The "Working in Ghana" Project

Agricultural Advisor, Development Organization

[Mr. Nartey has worked for his present employer, a Western agricultural development organization based in Accra, for a year and a half. He previously worked in government and for a seed company. He holds a Master of Science degree in agriculture. Mr. Nartey is in his mid-forties. He and his wife have two young children. He conversed with Philip Awekeya in the offices of the development organization.]

My job is to assist rural farmers in acquiring improved knowledge and skills related to their farming activities.

On a typical day, I wake up around 6 a.m. to listen to the national news and write my field report. After taking breakfast at 7, I go out to the villages to organize farmers for talks and demonstration lessons on cultivation, harvest, storage, and marketing techniques for cashew nuts. I inform the farmers of ways to control pests and diseases and how to dry and store their produce so as to attract good prices from buyers.

I also educate them on how to invest the money they get from sale of their crops, so they can improve their living condition. I talk to them about the importance of good nutrition and sanitation, keeping in mind that they will thus enjoy longer and healthier lives, and produce more high quality products for sale to exporters.

Frankly speaking, the work is quite taxing. It really takes a lot of time and energy, making me totally exhausted at the end of each working day. It is tiring to move from village to village organizing farmers so they can qualify for loans from financial institutions and manage their farms properly. And I sometimes run into problems. It is frustrating when some members of farmers' groups refuse to pay their shares.

But I am pleased to say that I enjoy my work. I have reliable transportation for getting to work and out in the field. I have no problems with logistics in the field. Whenever I request chemicals to carry out demonstrations in the field on diseases or pest control, I readily get them. The work provides a lot of job satisfaction. It is challenging, and I have available to me the required materials. I have no regrets starting work with this organization, and would encourage any hard working young man or lady to accept work here and thereby better the lot of rural farmers.

My performance has been good. So far my boss has not found my output wanting. I do my best in the field and in writing field reports. My contributions to monthly meetings is quite positive, and has won me a lot of respect from my co-workers and my boss as well. I am proud of my contributions to the goals of this organization.

Unlike other organizations where workers see themselves being far removed from their supervisor, in this organization the situation is quite different. Almost all of us--senior and junior workers alike--regard one another as brother and sister. I get along easily with almost everyone. I call my boss by his first name, and he calls me by mine. So it is with the other officers. There is no room here for formalities.

However we do not in any way allow our free and open relationship to interfere with our official work. Each of us ensures that he or she carries out assigned duties to the letter. As a result of our cordial working relationship each of us seems to trust and respect one another. We thus do not harbor the unnecessary suspicions that exist in many other work places, where the junior officers keep to their small shells, or worse still, where most of the workers are not on talking terms and maintain a "cat and dog" relationship.

There is a good chance for me to be promoted and enjoy financial gains. For instance, from time to time our monthly pay is adjusted to reflect the rising cost of living in this country. We never have to struggle or go on demonstrations or worse still, embark on strikes before our salaries are adjusted.

I believe that there is room at the top for me here, especially because of my academic qualifications and work experience. I stand a chance of rising to the position of deputy director of programs because of my rich curriculum vitae. With time, long life and good health, surely I will become the next-in-command in this organization.

There are other benefits as well, such as health benefits. If I or any member of my family falls sick, the organization will readily refund the expenses I incur. I have already mentioned transport. I have one of the organization's vehicles for use in trekking and for personal use after work.

I don't belong to any workers' association. The organization I serve is a non-governmental organization and does not take kindly to its employees joining or forming workers' unions. Such unions are perceived as seeking to harass employers for more pay whenever increases in the cost of living puts strains on workers' pockets.

My family is happy with the work I do for a number of reasons. First, when I return from the field where I have assisted farmers I bring back plenty of foodstuffs, such as yams and plantain for the family's use. I also receive overnight allowances for the nights I am away from Accra. With this additional income I can give my wife sufficient money for her needs and for the kitchen. I am also able to foot the children's school fees without too much strain. Otherwise I might have had to approach friends for a "soft loan." But I have managed to avoid borrowing money and having to pay interest.

I am also happy about the field treks, because when I return my wife warmly welcomes me. This warm gesture confirms the saying, "absence makes the heart grow fonder." And this work has helped me widen my social relations. I am happy to have made many friends through my job.

In my view, every worker really works for himself or herself. Hence it is better to take up the job seriously and give the best of your abilities and energy so as to safeguard the organization from collapse. All workers must constantly bear in mind that they stand the greatest risk of being without a job if they allow what is assigned to them to fade out through neglect and lack of concern for the unit that engages them. Every worker must strive to make a name in his or her job by rendering whole-hearted and devoted service, for a good name is better than silver and gold.