Interning on a small peri-urban farm in Sowutuom.
Under the harsh African sun, I raked through the tough, rocky soil with Pastor Seth and Auntie Regina as we prepared two raised beds for the farm. Over the damp soil of these raised beds, we spread the small seeds of tomatoes, carrots, and peppers. All our sweat and dirt-caked skin would be worth it once the seedlings sprouted and produced their fruit. For me, this is a typical Friday in Ghana. Every week, I volunteer at the Hope of Glory farm located in Sowutuom, which is two trotros and a walk-up-hill’s away from the university.
Through UCEAP’s internship program, I have had the opportunity to intern with Fair River International Association for Development (FARIAD). Due to my interests in sustainable development and urban agriculture, FARIAD placed me in a project with the Hope of Glory Farm. To give some more context, FARIAD has worked since the 1990s to eradicate poverty through sustainable development, and targets their efforts on helping marginalized groups in rural populations. Their programs cover various areas of development including: agriculture and food security, primary healthcare, economic development, technical vocational education and training, quality education, good governance and human rights, environmental preservation, and science, technology, and innovation. For instance, some of FARIAD’s projects have involved microfinance programs, youth education in sexual and reproductive health, and capacity building/training for small farmers.
Back to the farm: The Hope of Glory Farm located on the Four Square Gospel Church Plot, Sowutuom. Their main objective is to grow various nutritious food for the surrounding community as well as sell any surplus crops. Situated in a peri-urban community not far from Central Accra, the Hope of Glory farm is a good representation of the small subsistence agriculture typical of most Ghanaian farm activity. With 2.5 acres of land, the small farm is run by Pastor Seth and a few volunteers. Even though the farm has very few laborers and has only been active for about a year, it is quite productive and grows a diverse variety of vegetables and fruits, including carrots, cassava, pineapples, aubergines, yellow-flesh potatoes, mushrooms, cabbage, okra, plantains, leeks, brown onions, spring onions, tomatoes, coco yams, some papayas, and groundnuts.
In addition to the farm, Pastor Seth and his wife Mary run a local mushroom business called Sema Royal Mushroom. The small business sells both dry and fresh oyster mushrooms and frequently supplies their products to Shoprite as well. Pastor Seth explained that they hope to invest the profits from the mushroom business towards empowering adolescent girls in the Sowutuom community. The high rates of teenage pregnancies and single mother families in the area have made it difficult for many to create adequate livelihoods. Therefore, Pastor Seth and Auntie Mary intend to economically and socially empower girls by providing support through an empowerment group. This group would help build their social capital by giving them a space to bond with each other, learn of the opportunities available to them, and gain vocational skills. This main goal fuels their patience in producing the mushrooms as it involves several precise steps — first preparing the compost substrate, bagging it, sterilising it, inoculating the compost with mushroom spawn, incubating the bags in a dark room, and finally harvesting.
My main objective for the internship is to learn about their farming methods and support the farm in overcoming any obstacles. I volunteer once a week and help with any farm work (e.g. creating raised beds, planting seeds, clearing land, and aiding with their mushroom business). In addition to farm work, I have been documenting everything I’ve observed through photographs and field reports. Because the farm is fairly young and most of the laborers are volunteers, I am expected to convey suggestions and advice on how to help the farm thrive. I learned through Pastor Seth that the farm’s major challenges are water conservation and pest management, so I am focused on researching sustainable methods of combatting these issues. Some suggestions include composting and implementing an organic pesticide from the neem tree. Lastly, I am currently fundraising to provide funds to build shelves for the farm’s mushroom inoculation shed and other necessities (tools, fertilizer, etc.).
So far, I’ve learned so much from Pastor Seth and Auntie Regina (one of the volunteers on the farm). Not only have I been able to observe their farming methods, but I’ve also been able to learn about their lives and their community. I am very grateful to have had this opportunity and hope my volunteering and fundraising can make even a little bit of an impact on their community.