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- The Inauguration & Interview with the Project Lead
- Final Preparations!
- An internal road network & land rejuvenation
- The Factory is Coming Together!
- “The opportunity of a positive impact”: Interview with Alejandro
- Cold storage and more
- Interview with Elvis
- Testing our first E-Trycicle
- Laying of bricks
- We have a roof
- Personal note from Mira
- Standing steel structure
- Factory foundation finished
- Water, a valuable resource
- Our challenges
- Added value for farmers
- Let’s start building? Not so fast.
- Soil testing with Elvis
- Where to build our new factory?
- Buying land in Ghana
- Visualising the factory
The Inauguration & Interview with the Project Lead17.08.2023
The day is finally here! The factory is inaugurated! On August 25th, 2023, we gathered with 600 guests in Akim Achiase. The inauguration was graced with esteemed farmers, customers, investors, and community and government members alike, including Hon. Kobina Tahir Hammond, Minister of Trade and Industry in Ghana, Daasebre Nana Gyenin Kantan IV, Chief of Achiase, and Dr. Simone Haeberli, Deputy Head of Mission & Head of Cooperation, Embassy of Switzerland in Ghana, Togo, and Benin.
You can get a taste here:
In this week’s blog, we interview one of the masterminds behind the newly inaugurated factory in Achiase: Daniel Otu, Koa’s Production and Operations Director & the factory project lead. He touches on the challenges faced, the importance of sustainability, the role of local culture, and the lessons that shaped Koa’s future vision, all while maintaining a steadfast commitment to community and innovation.
What was your vision for the factory when you first started this project? How has that evolved over time?
My vision for the factory was to create a state-of-the-art cocoa pulp processing factory. With this being the first decentralised cocoa fruit factory in the world, we needed to pioneer the process. Over the years, the project plan evolved several times. The concept and design, however, stayed the same.
You and the team have managed to overcome those odds. Were there any unexpected surprises or pivotal moments in the project’s timeline? How did you navigate them?
There were uncountable surprises. It started with land negotiations, then electricity, construction variations, timelines, visa applications, sub-contractors – just to mention a few. We overcame most of these because there were different teams set up for the project who could handle issues and negotiations.
It’s always impossible to predict the challenges, but having strong teamwork can help you overcome them. How did you foster a positive and collaborative working environment across culturally diverse teams?
It is always challenging to lead a large team. Having a listening ear and guiding the team in thought and decision-making so that we do not deviate from the main goal worked for us. Saying thank you for the little things accomplished by members and the team as a whole was a small, but powerful motivator.
“Thank you” is indeed a powerful phrase. Can you talk about the impact of the factory?
Koa will be working with about 10,000 farmers at its peak and the factory will employ about 250 workers in and around Achiase. I foresee cocoa farmers adopting good agronomic practices to ensure they have healthy cocoa plants. Since the more pulp you supply to Koa, the higher your returns, these farmers will attend to their farms to increase cocoa productivity.
The community will soon see this impact in the region. Did you incorporate local Ghanaian traditions and values into the project, to ensure it resonates with the community?
I wanted the community to own the project and be part of the story. We often engage the chiefs, opinion leaders, and district assembly on how to reshape the facility and the community together.
How has the Achiase project pushed the boundaries or set new standards for future Koa projects?
The Achiase project actually shook the foundation of Koa. It made us dream big, think big, and act big. It gave us the experience to go into the future with much confidence.
The team was surely stretched in big ways. What were the most significant lessons learned during this project, and how will they influence Koa’s future endeavors?
We did this project without consultants. We were given the opportunity to make all the mistakes and right all the wrongs ourselves. This has made most of the team members project managers in ideation, simulation, feasibility, planning, construction, equipment installation, testing, and commissioning. We have a log of all the lessons learned and how future projects will be approached.
Now that the factory is complete, what are the key takeaways you’d share with another project lead embarking on a similar journey?
There should always be a Plan B.
Good advice. Let’s end on a fun one. If you could pick any song to be the theme song of this factory project, which would it be? Why?
“Dream It Possible” by Huawei. “It’s not until you fall that you fly.” This whole planning started during the pandemic when all hopes about food and businesses were dashed, but today we are “turning dust into gold.”