2018 Best farmer, first runner-up tell their stories
The 2018 National Best Farmer, Mr James Obeng Boateng, spent 32 years in the corporate world before venturing into large-scale farming in 2016.
He has worked with multinational companies in West and Central Africa, with the exception of Nigeria.
He worked with the British African Tobacco Company for 19 years and rose through the ranks to become its Group Managing Director.
The 60-year-old newly crowned best farmer also worked with Coca Cola International for three years and moved to the Cadbury Company where he worked in 20 countries across West and Central Africa.
He was also in charge of Mauritania and Gabon.
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Speaking to the Mirror on Saturday, December 8, 2018, the day after the 34th National Farmers Day celebration held in Tamale, Mr Boateng noted that people in the middle class and the corporate world could go into commercial farming as a way of encouraging others, especially the youth, to take up farming.
Mr Boateng has been farming for the past 18 years and has a workforce of 102, comprising 45 full-time employees and 57 casual workers. He is diversified in agricultural production, covering roots and tubers, cereals, vegetables, plantation crops, legumes and timber species.
He has large ruminants such as cattle, goats and sheep, in addition to poultry.
He also has 40 beehives which have been colonised with bees and two fish ponds stocked with tilapia and catfish.
For his price, Mr Boateng was given a dummy cheque for $100,000 (equivalent to GHc480,000), sponsored by the Agricultural Development Bank.
Mr Boateng said he was motivated to go into farming because he wanted to be a role model to the youth and also help provide jobs for them.
“Because I have done some farming at the peasant level, I know how lucrative farming is if you give it the needed attention and investment,” he noted.
According to him, in 1978, he ventured into peasant farming to enable him to pay his fees at the university because of his parents’ inability to foot the bill.
That initiative, he explained, really paid off.
Mr Boateng holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from the University of Ghana Business School, Legon.
He has also pursued 27 other courses, including Project management, planning, marketing and corporate governance in educational institutions in countries such as Holland, Spain, Germany, Las Palmas, South Africa, Kenya and Cameroon.
He intimated that his vision was to expand his farming business to help employ more youth, as well as use his latest honour to implore Ghanaians to go into farming to help contribute meaningfully to national development.
Mr Boateng urged the government to help introduce community youth farming clubs as a way of encouraging the youth to go into farming.
He maintained that many youth had the potential for farming but were not encouraged to do so mainly due to the fact that they did not consider it as a lucrative venture.
... Madam Charity Akortia, the 2018 national best farmer first runner-up, is one of the few women in the country who have braved the odds to be successful in their chosen careers.
Madam Akortia, 52, has, for the past 27 years, been combining teaching with farming, which started 25 years ago.
When the Mirror caught up with her after she had been honoured at the 34th National Farmers Day held at the Aliu Mahama Sports Stadium in Tamale last week, the farmer from the Agona West District of the Central Region pointed out that the journey so far had not been rosy, particularly for her as a woman.
She took home a Toyota Hilux as her prize.
Madam Akortia indicated that she had to fight all forms of discrimination regarding land acquisition, leading to the situation where she currently owned what she described as “fragmented lands”.
Her farms are in Agona Mensakrom, Dankase and Ohwemase in the Agona East District and Gomoa Obuasi, Gomoa Jukwa and Gomoa Abaasa in the Gomoa East District.
Madam Akortia has 107 casual and 47 permanent workers, including two physically challenged persons.
She owns 283 acres of land on which she cultivates cocoa, coconut, plantain, cocoyam, citrus, pineapple, oil palm, pepper, maize, cowpeas, garden eggs, cabbage, carrot, okro, cassava, tomatoes, among other crops.
The award winner also rears animals, including all kinds of ruminants, poultry and bees. She is also into aquaculture and fish processing.
Madam Akortia has won a number of awards in farming, notably the Overall Central Regional Best Farmer in 2013 and Overall National Best Farmer 2nd Runner-up in 2015.
She was also rewarded for being the best pepper seed processor in 1995, Best Agona West municipality seed multiplier in 2010 and Overall Agona West Municipality Best Farmer in 2011.
She noted that generally because of traditional values, women did not own land, although a lot of advocacy had been done over the years to change the status quo.
Madam Akortia, the Managing Director of her own company, the Green Wealth Farms Limited, located at Mensakrom in the Agona East and Gomoa Abaasa in the Gomoa Central districts, wished she had one big parcel of land for all her farming activities at one location for easy supervision and also to save cost.
The award winner expressed concern about the Farmers Day celebration, noting that female farmers had been relegated to the background over the years, a practice that did not encourage women to go into farming.
Madam Akortia, who is married with four children, has been supporting orphans in her community and also provides eggs for the kindergarten class in her school.
During holidays, students are engaged on her farms to support their education.
She has rehabilitated many access roads in her community and provided four hand=dug wells for the community.
Madam Akortia started her primary education at the Peki Dzogbati EP Primary School in the Volta Region.
She continued at the Peki Experimental Junior High School and completed Peki Senior High School in 1985.
She attended the Peki Training College in 1991 and completed in 1993, after which she went to the University of Education, Winneba as a distant learning student and obtained her first degree in 2010.
After completing her university education, she was promoted to the grade of Assistant Director 1.
She is currently Assistant Director 2 at the Agona West Municipal Education Office.