In the month of May, Esoko welcomed four Google employees to our Ghana office for a 3-week volunteer consulting project. We got a chance to sit down with Ariel, Bo, Dori and Fareed at the end of their project to talk about their experience. Here’s what they had to say:
What is the Google Global Leadership Program?
The Google Global Leadership Program provides Google employees– otherwise known as ‘Googlers’– with the opportunity to work with social enterprises, NGOs, and entrepreneurs to address humanitarian challenges in emerging markets. This quarter, 16 Googlers were selected for the 3-week program in Ghana: we came from Brazil, the US, Israel, Canada, the Netherlands, and other Google offices all over the world. The four of us — Ariel, Bo, Dori and Fareed — worked on a consulting project with Esoko from Monday to Thursday of every week. We dedicated our Fridays to educational outreach programs, teaching computer skills and STEM to local student and teachers. As part of the program, we also attended leadership and development sessions, speaker series with local entrepreneurs, and learned about the Ghanaian culture.
What project did you work on with Esoko?
Esoko is launching a new service this year to provide greater economic and social impact for smallholder farmers through the use of mobile phone technology. The Google team was charged with proposing an optimal model for this new service, focusing primarily on the pineapple industry. We started by assessing the pineapple value chain, from purchasing inputs and planting suckers, to harvesting pineapples and exporting to global markets. We met with many stakeholders in the chain, including farmers who plant and harvest pineapples, and the processors who buy pineapples for export. Finally, we mapped out the areas of opportunities and challenges for each stakeholder in order to offer a set of recommendations and further considerations for Esoko’s new service. All in three week’s time! We had a lot to learn in a small amount of time, but at the end of our project, we were left truly inspired by the potential impact this project will have for the livelihood of smallholder farmers and their families.
What do you do at Google and how did your skills apply to this project?
At Google, there’s a strong belief that you get the best ideas and outcomes when people from a variety of perspectives put their collective minds together. Our team of four Googlers truly embodies that: Ariel is a Senior Product Marketing Manager for Waze in our Google Tel Aviv office and brought lots of analytical and strategic expertise to our group. Bo kept us organized, on track, and informed throughout the project and serves as a Product Operations and Strategy Lead for the online Google Store in Google Mountain View. Dori was our resident communications strategist, which comes at no surprise considering she manages communications strategy and implementation for Diversity and Inclusion initiatives in Google San Francisco. Fareed is our sales and strategic planning guru on the Esoko project and works as an Account Manager in Google Toronto. During our time working on the Esoko project, we leveraged each other’s strengths as well as Esoko’s agricultural expertise in order to learn all we needed to deliver results in such a short period of time. We truly enjoyed working with each other!
How was your experience working with the Esoko team?
The Esoko team was simply amazing to work with. They were responsive, accommodating, and had very clear objectives for our project. This helped us zero-in on our deliverables within our first couple of days in Ghana, leaving enough time to meet with 12 external partners for field research. The team was also very knowledgeable about the Ghanaian agricultural space– we often joke amongst ourselves that all we needed to do was pick their brains and we’d have the answers to all our questions. Anytime we had a question or a concern, the team listened patiently and helped us navigate this new territory we found ourselves in. We honestly couldn’t have had a better team to work with.
What did you learn about agriculture in Ghana?
We will never look at pineapples the same way again, when we go back to our respective homes. The amount of time, money, hard work, and perseverance required to be a smallholder farmer is truly commendable. When you add the stress of unpredictable weather, diseases, and a competitive export market to the equation, you cannot help but gain deep appreciation for all the agricultural crops that you come across on the streets or in the supermarket. Pineapples are important to the livelihoods of many farmers and for the economy of Ghana, so we are glad to have worked with Esoko on their new service to provide even better support for the agricultural world.
What was one of your favorite highlights?
Definitely the field visits. We traveled outside of Accra to Esuhyia and Fotobi to speak with local pineapple farmers about their farms, the pineapple industry, and challenges they face. They are some of the most hardworking and humble people you’ll ever meet. During our visits, we got an opportunity to taste the MD2 and Sugarloaf varieties of pineapples straight from the farm and in return, we shared some of our favorite snacks and cookies too: pringles were a hit with the farmers! (check out our selfie above)
Working with Esoko is also a big highlight for our trip. Thank you to our wonderful hosts Hillary, Daniel, Tim, Francis, Gordon, Simone, Kwabena and Godwin for making this project a great learning experience and a great time!