Yvette Tetteh: Founder of Yvaya Farm
“I was supposed to be a ‘creative,’ and business was supposed to be my side thing while I wrote or made films.”
A true Jane-of-all-trades, Yvette Tetteh’s interests stretch far and wide. She’s the founder of Y Yoga Ghana, a literary winner of the Koffi Addo Prize for Non-Fiction in 2016, a budding filmmaker (check out some of her latest work) and - most recently - an agro-processing business founder.
After graduating from Stanford in 2014, she returned to her adopted hometown, Accra, where she recognized a need for healthier snack options. Ghana’s agricultural industry faces a number of challenges including limited access to farming land, agro-chemicals, labor and access to markets. However, the large amount of Ghanaian-produced food leaving the country is what truly irks Yvette. “Everything goes abroad. We don’t serve ourselves.”
This issue prompted her to start Yvaya Farm, an agro-processing company selling delicious, wholesome and responsibly farmed foods from Ghana.
Difficulties of Farming in Accra
“I came to Ghana in the first place, because I thought I would have fewer barriers to entry, which I believe has been true.” She’s grateful to have access to raw materials and little competition in the business. “I can name on one hand the dried food processors in Ghana.”
However, she pointed out that many farmers do not own the land they work on, which creates a complex economic farming industry. “The business of farming and the work of farming are complicated and high risk. You need to have access to land - either you own or rent. We have many family systems, or people who live in the village, or rent from friends.”
Other than issues with land ownership, post-harvest loss seems to be the larger country-wide problem. “One big misconception is that we need more farmers. Actually there are a lot of farmers in the village. The problem is we don't have the processes in place to effectively take advantage of post-harvest in terms of preservation. People are growing a lot of food, but by the time they get to the market, the foods are just wilted. On some farms, up to 50% of mango is often lost post-harvest or on the tree because there are not enough processors.”
On Female Entrepreneurship
Like some female entrepreneurs, she notices how gendered stereotypes have somewhat shaped her behavior. “I'm just not that bullish. I'm smart enough to have made this business work, but I feel like I'm scared to take big risks which, in a way, is good. But there’s more that’s available.”
“As a woman, I have a feeling that I need to be very agreeable. Maybe it's just me, but when I have to be disagreeable, I'm constantly second guessing myself. I think to myself: Was that fair? Have I done enough work to judge somebody else? Should I use a nice tone? Let me tell you. Guys don't think about that. They just say [what’s on their mind].”
Moving forward, she is actively working to shatter these stereotypes in her work environment.
“A Ghana business run by actual Ghanaians”
Despite the many challenges, Yvette has successfully created “a Ghana business run by actual Ghanaians” and has a clear vision for the future of Yvaya Farm. She aspires to create more jobs in Ghana, build a global food brand and - most importantly - provide accessible food products for Ghanaians.
Check out www.yvayafarm.com
Follow her @yvaya farm