According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the majority of economically active women in least-developed countries work in agriculture. Yet they experience low output due to several obstacles such as limited access to land, financing, and agricultural training and technology.
The gender disparity in the agricultural input sector hinders women’s effective contribution and the broad economic development of a nation.
Sepenica Darko, CEO of FarmerTribe continues to push past the barrier of gender stereotypes. The young woman has cemented her place in the Agricultural sector, contributing immensely to the development of the sector in Northern Ghana.
Howbeit, she faces challenges in her entrepreneurial strides. In a recent interview, with Ghana Talks Business, she narrates the difficulties and how she has navigated her way as a woman in the agricultural distribution sector in Northern Ghana.
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Challenges in Ghana’s Agricultural input sector
Sepenica Darko received a lot of pushback and constraints in trying to perform her duties. In some districts, she has been refused registration as a member of the input dealers association all in the account of her being a woman and not from their district.
“In certain districts, you have to be born and bred there. If it is not your native community, they wouldn’t like you. With some, I found it difficult to register with the input dealers association because they had said it emphatically that they don’t want me in the group,” she recounted.
“There’s a lot of heartbreak, threats, and a lot of frustration as a woman in the sector,” she further said.
Despite the pushback, Sepenica still hopes she will be accepted hence, continues to fight for her seat at the table.
Poor financial access
She further cited collateral demand from banks as a challenge in the agricultural sector. According to her, most banks are unwilling to take the risks on young entrepreneurs that do not have collateral despite having great financial records of their business and positive outlook.
“Being an entrepreneur, I have realized that no matter how good records are, or no matter how good your saving history is, if you do not have collateral, you will start at a disadvantage. Even with the presentation of collateral, the banks give out loans at a lower value than the value of the collateral.
“If I have a vehicle and you have to give me only 60% the worth of the vehicle and I still have to buy a comprehensive insurance to cover the vehicle in order to serve as a collateral,…it doesn’t speak well and is quite disturbing,” Sepenica Darko said.
Long loan processing time
The agricultural sector is bound by times and seasons hence loan processing time for the sector should fit into their time and season. She disclosed that they are however faced with the challenge of long and tedious loan processing periods and procedures. Where even after 6 months banks continue to request certain documents and still undertake due diligence. This she says isn’t worth it.
“We being in the agric sector, we work with time and season so if I know my season is beginning in May and I apply in April, that one month, in my opinion, should be enough for me to be able to prove that I deserve that money or for you to make the decision that you will give me that money,” said Sepencia.
This is because, for most people in the agricultural sector, the season year is 4 months and if it takes 6 months or even 2 months before they acquire the loan, it is pointless.
Navigating the challenges in Ghana’s agricultural Input sector
To surmount the challenges, Sepenica applied three basic fundamental entrepreneurial attributes which are perseverance, integrity and determination. Keeping her eye on the vision of Farmertribe, Sepenica plans to keep pushing in districts where she is not accepted and fulfil her vision to impact the lives of farmers and the communities in which they find themselves.
“I am seeing the bigger picture of what I want FarmerTribe to be like so I am determined to make it happen,” Sepenica said.
Competitions and Grants
Sepenica also engages in various competitions to receive grants and financial aid. She won US$5,000 from the Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme, a $100 million commitment by Tony Elumelu to empower 10,000 African entrepreneurs across 54 countries on the continent. She also received US$29,000 in February of 2020 from the D-Prize competition which is focused on supporting “new entrepreneurs who distribute proven poverty interventions.”
To also navigate the challenges, Sepenica sought help from mentors and learnt from their experiences which she says was vital to growing her business.