Researchers have carried out first assessments of Ekumfi Fruits and Juices Ltd three months on from its opening as a premier One District, One Factory (1D1F) project in the Central Region and have rated its economic and social impact highly.
The Danquah Institute has scored the fruit processing factory very high for its impact on employment and for improving local people’s living conditions. The rating follows an evaluation visit to the site on February 14.
The Ekumfi factory was among the first 15 projects commissioned under 1D1F, the New Patriotic Party government’s programme to spur bottom-up industrialisation in Ghana using local expertise and specialisation. The central site was commissioned in March 2018 and commercial operation began in November last year.
The executive director of the Danquah Institute, Richard Ahiagbah, said Ekumfi has proved that, given time and goodwill from all stakeholders, every district could leverage its natural resources for development.
The government must be encouraged by the Ekumfi success story to support struggling industries and more 1D1F initiatives than those already in the pipeline, the DI boss argued. Even operating at just 40 per cent capacity, Ekumfi is employing 80 workers per shift and 400 farmers on its 2,000-acre pineapple plantation.
The plant can produce up to three million cartons annually of its trademark Eku Juice when working at full strength and could employ up to 5,000 people, including outgrowers.
“This is the silver bullet Ghana needs to address problems of unemployment, poverty and import dependency,” Mr Ahiagbah said.
Creating new jobs
The director of operations for Ekumfi Fruits and Juices, Frederick Kobbyna Acquaah, said the factory intends to remain open to community activists as an example from which others can learn. The company is on course to achieve its core objectives, he added, among these being the creation of local employment and how to attract investment from external sources.
Steven Amoah, an Ekumfi native, was initially employed at the factory as a security officer but has retrained to become a forklift operator.
Hilda Mensah is also a native of Ekumfi and a pre-production cleaner at the factory. “I came here as a cleaner a year ago, but today I am a TetraPak packaging machine operator,” she told the DI researchers.
The other employees include junior high school graduates who would otherwise struggle to find work.
Build on core strengths
Ekumfi has used its marketing and agricultural expertise as a centre for pineapple growing as tools to move out from the ranks of underdeveloped and impoverished districts, the director said.
Home country to the late President John Evans Atta Mills, Ekumfi has historically been a centre for growing and selling fruit and is renowned for the sweetness of its pineapples.
It is on these core strengths that the district is now building a generational company, Mr Acquaah said.
Describing the impact the company has had on Ekumfi so far, Mr Acquaah said, “We are privileged to have the paramount chief of the Ekumfi Traditional Area, Odeefo Nana Akyin VII, as one the lead growers of pineapples for the factory.
“We have three schemes for our growers: the one-third scheme, the independent scheme and the factory farm. The one-third system is where a gang of 20 farmers who are paid a monthly stipend cultivate the land in return for a third of the harvest.”
Mr Acquaah said the one-third system had helped many local fishermen switch to farming.
Kankam Biney, chief agronomist to the Ekumfi project, said the company provides extended technical support for the farmers from land preparation to harvesting. It is in line with the company’s quality control policy to be involved from the beginning to assure the quality of every pineapple that enters the company’s crusher, he said.
Most of the factory workers the DI researchers met were local people, except for a few technical personnel, Mr Ahiagbah said.
Flow of skills
The changes in the locale are consistent with the history of industrialisation the world over, the DI boss said.
“Manufacturing opens up villages, towns and countries for the movement of essential labour and skills,” Mr Ahiagbah said. “Can you imagine versions of Ekumfi Fruits and Juices Ltd in every district?”
DI’s audit will provide feedback on how well the 1D1F policy is achieving its objectives.
Mr Ahiagbah urged the press to ensure that the Ekumfi story is told. This will encourage others by showing that it is possible to industrialise Ghana successfully through the One District, One Factory initiative.