Tara Sprickerhoff | August 8, 2016
Martha Amekor is the tenth-born in a family with so many children that she has lost count. Because there are so many in the family, the children have learned to rely on each other—not just their parents—for support when it comes to paying school fees, buying textbooks, or even keeping each other fed.
The 22-year-old lives in Gbi Wegbe, a bustling community on the main road just 10 minutes from Hohoe, the largest city in the northern part of Ghana’s Volta Region.
When Ms. Amekor realized her older siblings were no longer supporting her, she knew she had to do it for herself. She says, “I decided to set myself apart in order to achieve what I want to be in the future.”
At the age of 16, while still in school, Ms. Amekor decided to start selling rice. She struggled at first to find money to start her business, but was fortunate that someone gave her a loan.
She says, “When I started and realized it was a good business, I made profits, quickly paid off the loan, and now everything is moving on well.”
Besa Akpalu is an extension agent with the Ministry of Food and Agriculture. He says youth face many challenges when it comes to agriculture. They not only lack skills, but they also lack access to good markets and to capital to buy products. For young women in particular, access to land can be a challenge.
For Ms. Amekor, the biggest challenge was that prices varied between shops, and small-scale sellers like her operated at a loss.
When a radio program from a local station started broadcasting the price of rice in the markets, Ms. Amekor discovered that it was better for rice sellers to work together to guarantee a uniform price. With a group of other sellers, she buys paddy rice from farmers, mills it, and sells it to storekeepers for a standard price.
Mr. Akpalu says that radio programs have been very helpful to local farmers: “Radio has helped not only in letting farmers have access to markets. It has also helped to increase productivity and family incomes.”
He adds that radio has also been changing many young people’s perceptions about agriculture. He explains: “The majority now know that farming can be a source of employment and income … Constant radio education by hosting farmers with higher academic degrees is changing the youth’s perception.”
Ms. Amekor is using the profits from her rice business to put herself and her siblings through school, and has grown her income in just a matter of years.
She says the rice business has been good and she has no plans for other employment. She adds: “Rice selling is good only if one doesn’t laze about. Many of the young women in this community who are not working depend on men. I would like to encourage all unemployed young women to get into rice farming and selling.”