The pioneering initiative to train the next generation of cocoa farmers, is expected to bring a significant contribution to the country’s cocoa production, as a total of over 12,000 youth have been trained to venture into cocoa farming and its related businesses, by the MASO programme, being undertaken by Solidaridad.
With majority of Ghana’s cocoa farmers said to be fast aging, the move to ready the youth to take over as well as making the sector more attractive, is already paying off, according to the Programme Manager of the MASO, Philip Kankam.
He said while the programme, for instance, succeeded in recruiting more youth than initially targeted, this year, some beneficiaries have already taken off with their cocoa faming and other businesses in the cocoa value-chain.
He noted that about 1,458 hectares of cocoa have so far been cultivated by some of the trainees. Additionally, over 600 small scale businesses have also been created by those who are into support services provision. These developments among others is envisaged to help address some of the critical issues confronting the local cocoa sector, including aging farmers and aging cocoa farms, lack of support services and access to credit.
Speaking in an interview during a field demonstration exercise, for community facilitators, as part of this year’s MASO programme, at Tweapease, in the Amansie West District of the Ashanti Region, Mr. Kankam explained that MASO trainees are expected to impart the knowledge to others.
He said at least they are also training three youth cocoa farmers in their respective communities. This, he said, will create a rippling effect in their communities, and eventually ensuring the future of the local cocoa sector secured with involvement of the youth.
However, he also acknowledged that the youth face some challenges as they enter the industry and therefore entreated that a conducive environment should be created for them to be able sustain their businesses.
As a first step towards inculcating the culture of savings among the youth, he said the MASO programme has also introduced ‘youth savings and loans associations’ in the beneficiary cocoa communities. This, he noted, will also prepare the trainees to be able to save and be able to access credit to expand their businesses.
MASO, the leading programme which is nurturing the next generation of cocoa farmers, is a five-year programme sponsored by the Mastercard Foundation. The programme is focused on creating employment opportunities for the youth in Ghana’s cocoa communities. It is empowering the youth and making them realise there is a future in the cocoa sub-sector, and is being implemented by a consortium of partners led by Solidaridad.
Introduced in 2016, the operations of MASO covers six cocoa regions of the country including Ashanti, Western North, Volta, Central, Ahafo and Oti Regions. One of the highpoints of the programme is the specific interventions to encourage female participation. This has brought some renewed sense of livelihood for a lot of young women in the cocoa communities.
For instance, Helena Adu, from Yawkrom Community at Sefwi Wiawso in the Western North Region, now owns a six-acre cocoa farm. She said the knowledge received from the programme has now made her self-sufficient. She said the youth have a critical role to play in the development of the country and therefore encouraged the youth particularly women to go into cocoa farming.
Also, Francis Danso, who is based in Assin Fosu, in the Central Region, sharing his experience so far with the programme, said despite being a child of a cocoa farmer the prospects of cocoa farming did not occur to him until his encounter with the MASO programme. He said he now has a six-acre cocoa farm. He said he initially begun with an acre of land but on realizing the benefits after applying the knowledge received from MASO, he was encouraged to expand his business.
He also entreated his peers to take cocoa farming seriously and take advantage of the opportunity offered by the MASO programme. However, he appealed that efforts should be made to help the youth who desire to go into cocoa farming to address the challenge of finance and access to land.