After graduating from college, being named a World Economic Forum Global Changemaker Fellow, and founding two other programs devoted to sustainability, Richard Seshie returned to his native Ghana. There he built Vivus Renewables, focused on helping farmers by streamlining and localizing transportation systems in the agricultural supply chain.
“Trust is everything — it’s often a slow process, and it’s even harder to maintain. The quicker you establish trust, the quicker you see materiality.”
In spite of his young age, Richard Seshie brought back to his native Ghana the insights of someone who had advised corporations on sustainability, co-founded My World, My Choice! — a sustainability awareness initiative based in India, and collaborated as an Ashoka Innovator. Adding this cumulative experience to his family’s history in the food distribution business, he was able to create a new venture, pioneering a rural transportation system to systemize the collection of crops and agricultural waste. “Most people are generally courteous and give you a nod,” he says of other’s opinions of Vivus Renewables Ghana. “Others see it as unthinkable that a graduate will focus his intelligence and resources to build carts for disadvantaged farmers, or again may want to sell fruits and vegetables…”
Richard says, “Doing (social) business in Africa can be particularly harsh.” He is working to simply but radically transform the supply chain, which loses 30% of crops to rot because of logistical challenges. To overcome the resulting high consumer prices and loss of income for farmers, he created a shared system of motorbikes and carts that meet two essential needs: collecting crops for market and collecting waste for conversion into bio-charcoal and other essential supplies. It’s a process that benefits from his familiarity with the community he works in, making connections with local farmers, markets, and partner companies. “Trust is everything and it’s often a slow process and it’s even harder to maintain,” he says of the surprising challenges. “The quicker you establish trust, the quicker you see materiality.”
Working within the system — particularly in Africa, Richard points out — is not without its frustrations. “Some trivial actions such as having to spend three hours in the traffic everyday or dealing with a government official are frustrating,” Richard expounds; “when all of these add up, you wonder sometimes if your pioneering-like venture is worth the trouble in such a hostile environment. But again, your passion for doing good takes over.”