This is the second in our series on Africa’s Hidden Gems–amplifying the voices of African entrepreneurs who are leading the charge in tackling some of the continent’s most pressing Sustainability challenges.
Today we turn the spotlight on Felix Appiah Nyarko, founder of Trisolace Farms in Ghana. His entrepreneurship journey begun when he was 14 years old following the death of his father. As the eldest child, there was no alternative but for him to support and look after his mother and younger brothers. He took on a job as “driver’s mate” for Tro-tros - privately owned minibus share taxis that travel fixed routes. He now owns his own Tro-tros – but that’s a story for another day!
In April 2015, after Felix graduated from Kumasi Technical University with a BTEC in Civil Engineering, he found himself in a long queue of fellow recent graduates from universities across Ghana, all applying for the same role. He looked around and asked himself “Is there a better way for us to earn a living?”
From that moment, Felix was on a mission to find innovative ways of providing employment opportunities for young Ghanaians and decided on snail farming.
Agriculture in Africa
For decades, agriculture has been Africa’s single most important economic activity.
The sector is responsible for around 35% of the continent’s GDP and provides employment to around half of the population.
Yet it’s a sector where productivity remains a challenge and farmers lack access to good quality seedlings, arable land and best practices. This is all compounded by climate change and extreme weather which is increasing the volatility of crop and livestock yields.
But African-based businesses are proudly changing the game. Their innovations combined with traditional knowledge are addressing local needs sustainably and creating an example maybe others could and should follow. This includes helping farmers increase the productivity of their fields, diversify their crops, build climate resilience and create sustainable employment.
Enter stage right, Trisolace Farms!
After his light bulb moment standing in that job interview queue, Felix carried out a survey to determine the best way he could support “young people in Ghana make a decent living”. The survey led him to a decision to focus on urban farming. Next was deciding what to farm.
During a visit to his grandfather’s cocoa farm in the Ashanti Region of Ghana, he found his grandfather emptying his leftover food into an old, discarded tank. Snails would eat the leftovers, and Felix’s grandfather would in turn take some of the snails to feed himself – providing him with much needed protein. It was a “barter trade”, he said.
This ignited Felix’s imagination and he thought “snails fit the agenda perfectly – they are so discrete, they do not smell, they do not make a noise and therefore are perfect for urban farming with convenience.”
Trisolace Farms was founded in 2015. In its early days, the company supported young people in rearing snails in boxes made from scrap metal and car tires. Now they have graduated to using concrete pens, wooden boxes and greenhouses.
Today, the company is a thriving business. Trisolace continues training and offering technical support to young entrepreneurs and, through a partner company, helps them to prefinance their own snail farms. Those who cannot afford their own greenhouses are linked with clients who can but don’t have time to do the farming themselves.
In addition to the domestic market, Trisolace arranges the export of farmed snails to foreign markets like France and the UK. In 2022 the company exported 3000 kilograms of snails to the UK.
All of this has helped create jobs for around 180 young people in Ghana…. and counting.
Felix’s advice to those looking to start a business on the continent – “when you are establishing something, look at how well you can help people. The moment you solve a problem for them, they will reward you either in cash or kind”. And he is living, breathing and profitable proof of the truth of that advice.
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Written by Rosalind Kainyah MBE and Helen Stickler. Rosalind is an authority on Sustainability and responsible business with over 30 years of combined legal, international, executive and board level experience. She is passionate about supporting African businesses to operate sustainably and profitably. Helen is the Co-Founder of Triplo ESG, a Sustainability advice platform that empowers smaller businesses.