Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Were going on TV!

Quite a variety today. First order of business was to get a good understanding of the cost associated with shipping pineapple to North America. (Did I mention it is the sweetest pineapple on earth?) We confirmed the variety used on the farm, Sweet Ceyenne. It is all natural and not a hybrid. Our meeting today was with Moses and Abu. Moses is the farm manager and Abu is the technical advisor on the farm, he has 15 years experience. First harvest is coming up in November and they will pull about 6,000 pinapple every two weeks until spring, the average pineapple weighs about 1.5 kg. The pineapple are package in 12 kg cartons. The farm employs about 15 full time and part time workers.

After our business discussion, we headed over to the National Arts Center. It reminded me of the areas in Mexico where everyone comes to sell there trinkets and other stuff for "almost free". The bargaining is fierce, we were lucky to have Toney with us to give us an idea of what we should be paying. We found some souvenirs and enjoyed the experience of Ghana "shopping".

This afternoon we attended a press conference for FAGRO, the first National Food and Agric Show (not kidding about the name...not Fargo, but Fagro). It's emphasis is on promoting and adding valu in agriculture for the benefit of reducing poverty. The theme fit right in to our reason for going to Ghana. We witnessed a great tribal dance and drum team as part of the press conference.

We finished the day with interviews with Ghana Pride TV show. The interviews with Delore and I will play a week from Friday on a episode that will talk about marketing Ghana ag products.

The story every where we go is the development of Ghans agriculture and finding markets. As the speaker at the press conference today stated, "We need take pride in the products we grow. That means growing quality products and marketing them to others with pride."

The Funeral

One very interesting experience while I was in the Akuapem Mountain area passing through a village on the way to Fotobi was the witnessing of a village wide event of some sorts. The people of the village were dressed in black traditional clothing and a group of them were carrying signs as they marched through the streets. I asked our host what was happening, he explained it was a funeral. The signs were to announce the death and same day funeral of the resident. There are no means of advertising in the village or posting a notice, so they march through the community with signs. Later we saw the village residence around a town square mourning/celebrating the life and death of the resident with music and dance. As were leaving we witnessed the digging of the grave on the edge of the village. I did not take any pictures, as it did not feel like the right thing to do.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Ghana Godfather of Advertising

Tony picked us up a little late this morning, but timeliness doesn't seem to be a concern here. Our mission today was to meet with the Minister of Food and Agriculture, the Vice-President of Ghana and a man they call "Mr. T", the godfather of Ghana advertising. On the way we drove by the area of Ghana where slaves were shipped to the U.S. The building photo on the left was part of the area referred to as "the point of no return."

We made our arrival at the Department of Food and Agric. (abbreviated differently here) and were informed our meeting was to be with the Deputy Minister, the Honorable Yaw Effah-Baafi. Baafi, the name he greeted us with, is from a farming district of Ghana in the northern region. He was very receptive of our initiative and gave us his blessing, hoping we would utilize some of the ag products from his home area. He told us to contact him if we needed any help

We then headed off to a distant part of town to meet Torgbor Mensah, Mr. "T". Mr. T was very busy and we waited a while to finally greet him and talk. His business is multi-fold. They have the traditional full service agency, a PR firm (In-Focus) and they actually build, erect and own billboards. He is a man of great stature with white hair. It was a very good conversation, as he realized we were in the same profession. We agreed to swap materials in the future. We met his PR staff and conversed with them about helping us with our Ag Expo in 2010. They are currently doing the promotion for the Food and Agric Show this November. Mr. T has offered an office and support for Tony as we develop our initiative. This is exciting for Tony, as a place of business, "a shingle to hang out" and a secretary legitimizes our efforts, as Tony put it.

Next stop was a quick meeting with a lady that produces and stars in a TV show, The Pride of Ghana. Tony is working with her to promote the pineapple business in Ghana and it seems he talked her into interviewing Delore and me. Tony also recieved a phone call to inform uswe would not be meeting with the Vice-President, it seems he was expecting a delegation of four representing the project and when he found out it was just Delore and me, he cancelled.

Delore and I spent time analyzing costs and thinking about business structure. After some questioning around production costs given us, we agreed we need to meet with Moses, the farm operator again before we leave. We will do that tomorrow. For you aggies, the production costs for one acre are estimated at 3500 cedis or approximately 2500 US dollars with fertilizer being the most costly input. Total labor cost on one acre is 2500 cedis or about 1650 dollars. Also tomorrow we meet again with Queen Mother to tell her of our progress since we arrived.

Monday, September 21, 2009

A Holiday in Ghana

Yesterday was Sunday and today was a national holiday in Ghana, the 100th Birthday of Kwame Nkrumah, the man who led Ghana to independence in 1951. Most businesses were closed and everyone was celebrating. So it goes without saying, we did not have many meetings the last two days. We did start with a good conversation with Tony and one of his business partners, Nana. We have started the discussion on the type of business plan we will put together for the pineapple initiative- costs, distribution, branding, and packaging. We have decided shipment of small quantities of fresh pineapple as early as November is possible. We talked about branding it under the Akuapem Mountain name, utilizing the Queen Mother as the story teller for the pineapple. We would focus on the sweetness of the pineapple and the great story of Moses the farm manager and the people of the village. We also talked about how NDSU could connect with the University of Ghana, Accra’s College of Agriculture as they launch a new strategic initiative of departments and research.

After the project talk we attended part of the celebration on independence, much like a 4th of July celebration. Tony then took us on a little sight-seeing drive. We started at the fishing village. Over 5,000 people in a small area, most of them grew up there and know no other life. They have no schools, hospitals or, in a lot of cases, shelter. Tony said there is a baby born at least weekly in the village. It was very enlightening, but difficult to see.

Our next stop was at one of the better public beaches. Restaurants, bars, parties..but no swimming, the tide is strong. We then ventured to Tony’s old neighborhood and met his son George, near the “shop” Tony owns. It's a roadside stand, but very nice compared to others we've seen.

Lunch was at one of Tony’s associates, Roger. Homemade Banku with red pepper sauce and Tilapia was the fare. Delore and I tried a little, it was very hot and spicy but I was able to eat a bit.

After a couple of hours with “the boys” of Tony’s neighborhood, we took another drive. This time we drove through a very old part of Accra to talk to the videographer who is doing a documentary of our visit. It was by far the worst part of town we have been in, not counting the fishing village. Narrow streets with goats, a donkey, kids and continuous congestion. Again, an eye-opening adventure.

We finished the day with Chinese food for the second day in a row…surprisingly it is very good here.

Tomorrow we are back to work. We are meeting with people from business and government that can help us deliver on our goal of bringing part of African agriculture to North America.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The sweetest pineapple on earth.

First a little more about the Durbar of Chiefs, Delore and I attended yesterday. It is officially called The Grand Odwira, with the event (a purification festival) celebrating the Okuapehene’s (the chief of Akuapem district) 35th year as chief. It was about a four hour event in the sun and humidity. They paraded around many chiefs of smaller jurisdiction within Akuapem with drums, small bands, shooting guns and dancers following each chief. Local politicians spoke, mostly in the local language so we did not get the just of the speeches. Because of Tony’s connections we were able to meet many dignitaries. It was very interesting to watch the cultural aspects of the ceremonies.

After the festival we stopped for a bite to eat. Delore and I stayed safe with fried chicken and rice. Others ate banku and Chicken with a very spicy red pepper sauce. I tried a little on my fork and my mouth burnt for a few minutes. Banku is a corn based food and looks like a scoop of soft dumplings. After dinner we stopped to see the queen mother, Nana Gyekyewa Opokua II to discuss our trip to the farm. Then off to our hotel in the town of Aburi.

Today we traveled to the pineapple farm with queen mother who is the founder and President of the Akuapem Mountain Women’s Forum. She is a stately woman and instrumental on this mission. We proceeded to Fotobi village, near the pineapple farm, where we met with the village chief and other elders as well as about 50 other farmers and other villagers. It was important to meet with them and receive an official welcome and to get their blessing on the opportunity to work with them. The project was warmly received. We gave them gifts for the warm welcome and proceeded to the farm. The road to the farm is up hill and treacherous-definitely a truck route. Most workers walk the road to the field.

They have about 35 acres, 22 acres are cleared and farm a little more than half. The fields produce about 24,000 pineapples per year, with 22, 000 hopefully getting sold. It is not organic as they use some chemical to add nutrients and for termites. They would like us to buy their pineapple right now so they are an eager group for sure. At the farm we were able to taste the product. I AM NOT A BIG PINAPPLE FAN, BUT IF ALL PINEAPPLE TASTED THIS SWEET I WOULD HAVE IT EVERYDAY. (In fact I am eating some right now, as they sent a pineapple with us.)

After we toured the Aburi gardens and stopped at the Aburi craft village. The village reminded me of the markets you would find in Mexico. For lunch we tried the tilapia fish, it came with head intact, but was very tasty. Tony and another companion, Kofi, had the tilapia with banku. I tasted the banku, no taste and salty.

We headed back to our hotel in Accra and are settled in for the night. Tomorrow is Sunday so not much planned. We hope to attend church with Tony.

Photos. Delore, Roger with Queen Mother of Akuapem - Tony and his asociate having Banku - Streets of Aburi - Delore and I with farmers at pineapple field - Chief Okuapehene at Odwira Festival

Friday, September 18, 2009

Arrived in Ghana

Long flight, but interesting. Sat next to a man (George Weir) who comes over a couple times a year to help set up private schools for primary education. Has two schools so far. Interesting conversation about the school system.

Delore picked me up right on time. Customs much like Mexico, check about every twentieth arrival. We left from the airport right to the Festival of Durbar. It was the 35th anniversary. We were able to meet many Chiefs and watch the cultural activities. Been a long day heading for bed.

Heading to visit farms tomorrow and talk about securing product for an export business. I will put more up tomorrow hopefully with pics, when I get a better connection

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Off to Ghana….A new initiative’s first leg.

I am honored and excited to be part of an initiative with Praxis Strategy Group and the Abba Father Foundation. We will be working with Sustain Micro Enterprise, Ltd. in Ghana. While we are there to take the first steps in establishing a program with 200 farmers of the Akuapem Mountain Women Forum for the purpose of developing organic pineapple exports to North America. We will also be in the initial planning stage for a Ghana/north American Ag Expo to be held in 2010. More on these initiative’s in future blogs.

Prior to leaving, I had shots/medication for Yellow Fever, Typhoid and Malaria. I left from Fargo at 6 AM this morning and will arrive tomorrow at 8:30AM. I will be picked up at the airport by and brought to Akropong, a rural community north of Accra, to meet Delore Zimmerman of Praxis Strategy Group and Tony Mensah-Abrampah of Sustain Micro Enterprise. Akropong is in the Akuapem region, a historical socio-political division of Ghana. The area is led by Paramount Chief of Akuapem Oseadeeyo Addo Dankwa III (whom we will meet.) It was an area known for the growth of cocoa, but since this has collapsed due to emergence of poor soil.
More to come…and if I can figure it out video.

Monday, September 14, 2009


Please check back... Posts from my Ghana, Africa trip will be added soon.