Farmer Davies Korboe champions youth involvement in agriculture

By John Agaba

March 25, 2021

Davies Korboe always wanted to become a farmer. As a young man growing up in the suburbs of Accra, Ghana, he owned a small garden adjacent his home where he planted fruits, maize and a wide variety of fast-maturing vegetables.

So, it wasn’t surprising that Korboe chose to cultivate a teak plantation immediately after graduating from college in 2002, rather than chasing a white-collar job. Just seven years later, he was voted Ghana’s best farmer at the age of 39 — the youngest person to win the award.

“I have always believed that I can make it big in farming and that agriculture can be a gateway to sustainable livelihoods and food security for most of our African population,” said Korboe, who has made it a personal mission to increase youth involvement in agriculture. “We just have to invest in technology, prioritize disease resistant varieties that are higher yielding and improve our post-harvest handling.

“We have to look at agriculture as a business and run it like one,” he continued. “We have to engage in value addition and produce better quality foodstuffs that can compete globally.”

Korboe has planted arguably one of the best mango estates in Somanya, Southern Ghana. He grows hybrid varieties that are higher yielding, earning millions from the enterprise. Apart from mangoes, the farmer also plants maize, millet and other cereals on his 2,000 hectares — and rears livestock, too.

He is also a consultant, giving all manner of advice regarding improved farming practices, and helped start a community radio station, Rites 90.1 FM, that broadcasts everything agriculture, mainly its opportunities.

“He’s ever on [the] radio encouraging young men and women to take up farming,” said Ahmed Saaka, a farmer and close associate of the Korboe family. “He runs an agriculture mentorship program in Ghana where he recruits about 20 young people every year who directly learn from him. He involves youths in almost all of his projects. He’s employed thousands of them.”

Youth tour Davies Korboe’s mango storage facility.

“The young people need role models,” Korboe said. “That’s why we try to mentor them. We want them to know that there is huge potential in farming. We try to encourage them to join the sector, whether it’s at the initial farming stage or at production or value addition levels. We want the youths to participate across the value chain because agriculture can liberate us and young people have a role in all of this.”

Takyi Stagaster, an agribusiness consultant in Accra, has known Korboe since 2005. “I think Davies sleeps and dreams farming,” Stagaster said. “He is obsessed with agribusiness and what he can do to improve the sector. He is a member of different agricultural boards here and everyone ‘who is who’ in the sector knows Davies.”

Korboe credits his father with influencing his decision to farm.

“My dad was a commissioner/minister in the eastern region when I was five years,” said Korboe. “But I didn’t meet my dad who was a politician. I met my dad who was a farmer. He had lots of cattle. He planted cocoa, ginger etc… and was making lots of money. He taught me that I didn’t need a government job to make money, that I didn’t have to be in an office to change lives. He taught me that I could cause impact in whatever I put my mind to.”

After college, Korboe returned to his village in the southern part of the country and cultivated a teak plantation. “That was when the forest cover in Ghana was being deforested,” he recalled.  After teak, it was mangoes.

“I just had to change a few things,” he said. “I visited some mango growers to learn how they do their stuff and to get a picture of what it would take me to plant a successful garden. I had done my market research and knew there was demand for mangoes in Ghana. Different juice makers needed mangoes, and I could supply them.”

Korboe planted his mango estate in 2003, initially starting with about 1000 trees. He made his first harvest four years later and has never looked back.

He collects between five and eight metric tonnes of mangoes per hectare, selling the harvest to local juice processors. But he has an ambitious target to process the juice and export it himself this year.

“At the end of the day we have to think how we can add value to what we produce,” Korboe said. “Agriculture can be a huge revelation for all of us in Ghana and Africa.”

Korboe has since planted another 1,250 hectares of mangoes in the northern part of Ghana. He expects the plants to start fruiting next year.

Marjorie Abdin, vice president of the Federation of Associations of Ghanaian Exporters [FAGE], met Korboe more than 10 years ago when he was president of a mango association. She said she has never seen anyone more dedicated to farming.

“His passion for agriculture generally and his commitment to improving the lot of mango growers and the mango industry specifically made him a perfect choice for me to rely on for guidance and information,” she said. “His easy-going manner and willingness to assist in matters that affect the private sector as a whole have made him popular with rural farmers, government leaders and captains of the industry.”

As a man, he is hardworking, God fearing, kind and generous, Abdin said.

Boamah Nyamekye, who described Korboe as his “student,” said the farmer has all the attributes to become the best agribusiness entrepreneur in Ghana and beyond.

“He understands that agriculture is a business,” Nyamekye said. “He never ventures into planting any specific crop without identifying the market first. He is disciplined, dedicated and committed to his farms.”

But he’s unselfish in all his work. So, when he is not at the farm, Korboe is typically out in the community teaching young people the importance of improved farming practices, or at local government offices advocating for better policies that can improve the country’s food production.

Korboe has high ambitions for his farm and is willing to do the work to make them a reality. “In the next 15 years we want to be the best agro business company in Africa, competing with other global farms,” he said.