The African Farmers’ Stories is an initiative of Support4AfricanSMEs that aims to amplify the voices of African farmers and highlight their pivotal role in keeping the continent fed, while exploring the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, their challenges, and possible solutions. It is powered by the support of partners like BusinessDay, Clarke Energy, Big Dutchman, and more.
In the latest edition of The African Farmers’ Stories tweet chat hosted by Edobong Akpabio, we profile Evans Larbi, the “Gentle Farmer”, an aggregator, facilitator, trainer, marketer, advocate for rural women & youth in agriculture, and CEO of Beit Farms, a leading company in the agricultural industry in Ghana.
Evans is dedicated to contributing immensely to the growth of agribusiness in West Africa, and believes that agriculture is as prestigious as any profession and can be treated with the prominence it deserves through more awareness and digitization. Farming, to him is his life, and an empowering force, and his farm a place for learning, to make mistakes without judgement.
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Evans grew up on a farm and was exposed early on to farming, going to the farm and to the market to sell produce with his mother. He notes that there have been a lot of positive changes in the agricultural sector since his childhood through mechanization, irrigation, processing, and export, while acknowledging that there is room for growth in income, storage, market access, road networks, and food production, especially at the small-scale level.
His agribusiness, Beit Farms Limited was started when Evans was a smallholder farmer; his yields and market links made while selling maize, plantain, cassava, and cocoyam encouraged him to go into commercial farming. Beit Farms aims to cater to the welfare of smallholder farmers, women, and youth, with the aim to educate, train, empower and create ready markets for all SMEs in Africa to make farmers proud of their livelihoods and create jobs.
On challenges faced, Evans notes issues like financial inclusion, credit, market access, and mechanization, but adds that he does his best to find solutions. He suggests strong farmer cooperatives with well-structured management so that potential partner companies can easily profit from doing agribusiness with farmers. Many smallholder farmers are not organised, and financiers, off-takers, and aggregators as such are not willing to do business with them; Evans aims to change this phenomenon.
He cites three factors that helped him to scale up from a smallholder farmer to a commercial farmer: consistency in providing products for buyers, even if it requires sourcing from fellow farmers, saving profits from every harvest, and learning about what crops to grow and who to sell to from other farmers. He also attends agricultural workshops, capacity building trainings, and does research online and on YouTube for advice on best farming practices before a new farming season.