Starting a farm in Africa has its challenges. One is sourcing agricultural equipment. In Ghana, you never really know what you are going to get. When we first started the farm, I needed a disk to clear and rip 60 acres. I looked all over for a disk but could only find a poorly made 5-ft. disk for $2,000. However, since I lacked alternatives, we bought the disk and ran it over about 60 acres.
Rain makes grain. This is something that almost every U.S. farmer hasn’t had enough of this year, and yields have suffered because of it. We, too, had that problem last year at our farm on the Afram Plains in Ghana, West Africa. We’d planted a 140-day maturity, No. 2 yellow corn Pioneer hybrid, which was produced in Brazil and imported into Ghana. I was confident the genetics were good, but due to the lack of rain/irrigation we ended up with a 27-bu./acre yield.
A farmer only has one chance a year to plant a crop, and we all want to make the best of it. The same is true for me in Ghana; but I do not have the selection of seed varieties, chemicals or fertilizers as the U.S., so I try to do the best with what I can access. Planning is key. In the U.S., you’re the customer with plenty of dealers competing for your business. In Ghana, we are operating one of only a few commercial farms producing corn so if you want something, you have to do it yourself.
I recently learned a costly lesson that many of you know instinctively. But for me, it cost me a crop under irrigation. Our farm is in a remote part of Ghana. Farming in an isolated region without electricity and a network of trusted colleagues can be a challenge.
Weather is a challenge that every farmer faces. In Illinois, it rains throughout the year, some months more than others, but usually it rains a few times per month. This is not the case in Ghana where I farm.