The cocoa industry is vital to the development of Ghanas economy as it constitutes about 1.8% of the countrys GDP.
It is a major contributor to agricultural growth, employment, rural household incomes and macroeconomic stability. Despite its critical role, Ghanaian youth have been reluctant to engage in business within the cocoa value chain in the face of ageing cocoa farmers. This raises serious concerns about the long-term sustainability of the industry. Its potential to create employment for the many unemployed rural youths remains untapped. Creating a supportive infrastructure in which they can participate in the industry professionally and as a business can provide employment opportunities This would eventually stem youth migration to urban areas in search of a better life as migration leads them to more challenging conditions, without any social support system.
Solidaridad, Aflatoun, Ashesi University,Fidelity Bank and the Ghana Cocoa Board are implementing the Next Generation Cocoa Programme (MASO) a five-year programme funded by the Mastercard Foundation as part of its Youth Forward Initiative.MASO focused on creating employment opportunities for the youth (18-25) in Ghanas cocoa communities. The focus is to make the industry lucrative to economically disadvantaged rural youth who are, out of school by demonstrating a viable business case. With the adoption of a holistic approach that combines market-relevant skills, mentorship, internships and access to financial services and markets, young people are able to transition out of poverty and into sustainable livelihoods in farming and entrepreneurial ventures. The programme has so far trained and graduated over 5000 youth who are making a livelihood from cocoa farming and related businesses. These youth are replacing the ageing farming population and ensuring the sustainability of the cocoa industry, provide a voice for these young people who are not so assertive, a youth network within the cocoa landscape called the MASO Youth Network was created by young people who have undergone training and graduated from either the MASO Cocoa Academy (farmer incubator) or MASO Business Academy (business incubator). The aim of the network is to connect, share and inspire thus, In the MASO Youth Network, young cocoa entrepreneurs find the strength they need; the voice they lack and the confidence to confront their challenges and excel in their various businesses and lives as a whole. By end 2020, the MASO Youth Network will have a membership of over 10,000 young professional cocoa farmers and other entrepreneurs engaged in ventures within the cocoa value chain and businesses that enhance livelihoods in over 350 cocoa-growing communities.
For the achievement of this objective, an advisory board has been constituted to provide strategic leadership and guidance to the network. The board is made up of young professionals within the agricultural value chain such as YPARD Ghana, Trotro Tractor Ltd, MFARM among others. YPARD Ghana has positioned itself to cooperate extensively with MASO Youth Network to provide the visibility and voice needed to influence policy and youth within the cocoa landscape of Ghana.
The MASO Youth Network Advisory Board include Kafui Agbe, Kamal Yakubu, Leticia Yankey, Kwabena Assan-Mends and Akosua Adayi.
The MASO programme will be implemented in Ghana until 2020 and plans to reach 10,800 youth with skills in cocoa agronomy and the establishment of supporting businesses.
The programme has three components:
Cocoa Academy: trains young people to become entrepreneurial farmers
Business Academy: trains and supports young people to start businesses along the cocoa production chain or businesses that will enhance the life and general well-being of cocoa-growing communities.
Youth Network: a platform for participants from both the MASO Cocoa and MASO Business academies to connect, share ideas and best practices.
MASO is funded by the Mastercard Foundation and implemented by Solidaridad in partnership with Aflatoun International, Ghana Cocoa Board, Fidelity Bank, Ashesi University and Opportunity International Savings and Loans Limited.