At 6° north of the equator, Ghana is always hot, so I welcomed the opportunity to return to Illinois in early October for some cooler temperatures and to help my family in Emden, IL, with harvest.
We’re in the process of developing a modern farm in Ghana, using technologies that fit our local environment and surroundings. There’s a large contrast between our family farm in Illinois and our farm in Ghana.
While I was home, I spent a few hours running the combine with GPS and mapping capabilities. Our grain was hauled to the local elevator with a tractor and large wagons over paved roads. The vertical tillage was run with an auto-steer tractor equipped with push-button multiple functions.
Harvest in Ghana was nowhere near that sophisticated or that simple. This was our first commercial crop, and we operate in a continual state of learning. The first rainy season ended in mid-July. However, with the humid weather we had to wait longer than expected for the corn to dry to 20% moisture.
Since we’re a startup in Africa, budgets become extremely important to conserve our limited funds. So instead of a importing an expensive combine to use for harvesting our small area, we used a New Idea 325 2RN corn picker. (The same type of picker that Grandpa used 50 years ago.) It was a slow process but we managed to finish with only one major breakdown.
Our farm is on the largest man-made lake in the world, and some days this can be problematic. Due to limited road infrastructure, we hauled our ear corn in 50-lb. bags in a large wooden boat from our farm’s lake landing to a port 10 miles downriver. From there it was unloaded from the boat onto a truck where it was transported 20 miles to a neighbor’s farm where it was dried and bagged. All commodities in Ghana are packaged and sold in 50-kg (110-lb.) bags. Corn maintains a steady sale price of $9-12/bu.
There’s no bulk transport at this time. Harvest and drying will become much simpler when we build a grain setup. For now we accept the challenges. Being one of the few commercial farmers in the entire country, we expect to have growing pains.
It took one month to complete the harvest of our first 90 acres of corn in Ghana, followed with a second corn crop. We get enough rain for two crops per year. This first harvest was a far cry from what I experienced for a few days back in Illinois. Just realizing the difference in technology and ease easily explains why U.S. Midwestern land is worth $10,000/acre.
Farming in the U.S. today has many pluses. On the other hand, land in Ghana gets enough moisture and heat for two crops a year.
Editor’s Note: Kristopher Klokkenga is a 32-year-old Illinois farmer who co-founded Africa Atlantic Franchise Farms in June 2010, where he’s managing director on Ghana’s Afram Plains. Africa Atlantic is a farm-management/farm-development company focused on production agriculture in Ghana.
He grew up on a 1,500-acre corn/soybean/swine farm near Emden, IL. His previous column on farming in Ghana is at http://cornandsoybeandigest.com/issues/tilling-new-ground-africa-s-gold-coast.