A $74 million project focusing on creating employment opportunities for young people in the cocoa sector has been launched.
The five-year project is targeting more than 200,000 economically-disadvantaged youth in both Ghana and Uganda, where the same project had also been launched.
Dubbed ‘Maso’ literally meaning “lift up”, it is being implemented by a consortium, comprising Solidaridad, Aflatoun, Ashesi University, Fidelity Bank and the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), with the dance hall artiste, Stonebowoy as an Ambassador to elevate young people as vibrant cocoa entrepreneurs.
Within the period, the Maso programme would reach out to 81,661 youth, but eventually it is expected that 29,037 of the youth, with 40 per cent being females, would be self-employed either as farmers or service providers.
At the launch of the project at New Edubiase in the Ashanti Region, the Ashanti Regional Director of Solidaridad, Isaac Gyamfi, explained that the project would create local employment opportunities in cocoa, by demonstrating how cocoa farming and its associated enterprises “can allow the youth to have productive, fulfilling and rewarding lives, either as viable farmers or as entrepreneurs in cocoa growing communities to generate decent incomes”.
Realising that demand for cocoa and chocolate was increasing annually, he said the move would help contribute to the rejuvenation of the cocoa industry.
According to Mr. Gyamfi, the project would harness the energy, ambition and the ability of currently unemployed youth through an incubator method combining training, coaching, support and a youth network and lower the barriers to land, finance and markets.
The Ashanti Regional Manager of the Cocoa Health Extension Division, Faustine Asamany, disclosed that available statistics indicated that “if care is not taken, in 10 years’ time, there would be no cocoa in Ghana because galamsey activities (illegal gold mining) are destroying all the cocoa farming lands”.
She said COCOBOD had started facilitating a process to push for a legislation to stop galamsey activities in cocoa farms.
Stonebwoy urged the youth to use the project to explore their dreams and learn to use the skills to create a more equitable world.
He thanked the brains behind the project for making him an Ambassador, saying that he had turned down several big monetary offers to be an Ambassador “because a good name is better than riches”.
FROM KINGSLEY E. HOPE, NEW EDUBIASE