Youth unemployment and underemployment are significant and ever-increasing problems in Sub-Saharan African countries. One of the key factors that hamper rural youth to engage in commercial farming is the lack of employability skills, and expertise to generate and manage money. 2SCALE has prioritized the empowerment of the youth to leverage economic opportunities along agricultural value chains. In Ghana, the spray gang concept has been introduced as a pilot intervention in the Faranaya, Kedan, and Tamanaa partnerships.
In April 2021, a total of 72 youths were trained to take up the provision of spraying services as a business. Such intense capacity building has not only provided an economic opportunity for the youth but also guarantees that farmers get timely and efficient agrochemical spraying services. To further complement the technical training, these youth have been equipped with life, leadership, and entrepreneurship skills training. In addition, 46 youths have received the necessary protective clothing to further aid the proper use of chemicals.
Linking spray service providers with agro-input dealers
In the Faranaya partnership, farmers and spray service providers (SSPs) are linked with Faranaya Agro which provides quality and appropriate pesticides. Within the Kedan partnership, SSPs are connected to Paara Agro, a youth-led MSME within the partnership. It supplies farm inputs such as pesticides and granular fertilizer to farmers and is supported by 9 community-based agents who act as last-mile input distributors to farmers and SSPs. In the Tamanaa partnership, 12 youth have been trained and equipped to offer spray services to farmers in their respective clusters.
Within the Tamanaa partnership, the sprag gang sprayed about 200 acres of rice fields during the last season (six-eight weeks), owned by the business champion and other cluster members. Farmers buy chemicals in consultation with SSPs, who then spray their farms at a fee.
Such activities are part of the partnerships’ plans and efforts to promote youth employment in targeted agribusiness clusters and value chains.
35-year-old David Awini is a spray service provider in Goziegsi community. He is also a farmer who cultivates maize, sorghum, rice, and soybean on 10 acres of farmland. He has always perceived agriculture as a way of making income and feeding his household. David was not aware of existing opportunities in spraying, but through Faranaya and 2SCALE, he is now the most active sprayer in the area. He narrates:
During the training, I learned how to measure and mix chemicals, proper use of a knapsack sprayer including check-up and diagnostics, correct use of protective clothing, and appropriate chemical use based on the crop and weather patterns. The business and life skills training was also very helpful since I learned how to manage the provision of the service as a business. The lessons on record-keeping for financial management; as well as the need to save in banks or a Village Saving and Loans Association (VSLA) group were very impactful. I also employed the skills acquired in my farm and experienced improved yields due to timely and proper spraying as compared to previous seasons.
In terms of acceptability, farmers frequently call David and his colleagues to render services or seek expert advice on the type of pesticide to buy. They are willing to pay for the service, in cash or on credit. So far, David sees this as a viable economic opportunity since he has so far sprayed 38 acres for different farmers, within a period of seven weeks.
In the Kedan partnership, 21-year-old Solom Kenin appreciates that the training changed his perception of agriculture.
The awareness that I can contribute to improving agricultural productivity in my locality made me realize that I can earn money in agriculture through providing services to farmers. The charge per acre is 30ghs ($4.4) and I sprayed 72 acres during the last season. Farmers are happy with the work I do to the extent that demand is more than what I can offer as an individual. I however take this challenge positively and I am currently training my brother and a friend to learn the spraying techniques, so we can collectively provide the service especially when demand is very high.