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"Stop depending on others and think outside the constraints of the system”

Story captured by Miriam Hird-Younger, as part of the series "Investing in Youth in Agriculture - Engineers Without Borders Canada (EWB) in Ghana." This Wednesday, this AgEx Venture Leader brings to us the success story of Nicholas Onwona, a Ghanaian youth champion who has benefitted from the Internal Attachment Program (IAP) and the Agribusiness and Entrepreneurship Project (A&E Project) of EWB

Nicholas comes from the Eastern Region of Ghana. He is building his skills as a young agriculturalist through his studies at Kwadaso Agricultural College. As this young Ghanaian gets closer to the end of his education, he is aware that building his own skills is not enough, he also wants to inspire his fellow youth to understand the opportunities available in the agricultural sector.

Nicholas was born in rural Ghana, not too far from the capital city of Accra. He grew up working on his family’s cocoa farm and decided to continue his training in agriculture. At college, Nicholas participated in the Internal Attachment Program (IAP) and Agribusiness and Entrepreneurship Project (A&E Project), both co-developed by the Kwadaso Agricultural College and Engineers Without Borders Canada (EWB). 

"I want to leave in the rural areas, that´s where the money is"

In the A&E Project, his group developed a business model for a product they term ‘cocopeat’, an organic product to use in growing mushrooms. The product is derived from coconut husk, with added moringa. His final research project is exploring the use of basil to control termite infestations in cocoa production.

Nicholas believes strongly in the need to increase use of organic inputs in agriculture in Ghana. He worries about the high rate of inorganic pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers, citing an instance where Ghanaian cocoa was rejected for export due to the high rate of pesticide residue. Upon graduation, he wants to go back into cocoa production, managing his own organic cocoa farm.

Nicholas has confidence in the potential of agriculture to support the huge numbers of unemployed Ghanaian youth. He states that he wants to live in the rural areas, because "that's where the money is.”

Think outside the box!

“Most of my colleagues are frustrated.” He is concerned that youth find it is hard to get work. However, Nicholas doesn’t believe youth need to wait for a job. Instead, he wants to be self-employed and inspire the youth so that they too will think outside the box.

"Stop depending on others and think outside the constraints of the system”. He recently held a series of talks for his fellow students on ‘Overcoming life challenges for success in agriculture,' where he pushed his colleagues to think of business opportunities in agriculture and not get discouraged by the job market.

He explains that youth need to compare their situation to a harvest cycle.  “Look at growing, it takes time and then you harvest. So you also have to think about that in your life, work hard and plant the seeds to start something and then reap the benefits.”

Nicholas’ message to other youth in Ghana is clear: “There is a need to go back to our mother agriculture. We too can do something”.

You can reach Nicholas at +233247308668 and nicholasonwona@yahoo.com