Most rural families in Ghana depend on farming to survive. During drought years with little or no harvest, families can’t repay their seed loans and end up in debt.
EVCO Founder Seth Owusu was lucky that his parents could afford to keep him in school. His father supplemented his teaching salary and farm income by raising chickens. During drought years, money from selling eggs and chicken helped cover tuition for Owusu and his six siblings.
EVCO’s new venture, a farming institute, will train farmers to raise livestock with the hope of breaking the cycle of poverty. The program will provide innovation, training, and financial assistance in the form of micro-financing to deserving farmers who successfully complete the program.
“The goal of EVCO Farms is to train farmers who will go back to their various villages as entrepreneurs,” says Owusu. These farmers will then “create jobs and be an example for their communities.”
EVCO has secured a farmhouse and land for raising livestock on the Afram-Plains Peninsula in Eastern Ghana. With assistance from Kumasi Institutes of Tropical Agrigulture, a three-person team including a farm manager and two high school teachers, is preparing to train participants to raise chickens, guinea fowls, ducks, turkeys, bees, grass cutters, rabbits, pigs, and goats, as well as sustainable crops.
When the school is ready to open its doors in January 2016, it will have capacity to train six people at a given time.
“This program should be self-sustaining,” says Owusu. “The farm will raise animals as it trains people. Some of these animals will become livestock herds for participants, and others will be sold to provide income to support our programs.”
Teaching farmers to raise livestock may seem like a departure from EVCO’s computer lab focus, but it aligns well with the organization’s mission to provide computer literacy to children of rural villages. While additional income in villages will keep kids in school, this program will also add value to the new technology skills students are gaining: farmers are increasingly using technology to sell livestock, keep records, manage animal health, and business matters.
While the farm school will have a computer lab for initial training, the infrastructure created by the EVCO labs will support participants as they return to their homes. The village students’ understanding of connected computers will enable them to tie into “mobile pay” services and participate in the global marketplace. Currently, many illiterate farmers need help to understand and engage in in the marketplace through these new and vital technologies.
Owusu says, “We hope to create employment for the youth in the nearby villages on the peninsula and other villages where our graduates will establish themselves around the country. This is at the heart of our mission to reduce poverty, improve the lives of vulnerable rural families, and prevent unnecessary rural-to-urban migration.”