Mr Bossman Owusu, Head of Communications, Solidaridad West Africa has said the Next Generation Youth in Cocoa Programme, also known as MASO, was leading the transformation of the cocoa sector in the country by professionalising the farming of the crop.
He said the current generation of youth had become “sophisticated”, and that more pragmatic and innovative approaches must be employed in making them to realise the possibilities in agriculture.
Mr Owusu said this at the 2019 MASO Youth in Cocoa Conference in Ho on the theme “Professionalising Cocoa Farming: the Role of the Youth”, and noted that the cocoa growing sector required youth involvement to fully develop.
He said with about 60 per cent of Africa’s population being youth, the continent and the world at large would depend on them to meet feeding demands, therefore governments must map out policies to provide enabling environments for them to take up agriculture.
Mr Owusu said Solidaridad believed that with right skills, access to finance, and land, the youth would be able to bring about a “huge transformation”, and revealed that more than 12,000 benefited from the agro, and business academies of the MASO programme.
“The contemporary youth are becoming more sophisticated. They do not want to do hoe and cutlass farming. With sustained partnerships, Solidaridad believes the expected change will come.
“Solidaridad is providing you with opportunities. It is up to you to take up your destiny into your own hands and bring change in Africa and the World”, he told beneficiaries at the conference.
Mr Fred Frimpong, Programme Manager, MASO said the incubation programme at the MASO Cocoa Academy provided professional cocoa farmers with entrepreneurial mind-sets in agriculture, while the Business Academy sought to produce entrepreneurs along the cocoa value chain.
He said access to land, financing and gender inclusion remained bottlenecks to the growth of the sector, and that the programme had on board, Fidelity Bank and Opportunity International, and the Ghana Cocoa Board among other consortium partners to support farmers.
Mr Frimpong said the MASO programme, from October 2015 to December 2019, was implemented in five cocoa growing regions in Ghana and had benefited some 10,000 people directly, as well as some 30,000 indirectly.
He said the programme produced entrepreneurs of its participants, helped secure employment for them, and added aged cocoa growers now received support from MASO trained youth in the area of farm services. Dr Stephen Adei, Board Chairman of the Ghana Revenue Authority who delivered the keynote address proposed a GHC 1 billion fund to support the youth venture into agriculture, and said government should consider restructuring the Planting for Food and Jobs programme to get them more involved.
MASO, funded by the Mastercard Foundation, has so far supported youths in 341 rural communities with 1,488 hectares of cocoa currently under cultivation.
About 40 per cent of beneficiaries are women.
Ten cocoa academies were set up, with 582 youths establishing businesses along the cocoa value chain.