For Turlocker Nana Bekoe-Sakyi a recent two-week volunteer stint in his native homeland of Ghana was the opportunity of a lifetime and a chance to bring agriculture technology to a developing part of the country.
Bekoe-Sakyi is an agricultural information technology and business services consultant who volunteered in December for the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Farmer-to-Farmer program managed by the non-profit group ACDI/VOCA.
The program relies on the expertise of volunteers from U.S. farms, land grant universities, cooperatives, private businesses and nonprofits to respond to the local needs of farmers, businesses and organizations in developing and transitional countries.
In Ghana Bekoe-Sakyi was commissioned in an effort to increase the productivity and profitability for members of an agrochemical association. He was responsible for conducting a feasibility study on new business opportunities in the northern regions of Ghana, which is agriculturally under-developed. The association requested Bekoe-Sakyi because of his expertise with marketing strategies in order to effectively operate and expand business.
He explained that typically the northern region is hot and dry except for a short rainy season. Before the rains farmers would set the fields on fire to kill weeds and unwanted growth. However, the burning was dangerous — sometimes resulting in deaths — and the agrochemical companies he worked for wanted to deliver a safer, more effective chemical herbicide and pesticide treatment tool to kill non-agricultural growth.
His report recommended the association provide education to farmers about how to use chemicals in a responsible and safe manner.
“I’m originally from Ghana so my goal was to help agri-sector in the developing northern region. It was an interesting trip and I traveled thousands of kilometers and met key people. I liked having an impact,” he said.
Agriculture is Ghana’s most important economic sector and it employees more than half of the population. Crops include cocoa, palm oil, rubber, citrus, timber, vegetables and grains such as rice and maze.
The USAID’s Farmer-to-Farmer program was commissioned by Congress in 1985 and it has leveraged more than $34 million worth of volunteer time and 12,000 volunteer trips in 80 countries. In addition to their expertise, volunteers bring the democratic, free-enterprise values of Americans to their hosts and they demonstrate personal concern for the people they help.
For more information on ACDI/VOCA go to www.acdivoca.org
To contact Jonathan McCorkell, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 634-9141 ext. 2015.