this way, they have an available market, and all they need to do is produce. Agri Impact also provide value chain training and they target the youth, especially those who have completed school and are looking for businesses to do.
You are a member of several different youth and women’s organisations, how are such organisations harnessing technology to engage young people in agriculture?
As entrepreneurs, we use social media a lot to get young peoples’ attention because it is a very impactful online platform. My posts, for example, focus on the opportunities available to young people and how they can get into agribusiness. I have formed an online network of African women for those already working in the field and who are looking to get into it. By introducing them through this network, I have been able to help women get into agribusiness, and I have done so through social media.
What do rural women need to break away from low income activities in agricultural value chains and become successful agricultural entrepreneurs?
In terms of infrastructure, rural women need better access to roads to transport their goods from farm to market, and storage facilities to avoid post-harvest losses. Rural women also need to know what they stand for, and they need to be empowered to own their own land so they can take up farming as a long-term venture. We need to raise awareness that farming is a business, not just a way of life. If rural women start considering that what they are doing is running a business, the way they view their work and their situation will change.