KWAMI WILLIAMS, H’14
Planting the Seeds for Farmer Entrepreneurship in Ghana
“If aerospace engineers could put a man on the moon, couldn’t I do something to help these people put food on the table?”
From Farm to Tree to Market
THE CHALLENGE. After more than 10 years of living in America, Kwami Williams returned to Ghana through a service trip and was alarmed at the rural abject poverty he encountered. He felt particularly concerned about the mistreatment and underappreciation of farmers. Agriculture in Ghana employed 45% of the national labor force and yet rural poverty rates significantly exceeded the national average. Without entrepreneurial expertise or empowered education for small business farmers, many international aid projects that sought to alleviate poverty never got a chance to flourish. He realized that the agricultural opportunities to empower farmers were there, but that the mentorship and economic incentives needed to be nurtured.
THE PROCESS. Williams returned from his service trip and embarked on a new career path. He switched his attention from aerospace engineering to a focus on Ghana’s agricultural growth. He entered MIT’s D-Lab, a program that works with people in the developing world to co-create solutions to global poverty challenges. His work with D-Lab led to another trip to Ghana, this time in a collaboration with small farming families on a crop locally called “the miracle tree,” or moringa. The leaves and seeds were valuable and nutritious — a true “superfood”. Moringa leaves have more vitamin A than carrots, more calcium than milk, more protein than eggs, and more iron than spinach per serving.
When he returned to MIT, Williams began research on how to cold-press the seeds of the moringa tree so that the oil could be turned into product. He also set about developing a plan to restructure the supply chain so that farmers in Ghana could receive the economic benefits of harvesting moringa trees.
THE RESULT. Oil from the moringa trees now fuels two companies that Williams co-founded with Harvard economics student Emily Cunningham — True Moringa and Minga Foods, both under the umbrella of MoringaConnect. After purchasing seeds and leaves at a fair price from farmers, Williams and his team bring them to their centralized processing center in Accra, Ghana. The moringa seeds and leaves are processed in-country, adding value and creating jobs locally. MoringaConnect has enabled over 2500 small farmers throughout Ghana to kickstart their moringa farms. With educational programs and an economic incentive provided by a guaranteed market through True Moringa and Minga Foods, Williams and his team have created opportunities for farmer entrepreneurship throughout rural Ghana. To further an environmental initiative, Williams has also committed to planting a tree for every new customer, with over 1 million trees planted so far. These initiatives earned MoringaConnect a spot on Good Morning America, where moringa was celebrated as the #1 wellness trend of 2018.
LEARN MORE ABOUT MORINGACONNECT
Founded in 2013, MoringaConnect’s vertically integrated supply chain serves over 2,500 small farming families throughout Ghana. Under True Moringa, the benefits of moringa trees manifest as clean beauty products. Under Minga Foods, the nutritional benefits are made available through moringa powder and a line of teas made from the vitamin-packed leaves of the trees. MoringaConnect has planted over 1,300,000 ‘miracle trees’, as they’re locally known, one for every customer of their moringa based food and beauty products.
ABOUT KWAMI WILLIAMS
Aiming for the Stars and Landing Among Ghana’s Moringa Trees
Originally from Ghana, Kwami Williams’ family won the visa lottery and in 2000 relocated to the United States. Williams was always fascinated with space and at a young age competed in national robotics competitions. He set out on a path to become an aerospace engineer, enrolling in and graduating from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
Upon returning from a service trip to Ghana, Williams realized that he needed to shift his career focus so that he could help empower people with the means to improve their lives as they saw fit.
Williams’ actions were driven by a deep set of values learned from examples set by his parents throughout his upbringing. He was able to maximise his time in Cambridge to leverage his passion for engineering to solve a problem he felt connected to and therefore responsible to find a solution for. To improve the lives of rural families in Ghana, his company MoringaConnect supplies more than 2500 farmers with a low-cost oil presser that allows them to generate additional income through small-scale processing and marketing of their products to the global market.
I AM A HARAMBEAN
Kwami Williams values the integrated ecosystem of Harambeans: