Peter Kyei stands next to a covered mound in the middle of his farm, a half-acre land- where he grows vegetables and farms catfish.
He stoops down, extending his hands to lift the plastic bag covering the mound and reveals a lump of black dirt. 'This is how I make my compost for my vegetables. I use them for my tomatoes, pepper, and vegetables” he says, scooping a handful of the black, nutritious plant food.'
The 35-year-old is a married father of two and founder of Fresh Life 360, an organic farm located in the Eshiem community in the Western region of Ghana. A sales associate with a private business in the region, Peter acquired land to start commercial farming in 2018, 'My main reason for acquiring this land was to go into fish farming because of the proximity of a water source to this location.
'My motivation was coming from research and honestly, it wasn’t on my mind that I was doing organic, but I realised that that was what I was doing. I had always wanted the stuff that I do to be natural- even though I found out more about organic farming along the way.'
On his farm are two fishponds where he stocks catfish and uses environmentally friendly practices for the ponds.
'I started with the concrete ponds and would cut down stems of plantain and bananas into the ponds and stock the pond with water for some weeks till the chemicals in the cement are dealt with. After doing that, I fertilise the ponds with chicken manure that has been soaked with sawdust for some days. Before that, I line the ponds so that any bacteria or creature will die before I do the fertilisation. These give the ponds a rich green colour, which indicates that it is full of organisms and nutrients that will help the fish grow'.
In February, a friend forwarded a link to SNV’s GrEEn Incubation and Acceleration Programme to Peter - a 6-month business advisory support and training programme for businesses that were in the green sector or working at transitioning into the circular economy.
'To be honest, I didn’t know what I was doing was green and it was during the application process that I truly realised I was into green farming.'
In April, Peter was selected to be part of SNV’s GrEEn Incubation Programme and joined three other green entrepreneurs to be hosted by SNV’s partner Duapa Werkspace.
Peter holds an earthworm from his compost
Peter on his organic farm
'The programme has helped me come up with a Business Model Canvas (BMC) and a Business Plan, which I am almost done designing. They also taught us about the circular economy-that is my best topic because they took us through how to make use of waste in the environment and leverage on that by making the maximum profit out of the waste. This energised me to do more of the composting, personal and self-made fertilisers and weedicide. Initially, I was doing composting but the idea to make organic weedicide came from being part of the GrEEn Incubation Programme'.
Under the GrEEn Incubation Programme, Peter was also given a mentor to help guide the growth and direction of his business.
"Uncle Ben has been very instrumental. My challenge was with documentation because I was only thinking of only farming and videos and learning and putting ideas into practice. He has helped me a lot by sending me templates and supporting me to do the sales plan, I would say he is the engineer of my sales plan'.
Peter, working on his organic farm
Peter looking after his Catfish
'I have come into contact with a lot of innovation and creativity and the story is one, all of us complain about funding. Yes, we do believe there is misappropriation or misapplication of funds but when coaching comes in, it clearly defines one’s usage of funds. It has kept us in a position where we can properly apply the little that we get'.
Peter is driven to grow and expand his farm to create jobs for youth and the women in the Eshiem community who engage in wild fish farming in the water bodies as their source of livelihood.
'My plan for doing this is to construct more ponds. Now, I don’t want to harm the earth, initially, I was digging the earth to construct ponds but currently, I am using the tarpaulin, so you realise most of them are reusable tarpaulins which I convert into ponds. I intend to create more so I can employ the women in the community as pond attendants to do the sorting out, feeding, fertilising and harvesting which is less harmful than what they are currently doing in the rivers'.
He also has a very clear plan and strategy to grow his organic vegetable business.
'When it comes to vegetables, I want to be the hub of organic vegetable farming in the country and over the next 5 years, I want to be known as the biggest producer of organic vegetables and fishes in the country. I have purchased a 40-acre land to farm pepper organically'.
'The vision was unclear. I was just following a passion, doing my hobby. SNV and the Incubation Programme have drawn the line and sharpened my business perspective. It’s more like a business now than a hobby'.