Graphic Business News

Poultry entrepreneurship• The story of a Ghanaian USAID AWE prize winner

By: Maclean Kwofie

A GHANAIAN poultry entrepreneur, Ms Edith Wheatland, has emerged as one of the winners of the USAID’s Accelerating Women Entrepreneurs (AWE) award for Sub-Saharan Africa 2018.

Ms Wheatland, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Rockland Farms, a poultry farm based in the Ashanti Region, won Feed the Future prize together with Ms Affiong Williams, also CEO of ReelFruit, a dried fruits and nuts packaging and distribution business based in Lagos, Nigeria.

As part of the prize package, Rockland Farms is to receive technical assistance packages worth US$50,000. The package also consists of an investment readiness assessment and co-development of a five-year business strategy.

In addition, the farm will get investor readiness and matchmaking services.
The award, which was launched at the 2017 Global Entrepreneurship Summit, is expected to empower women-owned businesses in Africa to expand, boost job creation and promote gender equality.

It is expected to help women to take their businesses to the next level by providing these winning entrepreneurs acceleration services, including investment readiness consulting, investor matchmaking support and business analysis.

Ms Wheatland received assistance from United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Ghana Poultry Project (GPP), to participate in the competition.

Acknowledging the several challenges women face in doing business across different value chains globally, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID’s) administrator, Mr Mark Green, said the award aimed to pay tribute to women with businesses that drive change in rural economies.

Supporting smallholder
Rockland is a poultry farm business located in Ankamadoa, Sekyere-Central District in the Ashanti Region of Ghana. It began operation in 2013 with 8,000 layers and has grown into a competitive enterprise with over 60,000 layers.

Its primary activity is egg production with plans to expand into other aspects of the poultry value chain.

Rockland’s larger end market enables the business to provide reliable market outlet for small-scale farmers, especially women through an out-grower scheme that includes access to feed and vaccines on flexible payment terms.

Ms Wheatland’s poultry business has supported women-owned smallholder poultry farms with equipment and technical training to help them scale up and improve their productivity and efficiency.

Daring beginnings
A Ghanaian, who lived in abroad for some time after schooling in Ghana, Ms Wheatland attended Effiduase Secondary School and Kumasi Technical University and earned a diploma in business studies.

She began her working life in the United Kingdom (UK) and studied at Peterborough Regional College where she earned certificates in bookkeeping and accounting.
She later joined an uncle in the United States of America (USA) to run an African Bakery in Rockland County, New York. During that time Edith took interest in starting up her own business and as a result she moved back to Ghana and scouted for business opportunities.

In the thick bushes of her rural hometown close to Ashanti Mampong, she envisaged the potentials of a sprawling poultry business. With all her savings from abroad, Edith started a poultry farm with 8,000 layers.

“I knew from my search that the poultry industry comes with lots of risks, particularly for women, but I challenged myself to be the difference,” she said.

Ms Wheatland’s vision of a thriving poultry enterprise that could provide support and a reference point for several other women in the community drove her to shun all the largess of a 'burger' local parlance for someone who travelled abroad and moved to live full time on her small farm in order to give it maximum attention.

She recounts how she and her few farmhands had to sleep in makeshift structures and were on a constant look out for reptiles and soldier ants due to the surrounding bushes.

Seeing the results of her hard work and dedication today, Edith said she deeply treasured those difficult times in her life.

Sustainable business models
Developing her poultry business from a startup farm of 8,000 birds to an enterprise of over 60,000 birds, 35 employees and multiple income sources, including the sale of eggs and veterinary and feed inputs, were as the result of deliberate efforts, planning, commitment, efficiency and good management practices.

Rockland Farms maintains an impressive production standard, enviable attention to flock health and record keeping.

A positive turning point for her business, she added, was when she joined the USDA GPP’s series of capacity-building programmes.

Edith’s mantra is, “I don’t know everything”. This humility and honesty drives her to constantly upgrade the skills and knowledge of herself and her workers.
She is delighted about USDA GPP’s capacity-building programmes in financial literacy, production and contracting, as well as technical assistance that entrenched her farm as a business.

Rethinking inclusion of women
Ms Wheatland is presently the Vice-President of the Ashanti Regional chapter of Women in Poultry (WIP) accelerated with the support of GPP.

She dedicates time and resources to support other female poultry entrepreneurs within the corporative.

She currently supports about a dozen female farmers through the provision of a ready market for their products, helping them access Rockland’s larger outlets via out-grower models and also extending credit to them with flexible payment terms.