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Corn+Soybean Digest

Lesson Learned in Africa


I recently learned a costly lesson that many of you know instinctively. But for me, it cost me a crop under irrigation. Our farm is in a remote part of Ghana. Farming in an isolated region without electricity and a network of trusted colleagues can be a challenge.

You can reach the farm by a tractor path, a primitive road from the interior of the Afram Plains. The journey starts from one of the largest towns on the western side called Mamekrobo, or “krobo” as the locals call it. It’s about 18 miles to reach our farm and the trip takes about 2.5 hours.

Since our farm is on the lake, we are able to reach our home base using a locally made wooden boat. It’s a much quicker trip than trying to meander your way on a poor road network.

Consequently, we’re located where there is no power. Small fishing villages of traditional mud huts dot the coastline. The inhabitants come from the Volta region of Ghana where their ancestors lived and fished for a living. After the river was dammed for a hydroelectric power station, they migrated to the lake to take advantage of fishing the world’s largest artificial lake.

The people may have found their way to where we are on the Afram Plains but electricity has not. We power everything with generators, which are less efficient than electricity, but much cheaper if you consider capital costs to run power lines 18 miles.

I had several options earlier this year when deciding which generator to buy. I decided to buy the less expensive one, but one which I believed to be of good quality.

When you need to make a capital purchase for your farm, whom do you buy from? At home in Illinois, my dad purchases tractors from the same dealership he’s worked with for 40 years. It is not only the product he buys from the dealership but the service as well. I sometimes ask him why he does not buy another like piece of equipment from a dealer in another part of the state. He usually responds that if that tractor breaks down during the season, whose tractor will the local dealership fix first, the one they sold or the one you bought from another dealer?

One of my colleagues tells me that friends do business with friends. This is the benefit of working in a developed country. You are able to work with people you’ve known for years, people you trust.

The day after Christmas, our generator on the farm went down. It is the heart of our operation since it powers our irrigation. Mechanics were at our farm every other day for two weeks, unable to diagnose the root cause. I was home in Illinois for the holidays and I was confident the dealer would be able to get the generator working again, but it’s still down. 

TAGS: Equipment
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