Alexander Appiah, 32, joined a farmers group in the village of Nkwabeng, Ghana, four years ago. He was among the youngest of those Heifer Ghana staff had seen apply to Heifer for assistance. Most young men his age were abandoning their villages in favor of nearby cities of Techiman or Kumasi and the promise of more work and better wages.

But Alexander didn't want to give up on his village. When he began trainings he said he learned that Heifer "brings a lot of unity and togetherness to a community." An important trait to him because one often needs the help of neighbors.

When he joined the group, Alexander farmed a quarter-acre of cassava and yams. It was subsistence-level farming. He also worked as a farm laborer during the regular farming season, which left Alexander and his wife scraping by during the off season. 

From his initial gift of five beehives and 20 laying hens, Alexander is now one of the villages more successful poultry farmers. He has signed a contract with Heifer to brood and provide pullets to the organization for placement with other families in need. He's also been elected the Vice Secretary of the farmers group, and is in charge of mobilization—or helping spread the word—about the groups activities and services.

He is also a role model in his small village. Young men look to him and see that a life can be made in agriculture. Alexander trains these men and others in what he learned from Heifer, he said. As one Heifer staffer said, "Alexander is a good teacher because he started from nothing. He can relate to them."

Where he and his wife once shared a mud-walled and roofed home with their two daughters, Alexander has now built them a concrete home with iron roofing. He's also in the process of building a new home for his parents to improve their standard of living. And that's not all.

Alexander now makes nearly $200 a month from just his chickens alone. He has put his two daughters into private schools and is saving for their college educations. And he still dreams of owning his own agricultural general store, as well.

If I learned one thing about the Ghanaian farmers I spoke with, it's that they possess an amazing work ethic. Alexander's whole village considers him a success; his parents are proud of him. Yet, he's not done. While he's helping others fulfill their dreams, he knows there's more out there for him. 

Author

Annie Bergman

Bergman is a Global Communications Manager for Heifer and helps plan, assign and develop content for the nonprofit’s website, magazine and blog. Bergman has interviewed survivors of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, beekeepers in Honduras, women’s groups in India and war widows in Kosovo in her six years at Heifer. Bergman received her bachelor’s degree in English Language and Literature from the University of Tulsa in Oklahoma and a master’s degree in Australian Aboriginal Studies from the University of Melbourne in Australia. Her hobbies include hiking, golfing, cooking, reading and walking her dogs.