Like delicate plants that need tender care so is growing and sustaining an agriculture enterprise. Saani Abdulai (28) is learning that lesson fast as an agripreneur. He talks about how persistence is a business virtue that should be cultivated to fruiting by young people seeking a career in agriculture.
Q: Who is Saani Abdulai?
I am a young man and an agriprenuer. I come from Tamale, the northern region of Ghana. I graduated from the Tamale polytechnic, where I studied Financial Accounting. Coming from a poor financial background in my family, I learnt valuable lessons from my late mother who was a local trader and father, a local farmer which helped me plant a seed for my business.
As an agripreneur, tell us more about what you do?
I am into buying and selIing of farm produce. I registered my company, Wriglesworth Agro Ventures (WAV) in 2015. I started trading sheanut before I ventured into traditional farm produce like maize, rice, beans, soyabean and millet. I began my trade from a rented storage facility in Kariga village where I buy my produce. I stock up the dry grains and sell them when the price goes up. As time passed I have created a customer base outside Tamale supplying foods to processors for final sale to consumers. My company currently employs five young people.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
Being closer to the local farmers is the most enjoyable part because through negotiation, I help farmers get fair prices for their produce. I am the bridge between local farmers and outside markets because I understand the needs of both. This collaboration with farmers has enabled me to understand the challenges they face such as poor market access and competitive prices for their produce. It is a win-win situation.
What attracted you to agriculture?
I got attracted to agriculture when I was a child. I used to follow my dad to the farm, helping him weed using the cutlass and the hoe, while guiding our cattle grazing. It was a natural feeling for me to go into agriculture and I enjoy the farmland.
Fertilizer use is fairly low in Ghana, how do you see your business helping farmers to understand the benefits and use of fertilizer?
Yes, fertilizer use is low in Ghana because our farmers who are the main source of farm products have little knowledge about the appropriate application of the fertilizer. Besides many do not know about soil types and when or what type of fertilizers to use for what crops.
The local farmer again needs to travel to the town from his local community or village to access fertilizers in urban areas. So easy access to fertilizer and equipping farmers with the requisite knowledge on the applications are the main challenges confronting our farmers. As a result many are not motivated to use fertilizer on their farms.
I am looking at venturing into agro dealership and thereby helping farmers access fertilizers and other inputs easily and affordably. In addition, I am exploring conducting training seminars/workshops in partnership with developmental organizations and private sector companies in the fertilizer industry to equip the farmer with the necessary information on the use of the fertilizer.
Once farmers see the benefits of using fertilizers in increased yields, I believe they will be motivated to use them. Increased yields are also a benefit for me as a trader because I will have more to sell and without doubt better quality too.
What challenges have you faced in running your agribusiness?
Many. My main challenges are getting in touch with the right networks that will help me expand my business through bigger markets. Finance is a setback. Easy credit is not available for me to be able to meet my customer’s orders and to expand the business. I still need to build a name as young business person to access credit from banks, for instance. Besides, I also have a challenge of assets, I need to build my own warehouse and secure my own truck to move my goods to market.
I think the biggest challenge for now is to find investors to help me set up the fertilizer side of my business.
Something has worked well to keep you in business, tell us about it?
Oh really, the big opportunity I had ever since I started this business is when I got registered to attend the West African Fertilizer and Agribusiness conference organized by AFAP in 2017. After the conference I had better knowledge about agribusiness and fertilizers. It was an eye opener to me and an encouragement to pursue by dream of building a branded agribusiness that will create jobs opportunities for the youth and local farmers at the local community level. The conference ignited zeal in me to fight more for the local farmers to raise their production now and for the future.
What motivates you?
Nothing motivates me in my work than seeing a local farmer wipe sweat from their brow while doing what they are good at: farming. Sealing a deal and delivering the right commodities to my customers motives me too because I know I am able to get more business from satisfied customers.
Getting more youths into agribusiness is also source of motivation because I believe the young hold the food future for our continent.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I see myself running a reputable branded agribusiness company that is into mainstream supply of farm produce to organizations in the country and beyond its borders. I can see myself being a major distributor of quality fertilizers in the country.
What advice would you give to youths seeking a career in agribusiness?
Keep working on your dreams in the agribusiness. First play by the rules and register your business and keep working on it daily. The registration of my business happened sometime after I thought of trading farm produce. I was born and raised by a local farmer and knew from scratch the essence of farming which provides food and income. Without farming there is no food.