There is no shortage of research on the idea of “environmental entrepreneurship” in the developed world especially in the United States and Western Europe. But the same cannot be said about the developing world. Key finding about the state of green entrepreneurship in Ghana is that among other things, access to finance for innovation and the awareness of the public about their activities constitute some of the major challenges that confrontthe new industry.
The idea of environmental entrepreneurship in Ghana is very much a collaborative effort between the state and the private sector with well-defined role for either party. For the state, her responsibility include institutional development to create the needed platform for individuals, research organizations and businesses to innovate and improve the value chain of food crops, export products and agribusiness development.
Thus there is a top-down process where the state through public institutions like the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), institutions of higher learning and other research centers undertake research into innovative ways to improve agricultural production. Findings of the state-sponsored research and innovations are then made available to the general public and businesses who then adopt and convert these ideas into business and economic activities.
Like the advanced and developed world, all forms of innovative endeavors in the developing world are dominated or influenced by Information and Communication Technology (ICT). However, because their agriculture-led economies and heavy dependence on natural resources and hence the environment, innovative activities in most developing countries including Ghana takes place in the agricultural sector. It is important to note that agro-processing and crop product innovation dominate the field of environmental entrepreneurship activities in Ghana whether they are initiated as a national policy or as a private business activity by individuals and organizations or by research organizations. The agro-processing innovative activities according to Owusu Essegbey (2008) have as its focus and objective to add value to the hitherto raw material and primary export products from the developing nations like Ghana. Other forms of innovation in agriculture and crop production in Ghana include new agronomic practices of crop cultivation, processing of more staples, new venture activities and marketing opportunities. Some of the product and crops that dominate the field include cocoa, cassava, oil palm, shea butter, rice and poultry. These activities are part of the burgeoning ecopreneurship field mainly in the agribusiness sector of the Ghanaian economy.
Apart from state sponsored research and environmental innovative activities that are part of a broad national development agenda to ensure sustainable natural resources extraction that benefits the present and future generations, Anning (2006) has contended that environmental innovation in Ghana is more of a development strategy. This position is made much clearer when one considers the level of state involvement and the fact that the focus is on agriculture which is the mainstay of the Ghanaian economy. There is a 18 deliberately planned set of activities and areas that is captured in the approach adopted by Ghana to apply innovativeness to agriculture and crop production (Owusu Essegbey, 2008). The components of the strategy include new knowledge creation, interactions and linkages, transmission and application of knowledge, innovation finance and marketing opportunities, and business enterprise development (Owusu Essegbey, 2008; p.14). As far as the knowledge creation component is concerned, this activity take place at institutions like the Universities and national research organizations like the CSIR, Cocoa Research Institute (CRIG) and the Ministry of Food Agriculture (MOFA) mostly at the behest of the government. But through the interaction and linkages window, businesses and firms can have access to the knowledge for production. For instance, the Animal Science Department of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) is said to have useful linkages with several poultry farmers for improved feed development programs.
Meanwhile, the transmission and application of innovative approaches takes place through trade fairs, exhibitions and the divisions within the Ministry of Food Agriculture (MOFA). Additionally, there is the Enterprise Development Investment Fund (EDIF) that is intended to support innovators and those who apply innovative knowledge to business development especially those that apply to natural resource and agriculture. Finally, as part of the effort to use agricultural innovations to target poverty reduction as a national rural development strategy, the government of Ghana through state research institutions have set up processing plants in some communities that helps to process staples like cassava into grains. The processing of staples has the benefit of extending the life of the 19 food crop, and also encouraging community cooperative farms and business development to generate employment and revenues for rural residents in Ghana.
It is worthwhile to note that in addition to the state-sponsored environmental innovations, there are other ways environmental entrepreneurships manifests in Ghana. There are so many private individuals and groups that engage in various ecopreneurial endeavors with activities ranging from cassava processing, palm kernel and oilprocessing, shea butter processing, to rice and poultry production and general food distribution. These activities are pretty much carried out by women entrepreneurs who also want ensure sustainable natural resource use. But like their more formal environmental entrepreneurial counterparts, they all face the common problems and challenges faced by enviropreneurs in the advanced societies such as enforceable regulations, adverse environmental conditions, inadequate protection of property rights, resistance from potential users, access to finance and institutional bottlenecks (1999;Newton, 2005; Pastakia, 1998; Post and Altman, 1994; and Sinding, 2003). Of thenumerous challenges that confronts the Ghanaian innovator, access to finance and innovative finance, opportunities for new knowledge creation and interaction and linkages constitute major roadblocks (Owusu Essegbey, 2008). Access to finance for innovation is a major challenge especially for theindividuals (mostly women) ecopreneurs because of the lack of the collateral security required by the financial institutions. As far as knowledge creation problem is concerned, the onus is on private companies who tend to rather depend on the state research institutes because the idea of Research and development (R & D) has not been made a priority. Additionally, there are no major lobbying organizations for business associations 20 and innovators and so the government is mostly seen to be passive about the plight of innovators especially the private individuals who do not fall under any organized group.
There is also the problem of the influx of foreign products that are similar to what is produced locally such as rice. The continued reliance on these imports tend to kill any initiative among local entrepreneurs and also the resort to unhealthy environmental practices. Ways to deal with the challenges faced by environmental entrepreneurs may include the need for the government to undertake surveys and research to ascertain the extent of environmental entrepreneurship in the country. Such a process would allow for appreciation of the contribution from the sector to the national economy and the challenges they face in order to put measure in place to address the basic challenges and engender business development. Additionally, based on the fact that environmental entrepreneurship activities are seen to have the potential to generate economic development, it would be important to undertake capacity and knowledge development through conscious effort by the state. These activities could focus on disseminating business information and opportunities, encouraging functional linkages among critical actors, creating avenues for corporate entities to engage in Research and Development (R & D) to stimulate innovation. More importantly, the problems of funding should be dealt through the creation of what Owusu Essegbey (2008) calls supportive funding mechanisms. It would serve a great need if the state and other non-government agencies would engage in programs to raise awareness about activities of individual environmental entrepreneurs especially the women innovators and their activities as was done by the Voices of Women Entrepreneurs in Ghana project.
(Source: A Review of Environmental Entrepreneurship as an Agenda for Rural Development: The Case for Ghana, Patrick Tandoh-Offin, Clemson University)