Dalai Lama Fellows launch project to reinvent pineapple farming in Berekuso

Dalai Lama Sq.Ashesi students, Sam Norman Sali ‘16 and Emmanuel Ampadu ’16, have been selected as 2014/2015 Dalai Lama Fellows. As part of their nomination, the team has received $10,000 in funding to implement their agricultural development project, the Sesa Mu Farmers Initiative. The project aims to bring pineapple farmers in Berekuso together to build the Eastern Region’s biggest farmer cooperative, and seeks to boost economic growth in the area.

“We had initially thought of working on software tools to aid learning in Berekuso’s classrooms, but learned quickly that there was little infrastructure support,” said Sam. The team, determined to contribute to growth, decided to spend more time learning about the needs of the people of Berekuso; in so doing, they came across a study done by faculty at Ashesi. “We were surprised to learn in the needs study, that of the town’s estimated population of 1,600 people, a majority was involved in farming.” The team also discovered that the most profitable crop for farmers in the area was pineapple.

“We spent some time speaking to the farmers, and trying to understand the trajectory of pineapple farming in Berekuso,” Emmanuel added. “We found out that there was incredible room for growth that could significantly boost profits for the farmers. We also recognized that if the farmers worked together, they would have much stronger bargaining power.”

Within days of their discovery, Sam and Emmanuel had first drafts of a proposal for the Sesa Mu Farmers Initiative and eventually presented a final version to the Dalai Lama Fellows Program.  Following their nomination as Ashesi’s 2014/2015 Dalai Lama Fellows, the two traveled to the U.S. for two weeks to work on skill-building exercises and to interact with other Fellows from around the world.

Dalai Lama Fellows at Ashesi

With personal authorization from His Holiness, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, the Dalai Lama Fellows Program encourages a new generation of emerging leaders to come together to address some of the most pressing global challenges. The program also promotes a deeper understanding of the need for ethical awareness and inner values as essential components of effective social change leadership.

Ashesi is part of an exclusive list of twelve international campuses that participate in the Dalai Lama Fellows program – along with other universities including Stanford, Oberlin and Princeton.

The Dalai Lama Fellows program includes three interconnected components: a meticulous selection process to identify promising Fellows at select universities; ongoing, personalized support from program officers and outstanding experts in their fields to equip Fellows with new understandings and capabilities; and lifelong participation by all Fellows in a Global Learning Community that will strengthen each individual’s capacity to lead, while fostering a sense of collective global responsibility, service, and action.

“We are looking to make Berekuso a strong success story for small-scale farmers in Ghana to look up to,” Sam says. “Together with groups like the Sea-Freight Pineapple Exporters of Ghana (SPEG), we hope to train the farmers we are working with, so that we can ultimately make farming in Berekuso, and Ghana, a much more attractive business.”