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Derbora Nyarkoah: A Ghanian Agripreneur Championing Orange Fleshed Sweet Potatoes

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Derbora Nyarkoah is an agribusiness enthusiast and the CEO of Derbez Enterprise. A company providing orange fleshed sweet potato tubers, flour and spaghetti which is highly rich in Vitamin A. With the goal to help compact vitamin A deficiency and reduce hunger in Africa.

Ever since she was a little girl, Derbora have been working on the farm with her mum and grandfather. Having been born into an agriculture family and spent her whole childhood in the cocoa farm and other mixed crop farming she has developed a passion for agriculture beyond what her mum and grandfather did.

Raised by a single mum in a remote farming community in Ghana, it’s been for myself and my single mother. In her words, “My grandfather taught me everything he knows about farming. He was indeed my best teacher on the field but sadly, he passed away before I was admitted into the university.”

After completing her university education, with the knowledge she acquired from school and practical experiences two years ago. Derbora decided to launch into potato farming and processing the sweet potatoes into by-products. Growing up in a farming community made her realize that the biggest threat to the agribusiness industry is post-harvest loss. Thereby saving herself from going through this challenge she decided to process her potatoes into by-products.

In her first year venturing into agribusiness, she totally lost everything; the investment and farm produce. Which was due to factors such as bad weather, people buying the produce on credit, not having enough money to buy bigger processing machines, e.t.c. But here is a girl who was not discouraged, rather she was ready to doing it all over again. The experience gave her the courage to put in more measures and strategies to avoid certain mistakes from the past. With the small amount of money she had left she started another farming season.

This time, the risk and losses were minimized and a lot of errors prevented. The crops she majored into are orange fleshed sweet potatoes followed by cocoa and some other cash crops. She chose sweet potato because of its potential in fighting hunger and helping in combating vitamin A deficiency in Ghana and Africa at large. Orange fleshed sweet potato was introduced in Ghana by the then UN secretary general, the late Kofi Annan. Getting the people to accept this sweet potato type, plant and feed themselves with it was a big challenge.

As a young farmer, she decided to repackage this sweet potato by processing it into different by-products which are healthy, affordable, and attractive to the general public. Her line of processed potato products are;
• Orange fleshed sweet potato flour.
• Orange fleshed sweet potato spaghetti.
• Orange fleshed sweet potato crisps.
• Orange fleshed sweet potato fries.
• Orange fleshed sweet potato puree.

Her entrepreneurship journey has really been very tough and rough especially as a young woman who is into agriculture dominated by men. Most atimes she comes across investors, industry leaders trying to take advantage and discouraging her but she remain focused.

Also Read: Leveraging Digitized Social Welfare Programs To Deepen Female Financial Inclusion In Africa

Although it hasn’t been long since she ventured full time into the agribusiness sector with 5 food products from her company. It is her dream to be the number one exporter of agricultural products in Ghana and Africa in 10 years from now. She wants the younger generation to know that large scale agriculture is not only for men, a woman can also do it. Without any investors or sponsors she’s doing it and proud of herself.

“As my mum will always tell me; there’s Gold in the soil; I was born in the bush and am proud of that. I Want to encourage the younger females who love agribusiness to never give up. Get your hands dirty in the soil. Don’t accept the fact that agriculture is for men only. Do it and do it better because there’s GOLD IN THE SOIL. Lets feed the world and empower the girl child.” Derbora said. 

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Zoe Adjonyoh, the Ghanaian Irish Chef, Writer and Activist revolutionizing African Cuisine

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Zoe Adjonyoh, Founder at Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen (Source: Zoe Adjonyoh)

Zoe Adjonyoh is on a mission to bring African food to the masses. Born to a Ghanaian father and Irish mother, the writer and chef from South-East London deepened her understanding of West African cuisine after a trip to visit her extended family in Ghana. Described by the Observer as “the standard bearer for West African food” and named by Nigel Slater as ‘one to watch’ bringing immigrant food to Britain. She was named one of “London’s hottest chefs” by Time Out and most recently has been included as one of ‘The 44 Best Female Chefs in the World’ by Hachette Cuisine France. She became a judge at “The Great Taste Awards” in 2016, which is known as the “Oscars” of the food industry, and in 2018, she won the Iconoclast award at The James Beard Foundation.

Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen

Zoe began by selling Ghanaian food outside her front door during the 2010 Hackney Wicked Arts Festival to ‘make a bit of pocket money’ after returning from traveling across The United States. After the popularity of the stall she set up selling peanut stew outside her front door, Zoe went on the host many supper clubs in her home consistently selling out.

Zoe has been making waves in the international food scene ever since. Zoe has taken her fresh interpretation of classic Ghanaian flavours to pop-up venues across London, Berlin, Accra, Russia and New York, and is a leader in the new African cuisine revolution. Along with her world-renowned supper clubs, Zoe launched her first fixed restaurant space in 2015, at shipping container community project Pop Brixton.

In 2017, Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen became a roving private dining, street food, wedding and events company, which Zoe ran alongside her chef residencies. The brand is a prominent force in the festival community around the UK, including Camp Bestival as part of The Feast Collective, and came runner-up as ‘Best Street Food Trader’ at the UK Festival Awards 2017.

Revolutionizing West African Food

Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen was the first modern West African Restaurant in the United Kingdom. Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen was the epitome of social, relaxed and affordable dining – where guests gather to enjoy Ghanaian favourites, notable for their heartiness and spice, alongside Zoe’s contemporary West African creations.

In 2014, Zoe began writing her debut cookbook titled ‘Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen’ and was released in 2017 by
Octopus Books. The first modern West African Cookbook to be published in the United Kingdom. Due to its demand the publishers decided to re-release of the cookbook in November 2020 and is the process of working on her second book.

Source: Zoe Adjonyoh

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Coco Olakunle, the Nigerian Dutch photographer passionate about humanity, inclusion and diversity

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Coco Olakunle is a Nigerian Dutch photographer with a background in Human Geography based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Her cultures and lived experience are constant sources of inspiration. This produces a photography style that can be seen as a crossover between documentary and fashion, where she always try to highlight the importance of the subject’s identity and background. During her work time, she likes to create a space where the subject feels comfortable and at ease being themselves and letting their personality show. Coco finds that when the subjects in her work feels comfortable, it is felt in the overall process and in the end product.

Her work revolves around people and the personalities they embody: Coco uses her camera as a way to engage with humanity and peacefully open the doors of full spectrum inclusivity and representation. She’s constantly creating spaces for her subjects to express themselves and discover who they are. The subject is always the starting point but what you see in the image is actually a snapshot of her vision: how I want to see us.

“For most of us, 2020 was a tough year. At the beginning of the year, all my jobs were cancelled. Being in lockdown and not being able to work forced me to rethink my skill set. I wasn’t able to practice photography though photoshoots, but I was able to share my experience as a freelance photographer with others. During that time, I got the opportunity to be in front of the classroom multiple times at various art academies, including one I had been previously rejected from as an applicant. To me, this proves that there are different tracks and ways to achieve your goals. Talking to the next generation of visual artists about my work and the philosophy behind it was a new experience for me. It was refreshing to bring other perspectives to the table, especially not coming from an art academy myself. I feel a great responsibility bringing new perspectives into these institutions and guiding students in finding their visual identity and translating it into their creative work.” Coco said.

One of my absolute highlights from 2020 was shooting the cover of ELLE magazine’s September issue. This was super exciting because I got to focus more on the fashion side of photography, and it was such an honor to have my work on the cover of such a big magazine. I look forward to doing more work in the field of fashion, where I can bring my photography style and cultural background to the table. I am constantly inspired by so many great African photographers, some of which are Nigerian, which makes me even more proud. Seeing all the creative work that comes from the continent inspires me from a distance, and even more when I am there.

Coco aim to get back to Lagos, as soon as possible. She said, “Creating in the motherland is very personal for me because it’s a way for me to connect with and learn more about my culture and my people on a deeper level. Being on Nigerian soil gives me a different type of creativity and inspiration from within and I love working with my people when I am there. My camera is like a passport that gives her access to new people and stories which I love bringing back with me and sharing.”

One of her personal projects is a documentary fashion series about her family in Lagos, which she sees as a personal exploration of her Nigerian culture and an exciting challenge. The idea for this project stems from when she was young. “I dream about Nigeria a lot and created my own image of how it would look in my head, and how my family would be. This visualization is my starting point for this series, blending my own vision with what I see when I am there. This project is a way for me to connect with my heritage and discover more about Nigerian culture, and, through that, myself.” Coco said.

In terms of personal development, she hopes to explore different sides of photography she is less familiar with. Coco is excited to master the physics of lighting, because she believes light is how you paint a picture. She loves learning new things in general, making the entire process to be a fun one.

“The past year brought me a lot of new opportunities and new perspectives which I am grateful for, and hope to take with me further into the next years. For the new year, my focus will be on sharing and creating supportive environments where other photographers can connect with and uplift each other.” She said.

A few weeks ago, Coco organized a ‘Creative Catch Up’ for a small group of creatives to reflect on the past year and share ideas for the next year. With good food, music and a table filled with (photography) books this get together turned into a supportive environment where they shared project ideas, thoughts and insecurities. Something she thinks they as freelancers should do more often.

Her work

Source: Coco Olakunle
Source: Coco Olakunle
Source: Coco Olakunle

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Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) Entrepreneurship Programme Application Opens

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The Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF), Africa’s leading philanthropy dedicated to empowering African entrepreneurs, opens applications on its TEFConnect digital platform (www.tefconnect.com) today, January 1, 2021.

This year’s intervention prioritises the economic recovery of small and medium scale enterprises (SMEs) and young African entrepreneurs, following the Covid-19 disruption to economic activities.

To address the unique challenges arising from the pandemic, lift millions out of poverty and create sustainable employment across the continent, the Foundation’s Entrepreneurship Programme will empower 1,000 young African entrepreneurs, selected from the 2020 cohort.  The Foundation will also open applications to an additional 2,400 young entrepreneurs in 2021, in collaboration with global partners.

The Tony Elumelu Foundation, which celebrated ten years of impact in 2020, is empowering a new generation of African entrepreneurs, through the TEF Entrepreneurship Programme.  Successful applicants receive a world-class business training, mentorship, non-refundable seed capital up to $5,000, and global networking opportunities.  The Programme is open to entrepreneurs across Africa, both new start-ups and existing young businesses, operating in any sector.

CEO of the Tony Elumelu Foundation, Ifeyinwa Ugochukwu stated, “The Tony Elumelu Foundation now more than ever is demonstrating our commitment to unleashing the potential of young African entrepreneurs, the key to Africa’s long-term economic transformation.  The pandemic has created challenges across the continent, but we know that with the Tony Elumelu Foundation’s tried and tested Programme, we can execute the largest Covid-19 economic recovery plan for African SMEs and break the cycle of poverty in Africa.”

The Tony Elumelu Foundation’s $100million Entrepreneurship Programme, launched in 2015 to empower 10,000 entrepreneurs over 10 years, is now entering its 7th year and has empowered to date, over 9,000 young African entrepreneurs from 54 African countries.

Prospective applicants should apply on the digital networking hub for African entrepreneurs, www.tefconnect.com

Source: The Tony Elumelu Foundation

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