samuel-donkohI am Mr john Donkor, the founder of PWG Citronella Farms. A Ghanaian born into a family of peasant farmers in the Ahanta Western Region of Ghana. My ancestors were prolific farmers and fishermen and as child my daily routine included farming activities cultivating a range of vegetables, root, palm and fruits.

Many of our family members weren’t educated except for a few. I decided to study alongside my farming trade and later graduated and became a school teacher in the community.

It was during my teaching assignment that I was introduced to the Lavender perfume farm by on uncle of mine. I was so intrigued by the lavender farm, and the perfume and aroma of the plant that my passion for essential oil began.

I continued to teach but at the same time decided to investigate further about essential oil plants and cultivation. It wasn’t long that I met a man called Mr J E Eshun who had Citronella farm at the time. Mr Eshun agreed to give me 3 bags of Citronella grass planting materials.

In the latter part of 1993, as a part-time farmer alongside my teaching, I took the planting kit and planted my first Citronella farm.  I began experimenting with the grass with aim of finding ways to increase crop growth and oil yield. Initially the grass was dried in the sun and taken to a local factory for the distillation and extraction. The amount of oil that was produced was very disappointing and the money received was also very discouraging. On investigation, it was discovered that the grass may have been over dried prior to distilling. However as the yield increased on the next round, the actual money received form the farmer was still low. There was nowhere else in the area I could go.

The following year in 1994 I made the decision to purchase my own distilling drum. The drum was quite small, but it was a start and at least I could have more control on the distilling process. The size of the drum meant we could only produce half a beer bottle per process. This was still quite discouraging, but I still persevered and continued to assess and improve on each process.

In 1996 I decided to create bigger distilling pot. I purchased 4 smaller drums and welded them all together to make a single large distilling pot, this was ground-breaking at the time. The new distilling pot could now produce over 3 beer bottles per process. This was a great improvement but still too low to be a viable business proposition.

In 1996 during a National Farmers Day convention at Asiama in the Western Region of Ghana, our Citronella Oil was used to make a round soap which was shown to people at the convention. This created a lot of excitement and curiosity among the visiting delegates and farmers alike due to the benefits of the Citronella oil.

During that same convention I met a man who requested a meeting to discuss the potential of the Citronella Oil. The man was the regional manager of Takoradi Intermediate Technology Unit (TITU), now renamed as the Gratis Foundation.

The man I met promised to help develop and potentially raise investment for the farm. True to his word, the man turned up one afternoon with another gentleman to inspect how our business was being operated. After the inspection they asked that we write a proposal outlining our needs and investment requirements. We did that accordingly and gave the proposal to them and waited for their response.

It was two long years later in 1998 that we finally heard back from the gentleman from the TITU. The gentleman asked all those that were growing Citronella Grass to fill out forms in order to apply for funding. By this time and during the last two years many farmers that had ventured into the Citronella Farming had lost hope and decided to give up. This was partly because they weren’t getting sufficient payment for their oil from the buyers.

But after a long search, I managed to find a handfull of small Citronella growers who were still persevering who agreed to come together to form a group. The formation of the group allowed Mr Inkum’s TITU to provide funding for the construction of 15 distillation canopies in the region. Not all the farmers were able to accept the new distillation canopies as each farmer was required to pay GHc22Million towards the cost of a complete system.

Fortunately we were able to acquire one of the distillation systems and were the first farm to have it fully installed. The new system was able to serve 23 other farmers but unfortunately didn’t last long.

Fifteen months after the installation of the new system, we had a setback. The pot started to corrode badly and was leaking. The pot had been made of mild steel and could not withstand the demand placed on it. The TITU was informed and they sent people to repair it with galvanised steel, but again this didn’t last long and it started to leak after a very short time.

The setback meant that our farm and all the other neighbouring farms relying on our had to revert back to the previous farmer. This meant that we had not much control of the distillation.

In 2002 I was invited to the UK for a family member’s wedding blessing and it was during that visit that I was able to source some additional funds from friends and relatives. This small sum of money was a real God send. On return back to Ghana, the money I sourced along with every penny of money I had was given as a down payment for brand new Steel based distilling pot from the capital Accra.

Over a period of time, our farm worked hard and gave every little bit of money we made towards the new distillation pot and after a few months we were able to bring the new pot back to our farm.

As you can imagine all the local growers were extremely jubilant of the new pot. We could now control our own production. Due to the trust that the farmers had in us, they once again began bringing their grass to us for distilling. This was a major boost to us and all the farmers around.

The new distilling drum and its pipes were all made of stainless steel which meant that it was stronger and of higher quality and would last much longer.
As the business grew, we were able to acquire a 20 Acre plot of land and plantation began at this new farm. When the grass grew, it became difficult to transport the grass all the way to where the new distilling pot was based. So we made a decision to move the entire distilling system and relocated it at the new 20 acre farm. This made it much easier for us, but unfortunately it meant that some of the other farmers were no longer able to bring their grass to us.

As word got out of our quality distilling system, more farmers began growing the Citronella grass and were able to provide a source of income to take care of their families.

More farmers are seeing the benefit of Citronella Essential Oil and the opportunities it holds for farmers and for job creation. As Citronella Farmers we have been operating a farming association of growers which is constantly expanding.

In 2013 our association is now being formally created as Ghana Essential Oil Trade Association (GEOTA). We are founding members and instrumental in creating GEOTA.

GEOTA is made up of essential oil farmers, traders and manufacturers with the aim of providing a support and educational system for the members. It will also allow the farmers to seek outside help and funding in a more organised and structured way so that any funding given goes directly to the farmers rather than any middle organisation. It also serves to provide a single voice for the industry, and provides help, guidance, and information for the development and growth of the essential oil industry as a whole.

We are at a juncture now where there is a clear demand for essential oil especially Citronella oil due to its powerful uses as insect repellent, cleaning aid and so much more.

We need funds and resources to grow our industry and are encouraging investors and funders to get in touch with us. Many farmers now rely on the industry as a source of income.

For more information on how you can support PWG Citronella Farms please click here

About Us

PWG Citronella Farms is one of the oldest Citronella farms in Ghana having started growing and producing the Citronella since 1990 when there we only about 10 growers in the entire country.

The Donkoh family have been traditional farmers and fishermen for many generations.

The idea to grow Citronella first came to Mr Donkor when he met Mr…. who explained to him the many benefits of the Citronella oil.

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