The Poultry King
The Reverend Dr. Kwabena Darko, 70, founder and chairman, Darko Farms and Company Limited, which is headquartered in Kumasi, Ghana, is a devoted worker in the Lord’s vineyard. He is general overseer, Oasis of Love International Church.
But Darko, who has been paying his tithes faithfully right from the tender age of 16, when he gave his life to Christ, does not restrict himself to spiritual matters alone, as he is also a politician, director on the board of several companies, and a very successful farmer.
He owns what has been described as the biggest poultry farm in the entire West African sub-region and for this reason he is often referred to as the ‘Poultry King.’ Darko Farms, which is reportedly the largest privately owned industrial outfit in Ghana, is listed in ‘Who’s Who in World Poultry.’ The sprawling farm, which takes care of about 50 per cent of Ghana’s poultry needs, has branch offices and sales points across the country.
It is not surprising therefore that Darko Farms, which has won several national and international awards, is rated Number One in Ghana for product quality and corporate social responsibility. All these must have prompted Poultry International magazine to describe Darko Farms as ‘a paradise in the countryside.’
For Darko, the journey to fame and fortune did not come easy. Having lost his father at an early age, he had to engage in petty trading to pay his school fees and augment the family’s paltry income. The family often went to bed without having a proper meal for days. This made him to allocate more of his time to trading. But he continued his educational pursuits on a part-time basis.
However, his mother’s re-marriage proved to be the turning point in his life as his stepfather had a small chicken farm, where he helped out after school. This provided a small but steady source of income for the family and enabled him to pay his school fees. His stepfather noticed his industry, and assisted him to secure a scholarship for further training at the Ruppin Institute in Israel, where he studied General Agriculture, majoring in Poultry Science—which was only natural for him.
When he returned to Ghana, Darko worked at the Ghana State Farms Corporation that had then established a new poultry project. He resigned after working for six months and joined his stepfather, who had started commercial poultry farming—with specialisation in table eggs that was considered a very lucrative venture then. But hard work was involved. Darko used the scientific skills he learnt in Israel to nurture the business such that the number of birds increased from 5,000 layers to 100,000 birds within a space of five years.
All the while he was taking care of chickens; he was deeply involved in the church where he was a counselor and a youth leader. Darko was picked to drive Morris Cerrulo, the world-renown evangelist—who had come to Ghana for evangelical work—from his hotel to the crusade grounds, due to his pleasant attributes.
Darko’s encounter with Cerrulo had a profound impact on his life because it changed his way of thinking. He did not fail to notice the sharp contrast between Ghanaian pastors and their foreign counterparts. He observed that his compatriots wore washed out shirts with threadbare collars, while Cerrulo and his team looked sharp in their smart suits. He knew poverty was responsible for this disparity. He prayed to God to give him the means to support indigent ministers.
It was said that God gave him a vision to use his knowledge in Poultry Science to build a profitable business, which would provide the money to propagate the gospel. Darko started the business with $1,000 savings that he had. He purchased 900 chickens and a three-piece acre of land for $50, and set up Darko Farms in April 1966, convinced that he would stand on his own having been able to grow his stepfather’s business. The Lord was faithful to him. The business grew by leaps and bounds.
Darko’s dream had always been to build a gigantic business empire that would sustain missions, orphanages and ministry work in general. He achieved this dream through the income that he realised from raising chicks. A generous giver, he encourages others to give freely to the Lord to support the gospel.
In spiritual and secular life, he has held a number of prominent positions including international vice-president, Full Gospel Businessmen Fellowship International (FGBMFI) and president, Ghana Animal Science Association. He was also president, Ghana National Council on Poultry, member, Ghana Government ‘Think Tank’ on Privatisation, vice-chairman, African Business Roundtable, external board member, The Bank of Ghana and former presidential candidate on the platform of the National Independence Party.
An authority on poultry, he is regularly consulted for ideas by both national governments and international agencies such as The World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF) and International Finance Corporation (IFC). He has written and presented many feature articles on the poultry business. He has also published a biography entitled: ‘The Father’s Business: How to Succeed In the Midst of Third World Poverty, The Darko Story.’
Darko’s interesting rags-to-riches story inspired the novel One Hen. The book tells the story of Kojo (Kwabena), a young, poor boy from Ghana, who used a small loan to buy one hen, and grew his profits into what is now the largest poultry farm in West Africa.
Darko has won numerous awards and honours including the Grand Medal ‘Order of the Volta’ for his contributions to agriculture; Best Farmer Award at the Royal Agriculture Show London (1984); and National Best Poultry Farmer (1986).
He spends most of his free time doing one charity work or the other together with Christiana, his wife of more than 30 years. They have six children, some of whom are helping him to manage the business.