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Ghana cocoa sector taps youth ambassadors

Low yields and earnings from old diseased trees make cocoa farming unappealing to young people (© Keith Weller/USDA)
Low yields and earnings from old diseased trees make cocoa farming unappealing to young people
© Keith Weller/USDA

Interest in cocoa farming among the youth in parts of Ghana is growing following an initiative by the Cadbury Cocoa Partnership (CCP) to involve them in helping farmers raise yields and incomes by accessing improved seeds the youth raise in nurseries. Low yields and earnings from old diseased trees made cocoa farming unappealing to young people, prompting CCP to form a Cocoa Ambassadors Program in 2008. The programme recruits youths in tertiary learning institutions between 21 and 24 years to be ambassadors for a two year period. The first intake of ambassadors consisted of ten youths recruited from across Ghana after a competitive selection process involving over 600 applicants.

The next intake, due to begin in September 2012, will comprise 20 individuals because the number of communities participating in the initiative has doubled. Ambassadors in the programme are supported financially and technically by CCP to establish cocoa seedling nurseries with improved varieties, which are then distributed to cocoa farming communities. Ambassadors have also established demonstration farms showcasing good agronomic practices of cocoa growing and school gardens where students can practice agricultuale techniques. "Long term sustainability in cocoa production can't happen without fully integrating the youth population," says Yaa Peprah Amekudzi, CCP's Programme Director.

Ambassadors are also taught the history of cocoa in Ghana, how to grow it and the role it plays in the country's rural development. During their tenure, the ambassadors are assigned a work plan to show how they will engage their local community, schools and youths. According to Amekudzi, the programme is contributing to the long term sustainability of cocoa production in Ghana, youth involvement in programme areas having risen from three per cent in 2009 to 41 per cent now. Production has also increased: CCP estimates that in 2008 cocoa farmers in Ghana were producing only 40 per cent of the country's potential but this has risen to about 57 per cent.

Date published: May 2012

 

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