FARA UniBRAIN through her model of Agribusiness incubation has demonstrated that products of science can be transformed into sustainable streams of income for farmers. Through incubation farmers are now making business within diverse value chains and gaining modest economic and social benefits. The World Bank has been managing MDTF of FARA funded by EU which supports agriculture research in Africa geared towards transforming lives of farmers. The vision behind the support is to have research outputs improve productivity of farmers with a glimmer hope that they translate into economic gain.
Although plenty of research has been conducted in Africa with profound success, it was evident that there was still room to translate the outputs into economic gain as envisaged. While visiting the CCLEAr incubator with the World Bank team, Willem Janssen (Lead Agriculturalist), underscored the need to transform farmers’ lives by going beyond research to setting up agribusinesses. He reiterated that the focus of the World Bank was on creating youth employment to manage the time bomb dubbed the youth bulge in Africa. In his address, he emphasised that research alone was not enough to change lives of farmers but agribusiness incubation he noted was the catalyst to changing the lives. With advancement in technology where services were being automated he highlighted that there were impending job cuts and less employment opportunities in the formal sector. Consequently he challenged the team to intensify focus on value chain since that was the best model to address unemployment through creation of job opportunities for the youth.
In the same breath, the Executive Director of FARA Dr Yemi Akinbamijo observed that there was marked improvement with the incubator and lauded the results that had been achieved within the short period of the incubator’s existence. He implored upon the incubator to diversify her product offering to tap into aquaculture which he noted was dismally under exploited at 2%. In his remarks Dr Yemi encouraged incubates present to take their businesses beyond the farm gates to explore value addition and manufacturing which would increase their returns five folds. He placed emphasise to the fact that highest returns in agribusiness were in value addition and manufacturing. He made a strong statement to incubates that “high end products target to beat the market and not to compete” hence the need to position themselves in the high end product businesses for optimal returns.
Mr Willem Janssen (Lead Agriculturalist) of World Bank being taken through the tenets of layers’ chicken farming on a field visit to an incubatees chicken farm
The partners present from Government of Ghana, University of Ghana and private sector also emphasised the place of SME in economic growth and development. During the event the Government of Ghana represented by M/s Sumah from the Ministry of Food and Agriculture appreciated the contribution of FARA and its partners towards agriculture transformation through UniBRAIN and pledged continued support and partnership with FARA moving forward. She noted that her ministry was keen to continue with agribusiness incubation targeting the youth and leveraging on the CCLEAr model where they had already started the process of seeking out 7 incubators to work with across Ghana. She encouraged CCLEAr incubator and other private sector actors to tap into the capacity in the livestock sector extension services to enhance livestock health and production. On his part Dr Nortey from University of Ghana expressed gratitude to the initiative of agribusiness incubation noting that it was a platform that would entice young graduates into farming. He indicated that 2514 students have benefited from UniBRAIN imitative across 10 Universities and 5 colleges as indicator of positive growth and called upon partners and government for continued support. However, he placed emphasis on the need to create more incubators to develop a pool of incubates that would take leadership in agribusiness.
The UniBRAIN facility coordinator Mr Alex Ariho on his part hailed all the partners for their unrelenting efforts in making agribusiness incubation a success in Africa. He noted that job creation was still the core objective in agribusiness incubation and that FARA was keen on scaling up achievements realised so far to cover the entire continent. Further the facility coordinator implored upon the incubates to further position themselves in the market to reap the benefits of agribusiness incubation and mentor other upcoming incubates. He laid down the road map for the future where he introduce the African Agribusiness Incubator Network which he quipped was poised to expose incubates to the World with her rich network of incubators.
Incubatees and graduate interns present expressed appreciation to the support they had received through the incubation programme and committed to continued focus in building their businesses. They reckoned that they had no regrets for choosing the road less travelled of agribusiness since they were witnesses of enormous potential and returns in the agro sector. Grace an incubate in the pig value chain who quit a well-paying banking job to pursue her farming dream made a sweeping statement as, “I do not regret quitting my banking job to do farming since I have seen the rewards”.
As a culmination of the day’s events the ED FARA Dr Yemi launched a van bought by the incubator to assist incubates transport their products to the market. This support is strategic to value chain development since transport is a key facilitator to accessing markets and image profiling for the businesses. The initiative was lauded as one that was very convenient for the incubates since they would not have to worry about transportation of their produce during their formative phases and the cost of hiring was cost effective.
In his closing remarks the ED FARA Dr Yemi hailed Dr Adu the manager of CCLEAr incubator and team for demonstrating the role of science in creating business and employment opportunities for the youth in Africa.