The "Working in Ghana" Project

Cashew Farmer

[Mr. Abdulla is one of the "big time" farmers in a town of regional importance in the west of Ghana; he owns 20 acres of land. He has farmed for the past twenty years. Four years ago he took up cashew growing; he was a founding member of the local cashew growers association and now serves as its chairman. He has an Arabic education. Mr. Abdulla is in his mid-fifties, and father of eight children. Four of his children and five other people, including his wife, live in his household. Philip Awekeya travelled to the Brong-Ahafo Region to interview him.]

As a farmer and officer of the cashew growers association my duties on a given day are quite a lot. I normally start the day's activities after I return from the mosque where I and some of my fellow moslems meet to say the dawn prayers and to share the word of Allah. We also entreat Allah to bless each day and make it a peaceful one, devoid of accidents and mishaps. Soon after I return from the mosque I take either koko (a light hot porridge made from maize or millet) or tea for breakfast.

After no more than fifteen minutes for breakfast, I leave around 7 a.m. to visit the farms, which are about 10 kilometers away. I usually ride a bicycle or motor bike. Often I pass through the market on my way to buy soup ingredients, such as amane (small herring) and salt, as well as soap and kola nuts for my laborers who stay in the bush taking care of my farms and animals.

At the farm I go around to supervise my laborers. Sometimes I help with weeding or harvesting whatever crop is ready, such as cashew nuts, which is my main crop, or maize, groundnuts, or cowpeas. I usually return home tired at the close of the day.

On some days I leave the farm early to meet with executive members of our farming group, the cashew growers association, or to attend a demonstration related to proper management of cashew farms. I chair most of the meetings. I am happy to say that with the assistance of my able secretary most meetings are successful.

Farming brings in a modest income to enable me to support myself and my family, and to pay the children's school fees. I am happy about my position as chairman of the town's cashew growers association. I see it as a big honor accorded me, because through it I get to know many "big men" (important officials) who are capable of rendering financial and material assistance to my group. For example, I have gotten to know the top boss of a development organization in Accra. He has instructed his junior officers to link us with buying and exporting agencies. Thus when we finish harvesting our cashew nuts we have a ready market for them. In addition, my position as chairman of our association has made it possible for me to become free with the local bank officials. With the assistance of the development organization in Accra, I am able to obtain loans for our group members on fairly reasonable terms. Thus the members have been able to expand their farms without falling on private money lenders.

As chairman of the growers association, I do encounter some problems. One frustration is that some members refuse to pay their share of the loan we receive from the local banks. When this sort of thing occurs it puts me off my feet completely because the bank officials normally write or approach me as chairman of the group to demand full settlement of the loan. And some of the members miss meetings, which is a big problem for me, especially when we are to take a major decision affecting the fate of the association.

I have no regrets about going into farming, especially cashew farming. I am pleased to have the assistance of the development organization, which provides my group members with various technical farming skills, particularly in cashew production and marketing. Cashew farming is a good choice because the nuts fetch a very good price, and because it does not require big money to start, as is the case with pineapple production. There are also indications that cashew nuts will enjoy good prices for a long time since many European countries express a demand for them. And so long as we enjoy free technical assistance and support in getting bank loans from the development agency, I think that we will be on a very safe track in our cashew farming.

On the whole, I do not experience many physical discomforts, mainly because I do not do a lot of weeding. Most of the physical labor is carried out by my team of hard working laborers, who are from northern Ghana. My job on the farms is general supervision.

Although I mentioned difficulties with some members of our association, I get along well with most of them and share jokes with almost all. My farm laborers seem to like me. They approach me freely whenever they need some little advance in their pay before the end of the month. I treat all of them with respect, in contrast to some other rich men in this country who never show respect and love for their workers.

I am by nature an easy-going person. I have no problem making friends--I have many friends in town and outside. A good number of them have been of help to me and my family. I'm happy that nature has made it possible for me to make friends without sweat.

I have confidence in the possibility to make more money. I have many acres of uncultivated land where I can plant more cashew trees. There are also opportunities to expand my maize farms and increase the number of livestock I own. I stand to make plenty of money in the near future if I make full and proper use of the lands at my disposal. When these beautiful dreams go through, I will be counted among the ten top money men of this town. I'll start to own many big buildings and fancy cars.

My wife and children take an interest in my work as a farmer. They realize that their very survival rests on what I get from the farm. For example, much of the food served at our table comes from my own farms. And the money needed for domestic activities and for paying the children's school fees comes from the sale of farm produce and livestock. My family's pleasure in what I do on the farms to support them goes a long way to spur me on to work hard.

People in this town and the neighboring villages address me as "chairman" because of my position in the growers association. I like this honorary title, which is accorded only to selected individuals in this community.

My advice to young people entering work for the first time is this: Learn to feel contented with whatever job you do for a living. Bear in mind that what is important in life is not the type of job you do but your level of commitment and output. All workers, whether young or old, must constantly endeavor to do their jobs dutifully. They should not think poorly of the contributions they are making to the development of their community.