Ekow Yamoah is also known as “Ekow Vulcaniser” — a name he gets from his work fixing tires at his shop in Anamabo in the Central Region of Ghana. But his nickname could also easily be “Ekow the Unstoppable.”
Ekow started farming on the side to supplement the income from his tire shop. He grows and sells vitamin-A-rich orange-fleshed sweet potato (OFSP), after learning about the nutritious tuber through a program on Radio Central, which broadcasts out of nearby Cape Coast.
Farming has not been easy for Ekow, who is blind. But he hasn’t let that stop him.
Ekow’s two apprentices from the tire shop help him with the work of growing OFSP, but Ekow has learned to plant the vines on his own. He uses the length of his foot to cut the vines and to measure the distances between the rows that he plants.
Radio has also been a great resource and source of support for Ekow.
“Because of the education I have had on OFSP [over the radio], I am now dealing in it, and because of that, I am now expanding my territories in terms of OFSP and my health has also improved,” he says.
Having experienced the financial and health benefits of OFSP personally, Ekow has used his learning to help other farmers in the area grow the nutritious orange tuber.
“Since I started working with OFSP, I inform others also to listen to the radio program,” he says. “When it is time for the OFSP program I do call people around to come and sit and we all listen to the program.”
Ekow then purchases sacks of OFSP from other farmers, which he sells for a profit of 30 Ghana Cedis (about $10 Canadian) in his shop, which he uses as an OFSP distribution centre for the area.
“People have bought from me to the extent that now those who used buy from me, they now have their own vines and they are producing for me to buy from them, so it has created jobs for others also,” he says.
He says that radio has not only been instrumental in learning how to grow OFSP, but also in marketing and sales.
“It’s the radio teaching that has helped me to sell my product as well as the banner they provided for me to direct people to this place,” he says.
Kojo Mensah is a maize farmer who was introduced to OFSP by Ekow. After Ekow gave him some of the roots to try, he decided to go into farming the product himself.
“Working in cassava was too difficult for me, but I have realized that OFSP is far far better than the maize and cassava. Although I am cultivating them at the same time, I see that OFSP is more profitable. “
He also began to listen to the program on Radio Central.
“For me the program is a source of motivation because when you are working so hard and nobody hears about what you are doing people don’t respect you. It is a little bit saddening. Now that they talk about it on the radio, I feel proud to be part of such a program.”
Ekow says he hopes all farmers will start to grow OFSP to “better their living conditions and especially their health.”
Reducing vitamin A deficiency with orange-fleshed sweet potato is a three-year project conducted in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Helen Keller International, The International Potato Center, and the Sweet Potato Action for Security and Health in Africa. It aims to add OFSP to at least 500,000 rural households’ diets in Tanzania, Uganda, Ghana, and Burkina Faso.