On International Day of the Girl Child today, we bring you the story of this young lady with a dream to be a change maker in a field rarely invaded by girls- Agriculture. Belinda Ofori Agyemang, formally known as Belinda Akoto is a graduate of the University of Ghana’s program in BSc. Agricultural Science with a major in Agricultural Economics. She also holds an MSc. In Environmental Economics and Climate Change from the London School of Economics, UK. We spoke with her to learn more about her interest in agriculture and the career potential it holds for Africa’s youth.
EDUCATIONAL AND CAREER JOURNEY SO FAR
After my degree in Agricultural Science from the University of Ghana, I had my national service at the Department of Agribusiness and Agricultural Economics, UG as a Teaching Assistant with an awesome supervisor in the person of Dr. Irene S. Egyir. I was blessed by God to pursue my MSc. Environmental Economics and Climate Change immediately after my national service at London School of Economics, UK. During my MSc, I was fortunate to do a four months internship with AON as the Marketing and Sales researcher within the EMEA Agricultural industry. After my MSc, I came back home in 2016 and after three months got a job with Ashesi University as the Project Coordinator for a project known as the Next Generation Cocoa Youth Program but popularly known as MASO. I got married on April Fools day and resigned from my job because I had to relocate to the United States. I had a long honeymoon and used the idleness as an opportunity to get my Project Management Professional Certification.
WHAT MOTIVATED YOU TO PURSUE A CAREER IN AGRICULTURE?
I have always been passionate about everything that relates to Agriculture ever since I can remember. During my primary school years, I always got excited whenever we had to study Agriculture and wondered why job opportunities relating to Agric were not listed in the textbooks like how General Science job opportunities are listed in the textbooks. I won the award for Best Agricultural Student during my primary school Speech and Prize Given Day. In secondary school and University, I choose Agricultural Science as my first choice. I see the potential in Agriculture as a career path
CHALLENGES AND SUCCESSES
Challenges: My parents were not in support of me pursuing Agriculture. I understood their concern because most people in Ghana do not understand that Agriculture is more than just subsistence farming but one of the most diversified industries. Another challenge was being in a class of 50 plus students with only 6 females and being teased by students from other departments. Yet, I believed in my passion and stood up for myself. (I mean you dare not say anything bad about my course in my presence, even if I was passing in front of the boys’ dormitory, I will tell you my mind before I leave.)
Success: I was able to convince my family Agricultural Science is in a way just like General Arts, Science, Business etc and even more; because you need to apply a little of General Arts, Science, Business etc to Agricultural Science. I think I am most proud of the fact that I did not allow any of the challenges to dampen my passion for agriculture and my ambitions.
FUTURE OF AGRICULTURE IN GHANA
I am a bit scared for Ghana’s Agriculture because I can not understand why we have viable lands, water, the perfect weather etc to succeed in enhancing the Agricultural Economy but we still import almost all our foods from countries that have less agricultural natural resources. Excellent research has been done in our Universities with implementable policies but a blind eye has been turned to these research. Government and policymakers need to sit up and not only invest money but ensure the effective implementation of wholesome policies.
WHAT ADVICE WILL YOU GIVE TO YOUNG GHANAIANS GOING TO TERTIARY ON THEIR COURSE CHOICES?
They should pursue courses that they are passionate about. Even if you have no choice but to pursue a course, come to terms with your current situation and find the joy in doing that course. Do not just go through the course without putting in your best. I have friends who wanted to do medicine but were given Agricultural Science, those who came to terms with it are doing marvelously in their Agribusiness. Never lose your focus in life. Things might not go well as planned and you might be required to divert from your passion/focus for months or years in other to survive. Do not despair, take what life has given you in that moment and survive. There is no harm in starting from somewhere and life is not a race.
CAN YOU ELABORATE ON SOME OF THE CAREER OPTIONS AVAILABLE FOR A STUDENT WHO CHOOSES TO STUDY AGRICULTURE?
Agricultural provides you with a career and not just a job. I know of five main branches of Agriculture; Crop Science, Soil Science, Animal Science, Biotechnology, Agribusiness, and Agricultural Economics. Within each of these branches, you can be
- Scientific research
- Marketing, merchandising, and sales
- Management and finance
- Agricultural production
- Agribusiness operations
- Agricultural waste management
- Opportunities in sustainable agriculture
The above list is not exhaustive. There are lots of opportunities depending on which branch of Agriculture you pursue.
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