Kofi Boafo is our new intern here at Virginia Cooperative Extension. We are delighted to have him working with us this summer on Shenandoah Valley Buy Fresh Buy Local projects. Kofi is helping us in a variety of ways, from BFBL guide distribution to interviewing local farmers. Keep an eye out for Kofi around town and keep an eye out on this site for more posts about his agriculture-related explorations throughout the Shenandoah Valley.
My name is Kofi Boafo. I’m originally from Ghana, West-Africa. This summer I am working with Virginia Cooperative Extension as an Agricultural and Natural Resource Intern. I hope to gain relevant experience on local farming, current technologies and management practices in the agricultural industry.
I am pursuing a degree in Integrated Science and Technology, concentrating in Environment, Global Water Crisis and Sustainable Agriculture at James Madison University. At JMU, I am the President of the African Students Organization and the Pentecostal Students and Associates. I have come to enjoy the close-knit and diverse community here in Harrisonburg. I just learned that 50 languages are spoken here in Harrisonburg! I think that’s interesting for a city this size. Harrisonburg is a beautiful area filled with historical significance. The food here is great too, offering several options in continental foods. The weather I can’t talk much of since is not very predictable.
Throughout my academic coursework, I have sought to understand the local ecology and its impacts on farming and how farming impacts local ecology.The practice of various kinds of farming methods to understand how small-scale farms operate as businesses, observing local food systems and recognizing the impacts of globalized or industrial food and fiber production, and identify the strengths and limitations of small-scale farming.
I worked on a small family owned farm back home in Ghana. On our crop farm we cultivated corn and cassava as the main crops and some vegetables. We also dabbled in sheep, goats, rabbits and poultry on a small scale. I worked on the farm for six years during my teenage years, until the farm was handed to a full time farmer after our family relocated. My interest in career choice came after my experiences on working on our farm and also the inner drive to end food crisis in the continent by making agriculture better in my continent using sustainable agricultural practices to produce more than enough food for the continent.
After visiting some farms in Rockingham County, I have found many differences and similarities in the agricultural industry in the U.S. and Ghana. Obviously the farming practices here are better and far improved and sustainable compared to Ghana. The agricultural industry in Ghana is labor intensive, employing more than half of the population on an informal and formal basis, compared to the U.S., where only 2% of the population farms. The agricultural industry in Ghana focuses more on export crops; yams, grains, cocoa, oil palms, kola nuts, and timber, which form a vital part of the economy. These crops end up being exported to Europe. The government in Ghana focuses more on production of export crops than food crops. Animal production in Ghana is also very low compared to crop production. In my visits to farms here, I have realized farm mechanization here in the U.S. eliminates much of the labor involved in agriculture as compared to farming in Ghana, which is much less mechanized. The farms I have visited here are diversified, dabbling in various kinds of produce and livestock, which is similar to how most farmers in Ghana practice. Another similarity is that local farming is also patronized in Ghana at district levels. In a nutshell, the agricultural system in Ghana needs more improvement technology-wise and incentives for farmers to be able to reach the level of production here in the U.S.
My hope is to use the expertise and knowledge I gain here at Virginia Cooperative Extension and JMU to work with the agricultural industry in Africa. I believe agriculture is the only industry that when improved, could bring real growth economically and socially to Africa, considering the rich natural resources the continent has.Tags: James Madison University, sustainable agriculture