“Wow! ” For as long as the eye can see, the horizon sways to what appears a gentle breeze creating ripples on the sea. It’s a magnificent sight and for the first time, perhaps, the architect of this is allowed a brief respite to reflect.
Only we’re not near the sea, but in a field, no a small “country” consisting of maize. Maize, maize, maize. “It’s around 440 hectares” says Francis Osei, whose expertise and consultancy, IESO, was behind building this from scratch. “It’s one of Ghana’s biggest, if not the biggest”, he adds.
To understand its size imagine about 6000 football pitches placed together. Thus far we’ve been driving through for around 10 minutes at a speed of 20mph and there’s no end in sight. Remarkably, I’m told, it takes a week to replant the seeds, once this season’s crop is harvested which is imminent.
Osei, no stranger to epic projects, is a former banker with a pedigree in Agribusiness and a vision to boot with an impressive lists of clients: World Bank, European Union, Africa Development Bank and Ghana Grain’s Council to name a few.
This project underscores a potent and literally huge point — a prototypical exemplar that is both bench mark and methodology for raising Ghana’s labour productivity — output per hours worked — and hence living standards and wealth.
Despite being one of Ghana’s most staple crops used across a variety of foods, an international report in 2012 cited Ghana’s productivity in maize production lagging behind countries like Mexico and Thailand where similar terrains and tropical ecosystems are nearly the same. The reasons appear plenty: lack of the right fertilizers and crops, for instance.
But just over two years ago, and it’s hard to believe, this farm in a small town in the Eastern Region of Ghana called Akuse, some 70 km north of Central Accra, was undergrowth and forest. “My client saw an investment opportunity in the agribusiness and asked us for our advice”, says Osei, adding “there were considerable challenges, such as financial investment outlay in the millions of dollars and the risks like the need for irrigation and using the right varieties of crops”.
But the true secret sauce, as we walk through his stock whilst he sample inspects the quality of his produce, stems from employing the right people. It sounds a no brainer, but this points to experts with technical, practical and theoretical knowledge who can run large scale projects and transfer knowledge to local people to drive the efficacy of the business.
For that Osei’s consultancy sourced expertise from around the world and the results appear evident. The production yield thus far is about 3.5 times the nominal yield of crops, he says, a feat that has attracted attention about how he’s doing it. Osei breaks for a second into a half smile. By 2021 they expect it to be producing 10 tonnes that’s a staggering 5.5 times the norm per hectare.
The entrance to the site proposes more innovation. Next to a bank of heavy machinery a water irrigation system that will provide greater independency from rainfall is being built. As we ready to leave, we catch a glimpse of the workforce. Osei goes to meet them. One of them gestures it’s going to rain as the clouds gather. The double entendre isn’t lost as we head back to Accra.
Part of the Amanfo series. Dr David Dunkley Gyimah is one of the top global writers in journalism on the @medium platform, which includes the Guardian newspaper and the Wakely Foundation in Australia. He was voted one of the top 40 most influential Ghanaians abroad by the Ghana High commissioned backed-Ghana Abroad. David is an international award winning innovator in journalism and videojournalism. He’s a leader in his field in Cinema Journalism and has worked all around the world e.g. Russia, China, Near Syrian border and Egypt. For more on David click here.