Breeding pigs locally to make food production in Ghana more self-sufficient

When Isaac Asubonteng arrived in Italy in 2008 to go to university, he quickly realised that he would need to earn a living. He had always been passionate about animals since his childhood days in Ghana, so he decided to try his luck at a pig farm in Vicenza and ended up staying there for five years. His dream of going to university in Europe did not come true. Instead, he went to Munich where he worked in the kitchens of traditional restaurants for another five years. Sometime later, during a visit to Ghana, he wanted to cook Munich specialties for his family – schnitzel and loin of pork – but discovered that good quality pork was hard to find and extremely expensive in Ghana. That was the moment his business idea was born.

Isaac Asubonteng

Founder in Ghana

From the farm to the fork

Isaac Asubonteng has started a pig breeding operation in Atwima-Nwabiagya District in the south of Ghana. It is still small but has great potential for growth. Together with his wife and another business partner, he breeds pigs and produces pork which they process, package and market themselves. Farm to fork is the philosophy. Asubonteng’s market research has shown that 80 per cent of Ghana’s demand for pork is met by imports from abroad. Most Ghanaians cannot afford the imported pork because, unlike chicken, it does not come onto the Ghanaian market as a low-price product but as an expensive luxury item.

‘We can meet local demand for pork ourselves instead of importing it from abroad – which is both complicated and expensive,’ says 38-year-old Asubonteng with conviction and self-confidence.

‘A lot is expected of me. My family has high expectations, but there is also a political dimension. Failure is not an option.’

Isaac's team is growing. He now employs six people and adds up to 14 more temporary workers to support the business when needed.

„One district one factory“

Ghana’s President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo is also a firm believer in this policy. He has set himself the goal of strengthening Ghana’s economy and shaking off the country’s image as a supplier of raw materials only. With his One district, one factory campaign, he is seeking to drive forward processing of raw materials and products within the country and, above all, to create jobs and prospects for the country’s many young people. Agriculture is just one of the eight sectors the campaign is concentrating on and Asubonteng’s pig farm is one of the businesses in a total of 216 districts that the government has identified as a showpiece enterprise eligible for funding.

With hindsight it seems everything happened for a reason

Working on a pig farm in Italy was at the time just a stopgap solution for Asubonteng; what he actually wanted to do was go to university. But from today's perspective it was a stroke of luck – he learned a lot about pig breeding during this time and re-discovered his love for animals. He is now also benefiting from the five years working in the kitchens of Bavarian restaurants. ‘Sometimes you have to travel great distances to find out who you are and what it is you want from life,’ says Asubonteng. ‘Sometimes – as in my case – it’s only in retrospect that you see how the individual stages of your life make sense within the bigger picture,’ he adds. It is an advantage for Asubonteng that, not only ‘Business Ideas for Development’ supports his venture, but also the Ghanaian Government believes in his project, is providing funding for his business and publicising it nationwide as an example of good practice for Ghana. 

He also sells the pigs he breeds to other livestock farmers. And he is happy to pass on his knowledge because collaborating with other farmers is important to him. ‘We also need to start making technology work intelligently for us,’ he says. 

Start small and grow slowly 

Isaac Asubonteng decided to leave Europe for good and use his knowledge and his savings to start something of his own in Ghana. He decided to start small and then grow the business instead of waiting until he had enough money for a grand scheme. ‘If you are not willing to invest yourself, you won’t find anyone else willing to invest in you,’ is the most important message to everyone wanting to roll up their sleeves and start their own business in Ghana. He himself is absolutely certain he is on the right track. ‘Every time I come back from abroad to Ghana, get into the car and drive along the highways and byways, and breath the air back home, I know that I made the right decision, that I am in the right place.’ 

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