Solidaridad West Africa, a not for profit organisation committed to creating sustainable business livelihoods has trained over 10,000 youth in cocoa cultivation and its supply chain businesses to help sustain the sector.
The beneficiaries have cultivated over 840 hectares of cocoa across the country under its Next Generation Youth in Cocoa Programme.
The programme also known as MASO, which is aimed at creating employment opportunities by training the youth to become entrepreneurial farmers, and to setup supporting agronomy based businesses, was funded by the Mastercard Foundation and allied partners including Aflatoun International, Ghana Cocoa Board, Fidelity Bank, Ashesi University and Opportunity International Savings and Loans Limited.
The project, which started in 2016 and would end in 2020 is being implemented in the Central, Western North, Ashanti, Volta, Oti and Ahafo regions.
On Wednesday, 800 of the beneficiaries graduated in the Assin Fosu area from the project training programme.
Beneficiaries who do not have access to land immediately assist older farmers in maintaining their farms by offering services including hand pollination, spraying and pruning.
Mr Philip Kankam, Coordinator of the MASO Coco Academy that trains the youth, in an address, noted that the cocoa sector urgently needed an injection of youthful farmers to help keep Ghana’s place as the second highest producer of the cash crop.
“In our Assin project area alone beneficiaries have over 300 acres of cocoa under cultivate with other crops inter planted to give them some income while they wait for the cocoa to start fruiting,” he added.
He said many cocoa farmers were getting old with an average age of 55 years, saying “Many of our cocoa farmers are now old. Their farms are also old.”
He said the MASO projects had re-energised the many youth to take up farming to have income to better their lives.
He said the programme had also introduced the youth to importance of saving and encouraged them to save and also provided them education of reproductive health to enable them plan their lives and families.
One million tonnes
The Municipal Cocoa Officer for Assin Fosu, Mr Samuel Tsatsu, said hitting one million tonnes of cocoa production had been difficult due to factors, including ageing farmers, smuggling, galamsey effects and rural urban drift.
He said it was commendable that the MASO programme was encouraging the youth to take up cocoa farming to help increase cocoa production.
Use knowledge acquired
Nana Abu Bonsra of the Afutuakwa Traditional Council, who chaired the programme urged the youth to use the knowledge they have acquired to better their lot.
A beneficiary of the programme, Mr Francis Danso, said he now had three acres of cocoa and added that the knowledge acquired had made him to discard all desires of leaving his community to the city in search of non-existing jobs.