Making a case for youth involvement in cocoa, the country representative for Solidaridad in Ghana and the International Cocoa Programme Coordinator, Suzan-Hermina Yemidi, decried the current situation where the average age of cocoa farmers in Ghana is 55 years, even though the country is the world’s second-largest producer of cocoa. “Ghana needs to intensify efforts to encourage young people to venture into cocoa farming. This will contribute to the reduction in youth unemployment and secure the future of cocoa production in the country,” she said.
Solidaridad has demonstrated the business cases for cocoa production and private sector led service delivery within the value chain, and shown farmers how to pursue a profitable cocoa farm enterprise.
The Regional Director for Solidaridad West Africa, Isaac Gyamfi speaking on the conference theme, noted that transformation is necessary to stimulate further growth in Ghana’s cocoa sector, which currently accounts for 70% - 75% of the country’s total agricultural foreign exchange earnings. He recommended a shift in cocoa farmers’ over-reliance on the regulator, COCOBOD for inputs and encouraged farmers to invest part of their earnings in developing their cocoa farms.
Mr. Emmanuel Opoku, Director of the Cocoa Health and Extension Division (CHED) of COCOBOD read a speech on behalf of the Chief Executive Officer of COCOBOD, Hon. Joseph Boahen Aidoo. He bemoaned the phenomenon of aging cocoa farmers in Ghana, describing it as a threat to the sustainability of an industry that caters to the livelihoods of millions of people. He commended the MASO programme for promoting the active engagement of young people in cocoa production. “I am hopeful that this would spur economic development and help to increase farm productivity and the quality of cocoa beans produced in the country,” he added.
Other speakers challenged the youth to take advantage of the MASO programme and get involved in the cocoa sector, including pursuing cocoa value addition initiatives that have the potential to sustain their engagement in the industry.
“This conference has really inspired me to reconsider cocoa farming as a viable option. I believe other young participants feel the same way too,” said Emmanuel Padi, a 25 year-old participant of the conference.
MASO is a five-year programme focused on creating employment opportunities for the youth in Ghana’s cocoa growing communities funded by the MasterCard Foundation. Six consortium institutions made up of Solidaridad, Aflatoun, Ashesi University, Fidelity Bank, Opportunity Internal Savings and Loans Ghana Limited and the Ghana Cocoa Board are the implementers. The programme is part of the Youth Forward Initiative, funded by the MasterCard Foundation, with other related partnerships with the Overseas Development Institute, Global Communities, Solidaridad, NCBACLUSA and GOAL.
Since its inception in January 2016, more than 8,000 youth in 102 local communities have enrolled in the MASO programme and established more than 840 hectares of cocoa farms and 225 related businesses. More than 40% of all beneficiaries are women. The programme is implemented in five administrative regions of Ghana.
A key component of the programme is the MASO Youth Network, an alumni of MASO graduates, which serves as a mouthpiece and a learning/exchange platform for youth in cocoa and in order to contribute to policy dialogue and institutional reforms for a vibrant cocoa sector in Ghana.
Published by: Solidaridad West Africa