Last three weeks, I did a story on the importance of chocolate to our nation Ghana and how Chocolate Day must help change the perception of the youth towards Valentine Day with greater focus on the important of the things associated with the cocoa heritage. A continuous mentioning of Chocolate Day by media will help banish the evil the so the called “Valentine’s Day” inflicted on our youth which has led to so much negativity. A church member told me how a 12-year-old who was supposed to be in church ended up in someone’s room and your guess is as good as mine as to what happened. A focus on cocoa and its many end products like Chocolate should help us understand the history of cocoa and one name which comes to mind is Tetteh Quarshie.
As we all know, Cocoa production has been the backbone of Ghana’s economy since the 1870s. It dominates the agricultural sector and contributes about 30% of the country’s export earnings. Cocoa employs more than 800,000 farmers directly. It also supports the livelihoods of others in the commerce, service and industrial sectors of the Ghanaian economy. This makes it an important generator of revenue. Without cocoa, one wonders what might have happened to Ghana’s economy.
The story is told that in (1842-1892) Tetteh Quarshie’s travels to Fernando Po (now Bioko in today’s Equatorial Guinea), and upon his return brought with him some cocoa beans. Tetteh Quarshie was born in 1842 to a farmer from Teshie known as Mlekuboi. His mother was known as Ashong-Fio from Labadi, both hailing from the Ga-Dangme ethnic group. Tetteh Quarshie served as an apprentice in a Blacksmith’s shop at Akropong belonging to the Basel Missionaries. Due to his hardwork he soon became a Master blacksmith. Tetteh Quarshie was in fact the first blacksmith to be established at Akwapim-Mampong. His hobby was farming.
In 1870, Tetteh Quarshie undertook a voyage to Fernando Po (Bioko in Equatorial Guinea). About six years later he returned to Ghana with several cocoa beans (the Amelonado) and made history. There are different stories told about how he brought in the cocoa beans. What matters is that today the cocoa beans are here and helping the Ghanaian economy. In 1879 Tetteh Quarshie planted the seeds at Mampong with some success. Friends and relatives also undertook the planting of cocoa when pods were distributed to them. Soon other farmers followed suit. It was only at this point that the Basel Missionaries stepped into the picture by importing large quantities of the crop into the country. From the Gold Coast (Ghana) cocoa beans or cuttings were sent to other countries like Nigeria and Sierra Leone. The export of cocoa from Ghana began in 1891, the official exported in 1893 (two bags exported). Ghana once provided almost half of world output. Between 1910 and 1980 Ghana was the world’s largest exporter. This position was ceded due to bush fires etc. However, Ghana’s cocoa is still of the highest quality and the country earns hundreds of millions of dollars annually from the export of the beans and processed materials.
Tetteh Quarshie died on Christmas Day of 1892. His relatives made a petition to the Gold Coast Government on February 25th, 1925 for a grant for the upkeep of some of Tetteh Quarshie’s relatives. The then Ghanaian Vice-Principal of Achimota College, Dr. J.E.K. Aggrey strenuously took up the appeal. His friend, Sir Gordon Guggisberg set up the Tetteh Quarshie Memorial Scholarship at Achimota College. Other honors were bestowed on him. Another petition was made in 1927 and the Government gave a sum of only 250 pounds, although Nana Sir Ofori Atta, speaking in the Legislative Council asked for 2,500 pounds, supported by Kojo Thompson.
As the late Ghanaian Lawyer and Anthropologist, Dr. Isaac Ephson says in his “Gallery of Gold Coast Celebrities,” (p. 64)
“This took the form of a more enduring memorial, which was set up at Achimota in honour of the pioneer of Ghana’s staple crop and the principal bulwark of the country’s economy. The memorial is Tetteh Quarshie House. And since Independence (1957) the Government of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah after petitions from Dr. J.B. Danquah and the Eastern Region House of Chiefs, has built a first-class hospital and fittingly named it after him at Mampong-Akwapim – TETTEH QUARSHIE MEMORIAL HOSPITAL. There’s also the Tetteh Quarshie farm where tourist visit to see the location where the first seedlings that was planted in Ghana. Relics and important artifacts used by him is also on display at the museum located on the farm. Another important edifice named after him is the former Tetteh Quarshie roundabout now the named Tetteh Quarshie interchange. Prior to interchange, there were claims that the roundabout was the biggest in West Africa.
For a man to have such historic edifices named after him show his worth to the country. Young people should be interested in visiting such places and learning about the greatness of such people. Unfortunately, the youth seem more interested in being on their phones and social media. If nothing is done about this perplexed situation, their interest in domestic tourism will decline even further and learning about the history of the greats will be of no importance to them. This may not propel them to also aspire for greatness.
As we celebrate our heritage month, its important to get the youth to appreciate the history of the great men and visit these tourism attractions. The big question is who is to lead them to these places? Who is to create the interest in them? It for us in media to highlight on these issues hoping they will hear and show interest along the way. The future of tourism relies on the youth in getting involved in domestic tourism. It looks as if the interest lies again in entertainment as well.
There is still light at the end of the tunnel if only the education will begin and efforts would be made to transport these young men and women on excursions to these places.
Philip Gebu is a Tourism Lecturer/Trainer. He is the C.E.O of FoReal Destinations Ltd, a Tourism Destinations Management and Marketing Company based in Ghana and with partners in many other countries. Please contact Philip with your comments and suggestions. Write to [email protected] / [email protected] Visit our website at www.forealdestinations.com or call or WhatsApp +233(0)244295901 / 0264295901. Visist our social media sites Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: FoReal Destinations