Resilient youth build a future with cocoa in Ghana

Ghana is the second-largest producer of cocoa beans globally, however many of the beans are grown by farmers over 50-years-old, on ageing farms. This has the potential to negatively impact future cocoa production. Yet, there are thousands of young people who are willing and able to contribute to cocoa production, given the right skills and resources. Through its youth in cocoa programme in West Africa, Solidaridad has developed an innovative approach to encourage young people to develop careers in the cocoa value chain.

Abigail Oblie at her daycare centreAbigail Oblie teaches children at her daycare centre, set up with support from MASO

Training the next generation of cocoa entrepreneurs 

In 2016, Solidaridad West Africa started its first youth-focused intervention in the cocoa sector in Ghana. The Next Generation Cocoa Youth Programme (MASO) supports out-of-school youth to learn skills in cocoa cultivation and become entrepreneurs providing relevant services to farmers and their communities.

So far, Solidaridad has trained more than 3,500 youth in cocoa agronomy, entrepreneurial development and life skills to make them professional cocoa farmers, farm service providers and entrepreneurs. Almost 10,000 young people have also enrolled in the MASO programme across six cocoa growing regions in Ghana. 

The next generation cocoa farmer 

“I am a cocoa farmer and an entrepreneur,” says Ali, a 21-year-old farmer who owns a six-acre cocoa farm with support from MASO.

Through the skills acquired from the MASO programme, I am teaching other youth in my community best agronomic practices and offering essential farm services like pruning, weeding, and fertilizer application for a fee.

– Ali Kasim, MASO participant

Thanks to the life skills Ali has gained from the MASO programme, he is making savings and diversifying his livelihood sources.

Ali Kasim is a participant in Solidaridad's MASO programmeAli Kasim

Providing agro-support services in cocoa communities

For many young people, establishing their own business was a dream until Solidaridad offered them the support they needed.

Andrew Fosu is a participant in one of the academies the MASO programme runs to offer skills and knowledge to young people in cocoa growing areas. After receiving training on how to start and manage his own business, Andrew identified a business opportunity to provide agro-inputs in his community. 

He started a modest agro-input business three years ago with a total investment of GHs 2,200 cedis (406 dollars). In addition to selling agro-inputs, Andrew provides a ‘mobile money’ transaction service to his community. The business now operates from a shop and is worth GHs 15,000 cedis (2,771 dollars). He hopes to grow his agro-input business into a rural service centre that provides a range of inputs and services to farmers in and around his community. 

Andrew Fosu helps a client at his agro-input shopAndrew Fosu attends to a client at his agro-input shop

Providing a social intervention as a business

Most youth in the MASO programme have young children. To care for them, the young parents sometimes take their children to work as there are no daycare services available in their communities. 

Abigail Oblie, a beneficiary of the MASO programme who previously worked as a teacher, took the opportunity to establish a daycare centre in the community. With a grant of GHs 500 (approximately 100 dollars) Abigail received from the MASO programme, she was able to renovate a rundown structure in her community and invest in some toys and furniture. In 2018 she opened the daycare centre with only three children in her care. Today, she has 43 children on the register. 

Abigail is not only providing a critical service to her community but also created employment for herself and other youth in the community. 

MASO has empowered me economically. Previously, I had no savings. But now I am financially secure, I own a business. 

– Abigail Oblie, MASO participant

Abigail Oblie at her daycare centreAbigail Oblie at her daycare centre

About MASO

The MASO programme will be implemented in Ghana until 2020 and plans to reach 10,800 youth with skills in cocoa agronomy and the establishment of supporting businesses.

The programme has three components: 

  1. Cocoa Academy: trains young people to become entrepreneurial farmers 
  2. Business Academy: trains and supports young people to start businesses along the cocoa production chain or businesses that will enhance the life and general well-being of cocoa-growing communities.
  3. Youth Network: a platform for participants from both the MASO Cocoa and MASO Business academies to connect, share ideas and best practices.

MASO is funded by the Mastercard Foundation and implemented by Solidaridad in partnership with Aflatoun International, Ghana Cocoa Board, Fidelity Bank, Ashesi University and Opportunity International Savings and Loans Limited. 

Watch the video below to find out more about Solidaridad's MASO programme for International Youth Day:

Learn more about Solidaridad's cocoa programmes