Name: Makeba Clay
Current title/profession: Leadership and Organizational Strategist
Current hometown: Washington, DC
Name of project: West Africa Farmer-to-Farmer Program
Location of the project: Ghana
Organization that sent the volunteer: ACDI/VOCA
By Makeba Clay, the ACDI/VOCA-SHRM Foundation International Volunteer Partnership’s first volunteer
It’s so hard to believe that I have only been working with the farmers of the Techiman Maize Traders Association (TEMTA) for almost two weeks now. In such a short time, I have had time to get better acquainted with the farmers, aggregators, and many of those who sell maize in the Techiman market through informal encounters in the market, focus group sessions, and formal training.
From the beginning, it was clear to me that the farmers were very eager to learn effective methods for strengthening their business operations based on their participation in the focus groups and discussions that I had with them in the market. They were thoroughly engaged throughout the trainings and were also very active in the role playing activities. One of the most notable themes present throughout my discussions with the farmers is the role that culture plays in business.
As I mentioned in my previous post, Ghanaians are known for their hospitality and also for their deep value of relationships. Based on this, there tends to be a level of informality and a lot of trust that goes into their business practices. These factors, along with a reluctance to disappoint or upset members of the community, has created challenges with adherence to firm contract management practices.
An unexpected aspect of the trainings (and any group meetings with the farmers) has been the importance of integrating faith in everything that they do. For example, all meetings start and end with a prayer. Because approximately half of the TEMTA members are Christian, while the other half are Muslim, they alternate prayers between the two faiths. There is also deep respect and acknowledgement for coordinating meetings around times that do not conflict with Muslim prayer times. Being a part of this type of inclusive interfaith workplace environment has been a really unique and special experience for me.
Additionally, I have been very impressed by the dedication of the training participants. For example, each day that I arrived at the TEMTA Headquarters there were already several farmers there to make sure everything would be set up perfectly for the training session. They also spent their free time reminding other farmers about the training and encouraging participation. As a result of their efforts, nearly 100 participants joined yesterday’s training.
At one training, a number of women in attendance were quite vocal in their desire to become more engaged in leadership roles within the organization and hoped that the training would help build their confidence toward that end. Although there was a moment of dissension among the men regarding some of their statements, due to cultural traditions, there was still respect for the opinions of the women.
As the last week of training approaches, I am looking forward to working with the farmers to implement some of the practical business solutions (ex. record keeping, contract management and negotiation) that we have been discussing. I am also eager to learn about how they plan to support one another during this period of personal development, growth and leadership.
About the ACDI/VOCA-SHRM Foundation International Volunteer Partnership
This partnership was designed to engage high-potential HR professionals and their colleagues in impactful, skills-based international volunteer assignments in the developing world. The assignments represent unique professional development and corporate social responsibility opportunities and are developed and managed by ACDI/VOCA, a leading Washington, DC-based international development organization. Volunteers are selected based on their skillsets and assignment needs. All assignment costs are covered by ACDI/VOCA.
Makeba Clay volunteered with ACDI/VOCA's West Africa Farmer-to-Farmer program helping farmers build developmental capacity.