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Stethoscope off, heading into farming

When you grow up, what would you like to become?

That is a kind of question that we were all asked when we were young. Almost every kid of my age replied that they wanted to be a medical doctor. And even growing up, being doctor has always been thought as the ideal career anyone can join, and parents were so proud whenever we told them we wanted to become so. Besides that, being a female medical doctor was an even bigger achievement in a society that still underestimated womens potential. Now what if I told you a story of a woman, who dropped her stethoscope and her successful medical career to become an agro-processor in Ghana?

Dr. Bationo is originally from Burkina Faso, but she left the country some years ago. Back in 2015, she was working in a hospital in Nairobi, Kenya. She then moved with her family to Ghana. “When I got here, I was very surprised by how naturally rich the country is, compared to my country of origin, Burkina Faso. It rains 9 months in a year here, whereas back home we know rain only for 3 months. Soil is very fertile, and water flows full-time. I had to use that.”

Cassava is one of the most resisting crops hugely grown here in Brong Ahafo region, Ghana. Dr Bationo thus decided to start selling raw Cassava collected from different farmers, but as she says, the price wasn’t really good. So she decided to start processing cassava into a more stable form, that she could also export. But in 2016, things did not function as expected, and the processing went through a crisis of lack of supply. And truth was, it was not really lack of supply, but lack of information about where supply was.

Amya Agro Plus locals, situated in Brong AHafo Region, Ghana

Raw cassava before being processed into flour

United Purpose approached me in 2017, and let me know that they could support me by linking me to cassava suppliers that they have in their network. Since that very time, I have constant good supply, and I am able to produce constantly.”

Indeed, funded by the European Union, United Purpose started a project in 2017 that intends to improve sustainable local economic growth and expand job creation in agribusiness in the Brong Ahafo region. This project has a speciality that it involves both the private sector (farmers) and the local government (district’s assembly) which is a crucial part in ensuring the sustainability of the project. For example, advocacy about people's needs is made throughout local economic development policy making, agriculture officers in the district’s assembly are taken through trainings about agriculture techniques, trainings with business development advisory…

Apart from providing training about technical farming practices, the project helps farmers to get a good market for their products. This is how farmers who happened to have a yield that they needed to sell, and Dr Bationo who had a processing firm in need of raw cassava to process were connected, thanks to the project.

The processing still includes some artisanal practices to help women to keep their job in the firm

Cassava flour ready to be sold locally and exported

“Out of 5 tonnes of raw cassava, I am able to produce 1,5 tonnes of Gari (fermented cassava flour). I now sell 20% of my production locally, and I export the remaining 80% to both Burkina Faso and Niger. By summer this year, I am opening a new and bigger factory, that is going to use 3 times more raw cassava, and produce 3 times more flour. And with the project, I am not worried about the supply at all.”

Often, workers go through training sessions about best practices for a clean and standard processing
Dr Bationo employs 30 locals, who are mostly women.
and some lucky men ????

“When I came to Ghana, I never thought I could switch my career to agriculture. But here I am, happy. I believe that education is supposed to open new ways for us, not to keep us in a box of that career we hold a degree for. Agriculture doesn’t mean poverty; it is a great business through which one can achieve a lot. Give it your best, and it will give you its best,” Dr Bationo concludes.

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