Fellow Q&A with Elizabeth Adikah, Co-Founder of Heritage Charity Foundation

Please introduce yourself.

My name is Elizabeth Adikah and I am a 22-year-old student of the University of Science and Natural Resources pursuing my Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science. I am also pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Public Health with the University of The People (online) and I am a Ghanaian and based in Ghana. I am the co-founder of Heritage Charity Foundation, a locally-based non-governmental organization based in Ghana. The focus of this organization is to provide free entrepreneurship training to unemployed women living in rural communities in Ghana using the innovative methods of organic vegetable farming. I was excited when my organization was selected among the six winners of the 2020 WorldMUN Social Venture Challenge and I became a Resolution Fellow.

What three adjectives would people use to describe you?

Driven, hardworking, and compassionate.

What is your favorite book and why?

Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki and Sharon Lechter. Poor Dad believes that the most important thing you can do to financially survive is to read and learn from successful people. 

What is your favorite quote?

“If you are working on something exciting that you really care about, you don’t have to be pushed. The vision pulls you.”  – Steve Jobs.

What is the challenge your venture seeks to address? 

Due to the pandemic (and despite strides being made in the development status of Ghana), there are increasing inequalities in income, education, and food security in Ghana. Sunyani-West District, a predominantly agricultural community in the Bono Region of the country, is one of the poorest areas with nearly half the households experiencing food insecurity, and 33% of people living below the national poverty line (which is less than USD 0.70 a day). It also has one of the lowest literacy rates, with 75% of the region being non-literate. Poverty, food insecurity, and low literacy levels impact women more severely in the district. Women also have limited access to land and are vulnerable to discriminatory attitudes which can hinder their ability to negotiate crop sales and coordinate production with local buyer demands. Already, a farming cooperative structure exists within the 20 villages we will be working in. 

Have you been personally affected by this issue? If so, how? 

Born to a very poor family, I became a school dropout at the age of 6 years after I lost both parents to a snake bite on their way from the farm. Later, at the age of 10 years, a member of our local church saw the potential in me and decided to support me financially to return to school. I am motivated to grow my social venture in order to give back to society by providing a platform for rural women to attain work and regain the income they lost due to COVID-19. The pandemic has exacerbated poverty levels in Ghana, resulting in malnutrition among women and their children and a lack of education. My venture is also addressing the sharp rise in teenage pregnancies as well as domestic and sexual abuse. 

How is your venture addressing these challenges?

My venture will build the skills of rural women to increase the effectiveness and sustainability of their farming cooperatives. By helping to improve their technical, agricultural, business, and literacy skills, they will learn crop production, storage, fertilizer measures, pesticide labels, and marketing. Furthermore, we are training individuals in business and financial management as well as network organization and marketing. They are gaining the relevant knowledge and facilitation skills to effectively disseminate learning to their peers, supporting their fellow farmers to increase yields and income. The project will create long-term, sustainable change, by permanently improving household income, which will enable families to be able to spend on education, health care, and nutritious foods. This increased economic empowerment of women will also reduce gender inequality relating to education and economic engagement. As the average household size in Sunyani-West District is 9.5 people, we estimate that these outcomes will support at least 3,000 indirect beneficiaries (the family members of direct beneficiaries) through increased household income and improved food security. 

What does your venture hope to achieve?

My venture hopes to directly train 150 rural women over the period of 11 months to empower them to become self-employed and live self-sustainable and financially independent lives. 

What inspired you to start your venture?

As a school dropped out, I never dreamt of returning back to school, let alone becoming a co-founder of an organization. It all started when I went to church and a member in our local church saw the potential in me and decided to support me financially to return back to school. It was during my first year at university that I developed the idea of giving back to my community and that is what gave birth to my venture. 

What do you value most about the Resolution Fellowship?

The Resolution Fellowship has provided support and resources to get my venture from the idea stage to implementation and I describe it as the backbone of this venture. 

How will the Fellowship help you achieve your goals?

The Resolution Fellowship supported me with startup funding which I used to implement the project. Furthermore, my Resolution Guides are also very helpful and supportive. There were a lot of things I didn’t know before becoming a Fellow but I’m learning new things every day which is helping me manage the project successfully. 

What advice would you give other college students who are looking to start their first social venture?

You first need to know what you want to do, where you want to do it, and how you want to do it. Also, you need to talk to people who are already successful in their ventures to provide ideas and mentorship. Furthermore, be open-minded and ready to learn under any circumstances. 

What do you love most about your home community?

I was born and bred in my community so I have a close relationship with the people I am working with. What I love most about them is their pro-activeness and sense of humor. They are always ready to embrace every opportunity that may aid their relief from extreme poverty.

What role do young leaders play in the world today?

Young leaders are always fighting for their rights. All over the world, youth unemployment is becoming a global crisis and a security threat. Therefore, it is time for young people to rise up and demand their rights as future leaders.

Tell more about your work in response to COVID-19

When the pandemic first affected our country and there was a lockdown followed by loss of jobs and income, I immediately questioned what I could do to help mitigate the situation. The women we work with are already poor and if nothing is done immediately, most of them will face a life-threatening situation. Fast-forward a few months and with help from The Resolution Project, I was able to implement my project which put a smile on the faces of our women. Today, our women have enough food to eat and feed their children while we await the bumper harvest of our organic vegetables.