By Francis Kokutse, IANS,
Accra (Ghana): Former Mumbai textile worker Harchavari Singh Cheema, who came to Ghana 40 years ago, is today a celebrated farmer and one of the most successful Indians in the west African country.
From an initial export of about 70 tonnes a year, today Cheema’s Param Farms exports 120 tonnes of vegetables a year. Ghana, a country of 24 million people, is known the world over for cocoa exports.
“I arrived in Ghana in 1972 to work as a manager for the then Glamour Stores – a supermarket chain – but some years later, the country’s economy started to go down and this affected the textile industry and I had to leave the chain to do something on my own,” Cheema, 64, told IANS in an interview.
Cheema, who hails from Amritsar in Punjab, said: “I initially started a poultry farm at Gomoa Pamfokrom in the Central Region. I used to grow maize to use as feed.”
Unfortunately, the poultry sector also started having problems, so he started a small textile manufacturing unit in Accra, Ghana’s capital. “But this also suffered a lot because of the trade liberation that the government initiated in the 1980s.”
“Coming from a farming background, I had no choice but to get back to farming again. I decided to produce 25 different varieties of Asian vegetables for export to Europe,” he added.
He has been awarded by two presidents – as the Best National Farmer in the vegetable sector in 2006 and the Best National Farmer award in the food crop sector in 2004.
From a small farm in Weija in Accra, he moved to other areas outside Accra, including Bawjiase in the Central Region, Akatsi in the Volta Region, Old Akrade and Nsawam in the Eastern Region.
“The idea to spread was necessary because we did not want to become victims of the weather. Therefore, the spread of the farms enabled us to succeed even when the weather failed in other areas,” Cheema said.
Asked why he chose to remain in the country when Glamour Stores went down, he said: “Ghana is a nice place to live and my children were attending school which I did not want to disturb by returning back to India.”
Cheema described working in Ghana as a very good experience. “The people are nice and if you do a good job, pay your workers proper wages and meet your tax obligations, you would never encounter any problem.”
He said because of his success in Ghana other Indian investors looking for opportunities had sought his assistance to establish businesses here.
Cheema and a group of investors are in the process of establishing a packaging company at Tema, near Accra.
(Francis Kokutse can be contacted at [email protected])