I am John Atsu Agbolosoo, a Ghanaian student currently pursuing a Master of Science in Agri-Enterprise Development at Egerton University in Kenya under sponsorship from the TAGDev (Transforming African Agricultural Universities to meaningfully contribute to Africa’s growth and development) Programme. TAGDev is a joint initiative of the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM) and the Mastercard Foundation.
Soon after enrolling for my masters’ in 2017, I decided to start a pig business in Ghana because of my love for pigs. It has always been my dream to raise pigs in my community for high quality pork and sausages, and also offer consultancy services for pig farmers at a low cost. The other aim of starting the business was to reduce the high youth unemployment rate in my community which leads to crimes like armed robbery.
Inspiration to make these dreams a reality struck during the TAGDev orientation training for new students, during which I fine-tuned my business idea and started working hard towards achieving it.
About Pickens Enterprise
In November 2017, together with two other Ghanaian friends, Jerome Edem Abiemo and Felix Kwabla Agboyigbor, we started a joint pig business called Pickens Enterprise where I am the Director General, Jerome the Environmental and Training Officer, and Felix the Production and Feed Formulation Manager. The enterprise, located in Akatsi District in the Volta Region of Ghana, focuses on pig production and sale of quality pork to hotels and restaurants in the community.
Pickens is not all about making profit though. We give back to the community by training pig farmers on pig production in an environmental friendly manner and value addition of pork at a low cost. In the future when our income is steady, we plan to support disadvantaged communities and children’s homes as well as mentor young students to become entrepreneurs
Presently the enterprise has 20 pigs, but we expect this number to rise to 100 by end of the year. In terms of creating employment, so far we have employed two permanent workers; one responsible for taking care of the pigs and the other responsible for formulating the feeds.
We are proud to say that we produce our own formulated feeds and also sell some to other pig farmers in the community. Not to be an island of success, we have so far trained five pig farmers in Akatsi District on good practices in piggery.
The main challenges of the business include high cost of ingredients used to prepare the feeds, high cost of transporting feed ingredients, lack of permanent housing for employees, remote location of the office and high costs of business registration
The fact that I am based in Kenya while the enterprise is in Ghana presents unique challenges. I have to manage the business remotely with the help of the Production Manager who reports to me on daily basis. However, I still find this inadequate to keep abreast with what is going on in the business,
The other big challenge of being away is that it is difficult to sign legal documents required for the formal establishment of the business. Cash flow is also a constraint as the business is not yet self-sustaining and I have to rely on savings from my monthly stipend to run it. Sometimes the Production Manager urgently needs money to, for example, buy feeds, but he has to wait till I can send it to him from Nairobi.
Looking to the future
In five years’ time, we hope to expand the enterprise to 5,000 pigs and serve at least three countries in West Africa -Ghana, Togo and Ivory Coast. We also hope to employ about 250 graduates from different backgrounds and train at least 1,000 pig farmers.
As part of the requirements for the Master’s in Agri-Enterprise Development programme at Egerton University, I am currently doing my field attachment with Tatton Agriculture Park’s piggery unit where I go every Friday to learn more about pig management and identify business opportunities. This attachment has greatly enriched my knowledge in pig production, a lot of which I am already applying to Pickens Enterprise and will use to guide our ambitious expansion plan.
- Meet Agbolosoo John Atsu, an MCF@RUFORUM Scholar 2017 (Video)
- More information on the TAGDev Programme: http://www.ruforum.org/MCF