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Agriculture

“We all win”

by Ewald Quaye Garr
Building a shed for B-BOVID’s oil palm nursery

Building a shed for B-BOVID’s oil palm nursery

B-BOVID is an innovative Ghanaian company. The name stands for “Building business on values, integrity and dignity”. The company’s purpose is to do business in organic agriculture, agro-processing, exports of related products and agro-eco-tourism. One of its managers explains the company’s approach. By Ewald Quaye Garr

B-BOVID’s business model is inclusive and socially responsible. The management is aware of social and environmental concerns. Its philosophy is that growth and long-term viability depend on these issues. The company’s products and production processes are designed to help address social and environmental challenges. The vision is to become a leading company in organic agriculture in order to promote human development, environmental stability and sustainable business. B-BOVID was founded and registered in 2004.

The company’s mission is to produce and supply high-value products such as palm oil, palm kernel oil, vegetable oils and vegetables for the domestic and international markets. In Ghana’s Western Region, where B-BOVID operates, 75 % of the people depend on agriculture for their livelihoods. At the same time, agriculture only accounts for about 30 % of GDP, which is the sub-Saharan average. As the World Bank estimates, growth in the agriculture sector is twice as effective at reducing poverty as growth in other sectors.

Given the increasing strain on resources, global food and financial crisis coupled with the challenges of climate change, the conventional mode of commercial agriculture is no longer sustainable. The communities B-BOVID is working with are very poor and traditionally marked by low productivity and low income levels.

Local markets tend to be inefficient. Unemployment is common among women and the youth. There is a general lack of economic and social infrastructure. The natural environment, moreover, is deteriorating due to climate change and over-exploitation.

B-BOVID realises that its own long-term viability depends on the local communities. Accordingly, it takes into account their socio-economic needs. To tackle the challenges efficiently, it must transfer skills and technology to poor and rural people.

Soil to table

B-BOVID’s philosophy is reflected in its three-stage value chain. In the first stage, it grows organic food products using best ecological practices. Although ­B-BOVID has its own plantations, it recognises the socio-economic and human development needs of surrounding poor rural communities. The company has therefore adopted an inclusive business model and seeks to create economic opportunities for these people by doing business with them and supporting them to improve their yields.

B-BOVID works with 1200 smallholder farmers. It provides them with high yielding oil palm seedlings, organic fertiliser and mechanisation services at subsidised rates. It also supports them with free advisory and training services to improve the quality and quantity of their produce. This is done in collaboration with a facilitating partner, TRACTOR (Transforming Rural Agricultural Communities Through Organic Re-engineering), a local non-government organi­sation.

B-BOVID runs a well-equipped mechanisation centre, the first of its kind in western Ghana. More­over, the company is establishing a centre with modern information and communication technologies (ICT). Smallholder farmers – including women and the youth – will be taught how to use these opportunities. This project will boost agricultural productivity, improve market access and result in a better understanding of what customers want. This will be the first centre of its kind in Ghana, set up in cooperation with TRACTOR.

In the second stage, B-BOVID processes raw produce into finished products. Supplies come from the company’s own plantations and smallholder farmers. the company provides a ready market for smallholders, boosting their incomes and securing their livelihoods. This approach helps to stem smallholders’ losses and indebtedness, both of which often cause rural poverty. An important innovation is B-BOVID’s Shared Fund which serves to distribute some of the company profits to the smallholder communities in addition to providing them with convenient financial services they may need to expand their business.

The third stage of the value chain is about recycling the abundant organic by-products from the plantations and B-BOVID’s processing plants. This kind of waste is turned into organic fertiliser and animal feed. Both are then supplied to smallholder farms at low prices. The recycling of organic farm and processing waste, moreover, substitutes for energy-intensive chemical inputs on the one hand, and prevents emissions from the waste on the other hand.

Organic waste, moreover, is used to generate electric power. The benefits of the renewable energy approach are threefold, because it reduces
– carbon emissions,
– expenditure on fossil fuels and
– the felling of trees for firewood.

This enterprise is also promoting alternative sources of livelihood in fish farming and animal husbandry. Using water from one of its fields, it has
created a fish farm. This model is being replicated in other villages. Similarly, B-BOVID supports smallholder farmers, women and the youth to take-up animal husbandry. The beneficiaries of these business modules are provided with fish and animal feed, training and advisory services. These diverse and alternative sources of livelihood ensure that rural people have regular income and food security to reduce malnutrition related ailments.

More environmental advantages

The effects of environmental loss and climate change on society and businesses are dire. B-BOVID recognises that if it is to be sustainable in the long term there is the urgent need for environmental conservation, climate change mitigation and adaptation to the phenomenon. Therefore, it is investing in efficient ­agricultural and environmental practices.

B-BOVID practices biodiversity and organic farming, avoiding the use of toxic chemicals and pesticides. The company is also paying attention to minimising carbon emissions which contribute to climate change. One approach for doing so is growing tree crops, cover crops and forest on fields. Plants absorb carbon and thus serve as carbon sinks.

B-BOVID is active in advocacy activities on climate change adaptation and mitigation. The company believes that educating people will make a difference. Its slogan is: “We win when we all win.”

Finally, the company is establishing an agro-eco-tourism park, which will support various animals, trees and food plants. The park will welcome students, researchers, clients, tourists and other visitors to enjoy the variety of organic fruits and a healthy rural environment.

Issa Ouedraogo is the founder and managing director of B-BOVID Limited. He is a certified management consultant in information technology. Before establishing B-BOVID, he worked for the African Development Bank as well as other international institutions and companies. He was declared Ghana’s best oil palm farmer in 2008

The company started with personal savings of about $ 600,000. As the prospects for economic growth improved, it secured commercial loans from the Agricultural Development Bank of Ghana. To date the company’s total investment is worth more than five million dollars even though it is still in the process of being built up. Most of its land of 800 acres is yet to be cultivated. B-BOVID employs 33 workers, including ten women.

The company is open to partnerships and collaborations that seek to advance and multiply the benefits in the linkages between human development (people), the ecosystems (planet), and business (profit) in a framework of sustainability.