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Even in Ghana, not many young people dream of being farmers these days, but Samuel Yaw Ofori, now 36, has always been an exception.
At the age of 12, Ofori left home to live with his uncle in the city, as his parents could not adequately support him. He studied agricultural engineering and general agriculture but could not find a job in his field. So he worked as domestic help for a medical doctor and his family, who took Ofori in and helped him start a small farm. But epidemics of swine and bird diseases soon put him out of business. Ofori could never have dreamed that in a few short years, he would be raising dairy cows.
Ghana, like the rest of West Africa, depends on powdered milk imported from Europe, and so the idea of establishing a dairy industry seemed foreign and impossible. But, in 2007, Heifer Ghana embarked on an ambitious dairy program, and a shipment of 140 Jersey cows which arrived in the capital of Accra.
When Ofori learned that Heifer was starting a dairy project, he applied and was among the first people to receive a dairy cow from Heifer. "There were a lot of trainings and I put all of my effort into it. In everything I do, I like to perfect my craft," he said. "I fed the animal well. I watered it well. I told myself this was my last hope and attempt with livestock."
Ofori's efforts paid off. The milk from his cow, two to three gallons a day, provided a steady source of income for him, his wife and their two young children. And now with three cows, that income has increased.
Dairy farmers in Ghana continue to face challenges, from tropical diseases to market glut during the rainy season. But these challenges are minor compared to having no source of income. And farmers like Ofori give Heifer Ghana the credit. "Heifer has been a bridge that I used to reach my ambitions," he said. "People have dreams, but it is difficult to find the right person to guide you to realize those dreams. If you apply yourself you can make your dreams come true."
Ofori realized another benefit from the project in 2008, when he was invited to represent the farmers at a conference in the Netherlands. "For me, the greatest gift from this project is the gift of self-confidence … being able to speak in public," he said "You cannot buy that with money."