You’re out of breath, you’re heartbeat is rapidly increasing, you’re body getting too hot, you’re legs working in overdrive pushing you towards the final hurdle- you finally get to the top and take one deep breath in and then let it all out.
I remember this feeling all too well from three years of walking up that dreaded hill to my university. But no longer will I complain about Egham Hill (those reading, trust me you have it easy)! Last week I moved into my host home and found out that it is situated on top of a very steep hill, not even Egham Hill can match it’s ferocity! The walk has been what I like to say an absolute killer, walking down is doable but walking up in the sweltering heat is not a kind experience- imagine the above description intensified ten times over, under a merciless sun!
Despite the walk, my first week in my new home has been great. The week started off with its challenges; having an upset stomach, adjusting to leaving the other volunteers and moving away from the centre of the city (we are in Weija, about 30-60 minutes drive without traffic) and in all honesty feeling a bit isolated. I vividly recall Kirsty from Challenges Worldwide saying it would be a ‘challenge’ and my first day or so definitely was- I can lie and tell you that it was plain sailing for me but it wasn’t. I am sure there will be further challenges along the way but for now I am glad I went through these because I needed to quickly adapt to my new surroundings, teaching me some very important lessons along the way.
Kofi (my Ghanaian counterpart) and I have been welcomed to our host home generously and lovingly. Aunty Vida and Uncle Dom have opened their home to us and the other local volunteers as if we are their own children. Aunty Vida is a vivacious strong-willed and independent woman, who once ran her own catering service and a salon, but currently looks after her adorable twins. Aunty Vida ensures we eat – often heaping large portions on our plates but I keep telling her I can’t keep up with Kofi! On Saturday evening, the family took Henry (another UK volunteer) and I out to West Hills Mall (a Westfield-esque shopping centre-a piece of home away from home) for a drink as lights were off at the house. We had a really nice evening just getting to know one another and discussing politics with Uncle Dom.
The Business- Asarco
On Monday Kofi and I began working in our new roles as Junior Consultants at our business: Asarco Food and Beverages Ltd. I’m not sure about Kofi but I was slightly apprehensive. Nonetheless it was excitement and enthusiasm that was the prevailing feeling. Asarco manufacture, package and distribute two instant cocoa drinks- one is a nutritional health drink and the other a sweeter hot chocolate substitute. In our first meeting with Mr Asare-Koranteng we identified the key areas the business required our assistance in. We were also given a tour of the small production factory and the 3 warehouses where stock is kept to better understand the business operations. As agreed with the business owner, Kofi and I will be focusing on three main areas:
- Developing a marketing and branding strategy to increase the visibility of Asarco. In doing so, we will be creating a marketing plan to address issues of target market, consumer habits, current market position, main competitors etc.
- Increasing Asarco’s online presence including a new website and social media pages.
- Creating a new comprehensive financial bookkeeping system for Asarco to ensure maximum accuracy of records for future investors and loans.
Kofi and I are aware that we only have 10 weeks to complete these tasks successfully but we are confident and optimistic that we will.
Agricultural Industry in Ghana
During training, I was fortunate enough to learn more about the agricultural industry, an area I am increasingly interested in. The Ghanaian economy is largely an agricultural economy, with 80% of the population employed in the sector. Despite this large number, Ghana is not a net exporter of agricultural products. Some of the reasons for this include issues such as rain reliant crops, government control and fixed prices of traditional crops such as cocoa, yet the non-traditional crops- typically those foods eaten in Ghana-are hard to maintain quality after producing and harder to sell. I was amazed to hear that Ghana is a major consumer of rice but most rice is imported despite the capacity to grow at home due to the rice’s unpolished nature- people are not used to eating this type of rice. Production quality levels need to be improved but the problem boils down to optimal production. For the unit cost to be low you need a certain output with continuous production but as prices are high people are not buying home-grown rice. We were told that there was a time when the government stopped imports thinking that domestic products will improve but they didn’t, instead they worsened. I am hoping that working in an agri-based SME, I will gain more insight into the agricultural sector.
A busy week finally finished with Henry, Razak, Kofi and I enjoying a cold drink, the breeze and a great view from the top of Aplaku Hills on Friday night- ready to meet the others on the weekend and share stories from our first week!
P.s I am determined to conquer this hill before I leave! I’ll keep you posted on my progress.