It’s not every day that you hear the story of a beauty queen owning a farm. But the story gets bewildering when you notice that instead of just employing people to work on the farm (like some “modern” farmers do) she goes hands in and knee deep -getting her well-manicured nails in groveling dirt as she furiously uproots and plants, as she waters and nurtures and as she satisfyingly harvests and reaps.
Meet Emefa Quashie. A present farmer, social entrepreneur and an erstwhile beauty pageant winner. When she’s not furiously uprooting and planting on her farm (Mamagah Farms), she is lost in her studies for her MBA in Marketing or running Universal ChildCare Foundation, a non-profit organization that supports needy children.
SLA contributor Emma Kwenu Smith caught up with Emefa to get some insights on how to dominate in an unpopular agriculture career for modern young women and simultaneously use it to make a social impact.
Tell us about Mamagah Farms.
Mamagah Farms is a social project that mobilizes and empowers rural women farmers to adopt modern technologies in farming. We want to commercialize agriculture in rural communities in southern Ghana. Mamagah farms was established in 2015 with the main aim of empowering women economically through commercial farming and creating support schemes. These schemes create opportunities for smallholder farmers to improve their livelihood.
Currently, we work with female smallholder farmers in rural communities within the Southern part of Ghana. Simply put: We farm, we train and we support.
There are so many avenues for social entrepreneurship -why agriculture and what was the innovative idea behind Mamagah Farms?
I was born into a farming community, and my mother was a small holder farmer so I spent a lot of my days on the farm assisting her. Unfortunately, along the line I grew up with a warped misconception about agriculture. Growing up in a rural community, I always thought farming was for the poor and uneducated -after all, many folks there turn to farming to be able to feed their families and also make an economic living.
However, over time I came to appreciate the relevance of agriculture and numerous opportunities it presents to the youth. Mamagah Farms was born out of this realization. This is why I decided to take up farming –to send a message to the young women.
Do you plan to diversify what you produce and expand to include other parts of the country? How are you preparing for this?
With over 200 acres of land in the Volta Region of Ghana, we specialize in growing and harvesting in maize and pepper. Unfortunately, and as is the same with any start-up, not having enough funds can slow down plans of scaling up. We are pitching for investors and hopefully, we would be able to work at optimum capacity, making full use of the land.
This way, we will be able to diversify our produce and grow a variety of crops to suit both local and international demands. Funding is everything especially for an entrepreneur who wants to leverage on technology to make farming simple and easier. There are plans to expand to other parts of the country and even West Africa.Funding is everything especially for an entrepreneur who wants to leverage on technology Click To Tweet
How does your business as a social venture empower local women farmers?
Mamagah Farms is just like social entrepreneurship project. We apply business principles to solve societal problems. What we noticed is that there is potential for rural women farmers to cultivate on a bigger scale and learn the best farming methods which would ultimately impact their economic livelihood. Realizing this, we use the profit from Mamagah Farms for investments.
Apart from financially supporting these farmers to purchase inputs and commercialize their farms, we also partner with local organizations to provide training and extension sessions for these women. Most of the women who work with us are single mothers and while we want to fight poverty and promote empowerment, we want these women to have enough to afford to educate their children. An empowered woman means an empowered family and ultimately, an empowered nation.
What challenges have you faced with Mamagah Farms and its related social projects?
My biggest challenge has been reorienting the minds of the local folks. As hardworking as they are, the tradition has created a certain mindset towards change. A typical example is technology. When you suggest the use of tractors, some believe that using tractors may disturb the peace of their ancestors. With such a mindset, how can we grow?
But it is not enough to recognize a challenge and leave it there. We take the women farmers through training programs, where we address these challenges. We show them concrete examples of how farming is done in first world countries and how we can get there. Culture and tradition can have a hold on people’s mindset, and it is important to give them the needed exposure in order to disabuse this mindset.
Why should more women explore the prospects in agriculture in Ghana, and Africa?
In recent times, women are defying the odds and taking more risks in their careers. Why should agriculture and agribusinesses be any different? Can a woman not own a 10,000 acre farm and work on it herself, while managing others to work as well? Agriculture has never been and is not a reserve of men. Our natural disposition as women makes us more inclined to be the better farmers, we are nurturing and detail-oriented. This is an important quality.
There are several opportunities in agriculture we can take advantage of. From crop planting through to the distribution of produce, there are endless opportunities to explore. Food is a necessity. Africa has arable land and other resources, and there are always opportunities to meet the need for food produce. If you get such an opportunity, why say no?Agriculture has never been and is not a reserve of the man - Emefa Quashie founder of @MamagahFarms Click To Tweet
Aside farming, what are your other interests?
I study because I have to slay in my MBA. Aside that, I love to visit the gym and play tennis. Having been a beauty queen myself, I enjoy beauty pageantry.
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