“Seek advice from those who are experienced and can offer the support you need.”
In Ghana, women farmers are usually farm workers but some have distinguished themselves not just as farmers but also as farm managers. Mrs.Harriet Roberta Osei, co-director of Oserby Unique Ventures, operator of fish farms, a piggery and poultry farms says at a first glance it takes convincing for many to believe she is indeed a farmer but over the years her tenacity has been her hallmark. She was raised by her mother who ran a family business smoking fish and later sold paints.
While studying, Harriet would wash clothes for people during weekends, from the money she took to buy washing soap, she saved money and made toffee to sell. She also sold boiled eggs and iced water “I would carry boiled eggs in the neighbourhood and save money to support myself in school” she mentioned. She finished secondary school, studied home economics and got some training in catering. She worked in cafeterias, took catering orders, and worked as a dietician at Koforidua. She travelled to England where she worked in catering in London for the London Underground.
Harriet´s husband is a veterinarian and started the business “he has the technical know-how” she, following more her entrepreneurial spirit suggested “I could start selling the eggs myself and took them to Accra”. She mentioned “I was coming to the farm daily, cooking for the staff and helping out in various ways - I started visiting creditors and negotiating and built trust”. Oserby Ventures started in 2010 - Harriet´s husband invested and she added her savings.
Currently the business is very profitable, they employ 50 full time workers. They own Piggery (600), Poultry - 90K, 20 Fish ponds (about 5,000) and a dam. The fish is smoked and sold, locally and internationally and supplied to the abattoir. Additionally they grow beans, okro, pepper, harvest and these products are distributed in the market by women and provided to some hotels.
"My first victory since running my business was selling 2,000 eggs in a day and 4,000 the following week during a glut period - I now supply to egg wholesalers and retailers".
As far as challenges, they have come in many forms, yet she is keen to provide other services and expand. For example, “one issue with staff is that they don't always take orders seriously”.
On the financial side, “I have been reluctant to get financial assistance from banks due to high interest rates.”
“I have a goal to equip tertiary students with skill in agribusiness so I am working on putting up a facility and expansion plans include producing maize grits.”
“In order to be able to start your business you need technical knowledge; the environment/location of the business is also a crucial factor so do considering the environmental effects. Your workforce are an important aspect so think about the future of the staff in your dealings.”