Empowering local communities to undertake own-initiated development actions

To ensure that communities advocate for their own development, Solidaridad, through the Cocoa Life programme, has been empowering and supporting community members in cocoa-growing areas in the Eastern region of Ghana to draw action plans and execute self-initiated projects.

Through capacity building, needs assessment, establishment of a Community Development Committee and the development of community action plans the people of Nwamase, a cocoa-growing community in the West Akyem municipality, have facilitated the establishment of a kindergarten to provide access to formal education and bring relief to school-going children in the community. 

Before Solidaridad’s intervention, children of school-going age had to trek several kilometres to a nearby community to access a means of transportation to school  in another community. This arduous travel made it difficult for children below the age of seven to attend school daily. 

“Our children’s inability to easily access formal education until they were seven years old was a constant source of worry to us parents because it widened the educational gap between our children and those from neighbouring communities. We met several times as a community on how to address this issue, but it yielded little results,” says Samuel Otu Offei, president of the Nwamase cocoa farmer’s cooperative society.

Executing development through community action plans 

Community action plans form an integral part of the Cocoa Life programme, funded by Mondelez International. Under the empowered and inclusive cocoa communities component, 39 beneficiary communities in the West Akyem district in the Eastern region were supported to develop their own community action plans.

The plans have to meet a set of criteria, which determine the viability and relevance of the project.

The West Akyem Cooperative and Cocoa Farmers Marketing Union Limited, a group that oversees the operation and activities of individual farmer groups from the 39 communities, assesses and implements the most viable plan.  

This is funded by a reserve of a loyalty bonus Mondelez International pays to the union when purchasing cocoa.

The union supported the Nwamase community to construct a kindergarten block, which was completed in 2020 and inaugurated this year. The programme supported the school with furniture and books. 

Yaa Peprah Amekudzi, country lead for Mondelez International  Cocoa Life programme in Ghana, who inaugurated the school building with the support of the West Akyem Cooperative, was pleased that such a project had come to fruition following Cocoa Life’s partnership with Solidaridad to improve access to education for children in the programme’s catchment areas. 

The school, which has 29 pupils, is currently being managed by the community with support from the union and the Ghana Education Service.

The relief the school has brought

Samuel Otu Offei, who is also a cocoa farmer and a father of 14 children, says having a convenient environment where his children can access formal education was a great relief for him and other parents. 

“The kindergarten is a dream come true for every parent in our  community. Our little children can now go to school every day to access basic education,” says Samuel.

Cocoa farmers in the community also benefited from training on good agronomic practices, financial literacy, and the proper use of labour.. 

Samuel says he is able to pay for the cost of educating his children and   save money through the  VSLA following an increase in his cocoa yields after applying the knowledge gained from the training on good agronomic practices

Solidaridad’s commitment to community development

Kwame Boadi Apau, the Cocoa Life programme coordinator at Solidaridad, says the organization is committed to enhancing the capacities of communities to advocate social development to create ideal living conditions for themselves and their families. 

Community developments, like that of the kindergarten, are helping to ease the pressure on farmers so they can focus on  practices that promote sustainable production on their cocoa farms.

Kwame Boadi Apau, Cocoa Life Programme Coordinator at Solidaridad

The Cocoa Life programme has, so far,  benefitted 10,000 farmers in 122 communities in the Eastern region of Ghana while 78 communities have also been supported with infrastructure such as schools, health facilities, boreholes, electricity and accommodation for teachers and nurses through self-initiated community development projects.

Solidaridad, with funding from Mondelēz International, is implementing the Cocoa Life programme in Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire. The programme seeks to empower the men, women and youth within cocoa communities to lead their own development and improve their livelihoods.