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Young Farmer Focus: Ramatu Saaka – ‘In Ghana, farming is seen as a job for the illiterate’

Ramatu Saaka, 27, is studying sustainable farming on the Marshal Papworth short course at Harper Adams University.

 

At home, she runs a 12.5-acre farm with 1,200 laying hens, maize, yams, and cashew nuts.

Challenges: The biggest challenge facing young people who want to enter farming in Northern Ghana, whether to farm themselves or in training others, is prejudice that farming is a job for the illiterate; most parents discourage their children from entering the profession so there is a real lack of dynamic and educated young people entering the sector.

 

Getting a qualification in agriculture is often seen as a failure, and if you are starting from scratch, like in the UK, it is also hard to finance yourself.

 

I have found a way to manage cashflow for my egg farming enterprise by selling the older layers in the festive season to support buying new day-old chicks, as well as support feeding, medication and any other services we need.

 

Another big challenge is being able to market our eggs – if we lose customers it is because we are not able to produce a reliable quantity, so customers go to the bigger farms where they are guaranteed continuous supply.


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British farming: On my Marshal Papworth Fund scholarship I have seen a vast difference between British and Ghanaian farming industries.

 

In the UK, farmers produce to feed the market and farming is well planned from production to marketing, but in Ghana, farmers produce with the hope for market, which usually fails them.

 

Accessing the farming value chain is a much bigger challenge.

 

The agricultural industry in Ghana has many prospects if farmers are able to study the market before production and also remove the stigma associated with farming, and these are both things that I think I can address in my community thanks to my Marshal Papworth studies.

 

I was very fortunate growing up in Northern Ghana that my father practised farming of vegetables, even though he was an educated man.

 

He said that if everyone cultivates even an acre of land in the community, then famine can be prevented.

 

This inspired me to want to farm myself and also help others farm in a more sustainable way to mitigate the threat of failed harvests and the devastating famine that follows.

 

Moving forward: Before coming on the Marshal Papworth short course, I had a busy few weeks, including: raising 800 cashew tree seedlings that will be planted in June and fencing the field they will be planted in; preparing the maize, yam and cashew fields at the start of the rainy season in April ready for planting; and educating farmers on rice varieties and livestock production as part of the Government Special Rice Initiative Program with the Department of Agriculture.

 

I am now more than half way through my 10-week Marshal Papworth short course and have plenty of ideas for when I get home.

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