YEYAKA: “We have to Change the Narrative”

In Ghana, there is a phenomenon known as #Kayaye. Young people, mostly girls, leave the northern part of Ghana to the south in search of greener pastures. Most often, they end up living a hard life with the streets and lorry parks becoming their home.

This story, is Kayaye turned the other way around. Yeyaka!

Michael Kwaku Out Aikins hails from the town of Ekumfi Otuam in the Mfantsiman East Municipality of the Central Region of Ghana, same town that gifted Ghana President John Evans Atta Mills, third President of the fourth Republic. Upon leaving the University of Ghana where he read History and Archaeology Forensics, he was faced with the challenge of acquiring gainful employment.

The temptation to seek greener pastures abroad or seek a white colour job came beckoning but Michael chose to volunteer as a teacher and this took him to the northern part of Ghana including Kpandai and Salaga. Eventually he found himself living in Fumbisi in the Upper East Region. Here he saw the potential Northern Ghana has always held for its youth and took the opportunity to follow a long-held passion; Farming.

For a 28-year-old who spent approximately three quarters of his life in Accra, Fumbisi would appear a far cry from the life he is used to. But Michael says that a nearby town called Gbedembilisi, fulfills him. Gbedembilisi, a small town in the Builsa South District of Ghana’s Upper East Region holds two (2) rice valleys out of nine (9) valleys located in the Builsa South District.

Collectively, these valleys are referred to as the Fumbisi Valleys. Valley Two (2) of the two valleys in Gbedembilisi has a potential of a 1000 ha out of which only 250 ha is developed. It is in Gbedembilisi Valley Two (2) that Michael cultivates 24 ha (60 acres) of rice and does a bit of beans farming among others elsewhere within the district. He employs approximately 30 casual workers and hopes that in the near future the number will jump from 30 to the 1000’s. He does this alongside volunteering as a teacher.

Michael describes the experience as tough and interesting but adds that support in terms of technical backstopping from the dynamic District Director for agriculture, Mr. Sylvan Dauda Danaa makes it exciting.

According to Michael, “It is not all rosy in the South. In the north here, we sit on Gold. I think that we have to change the narrative. We have to let our people know that with the support from Savannah Zone Agricultural Productivity Improvement Project (SAPIP) for instance, we can salvage enough capital to do more things for ourselves here without necessarily going to the south”

The Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA) under its flagship Programme: Planting for Food and Jobs (PFJ) and the Savannah Zone Agricultural Productivity Improvement Project (SAPIP) has always supported farmers in the Builsa South District in the production of rice due to the potential that it has. In the 2020 cropping season, the Savannah Zone Agricultural Productivity Improvement Project (SAPIP), supported farmers in the Builsa South District in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic with improved seed, fertilizer and other agrochemicals for the production of rice.

Under the sterling leadership of Hon. Owusu Afriyie Akoto, the Ministry also established a rice milling plant to support in value addition. All these are geared towards pushing governments agenda to gradually reduce the importation of rice and keep the much-needed foreign exchange to further develop the Agric Sector.

This support is possible through funding from the African Development Bank. The African Development Bank had previously been involved in the development of the Gbedembilisi Rice Valleys and this current support consolidates the previous gains made towards the Banks Feed Africa Strategy.

According to Michael, SAPIP’s support was timely. He said, “It was timely for me because at the time that in the open market prices of products were so high. I couldn’t have invested a certain capital of mine into it and then run at a loss.” The impact of this support from SAPIP has helped stop more young people from joining a vehicle in the Fumbisi Market towards southern Ghana in search of greener pastures.

President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Akinwumi Adesina in an address to the G7 in the Taormina Summit, Italy in 2017 stated that “The future of Africa’s youth does not lie in migration to Europe, but in a prosperous Africa. We must turn rural areas from zones of economic misery to zones of economic prosperity” Adesina said.

As if taking inspiration from the words of Adesina, Michael, adds in a message to his fellow youth. “If you want to get out of your comfort zone and live above the normal pay slip and be able to assist others as well, then you should get to the valley.

If younger people come here, and dirty their hands, they will be able to make enough money for themselves and support their family and loved ones without having to travel abroad. Ghana and the world will hear about me soon”, he concludes.

by Yidana Hameed KobigBilla

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