A project aimed at empowering about 4,000 women and young adults in rural cocoa processing communities in the Ashanti and Western North regions of the country has been launched.
Dubbed: “TogetHER”, the over $11 million project is targeted at building a sustainably resilient cocoa sector with equal distribution of economic benefits and opportunities for youth farmers through the training and support of its beneficiaries in collective savings, entrepreneurship and financial inclusion programmes.
Funded by the Global Affairs Canada (GAC), the five-year project will also centre on reducing gender gaps in the cocoa sector so that cocoa cooperatives in rural communities will become more inclusive and foster effective women and youth participation.
The project is spearheaded by a non-governmental organisation, SOCODEVI, in collaboration with Canada and its partners, including the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA), the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) and the Department of Cooperatives.
The Country Director of World Cocoa Foundation, Dr Betty Annan, launched the project in Accra yesterday, stating that despite being the second largest producer of cocoa in the world which contributed to the country’s GDP, local cocoa farmers continued to wallow in abject poverty while struggling to attain a living income.
She said in the agricultural sector, women formed over 40 per cent of the labour force and so the project would help to build the capacities of women and youth in financial literacy to ensure that they got financial autonomy, while addressing gender inequalities at various levels within the cocoa communities by training women in leadership skills to take up leadership roles at all levels.
Dr Annan pledged her support to ensure that the project achieved its ultimate goal, and urged the partners to support the project and ensure it realised the ultimate objective.
The Principal Coordinator of the project, Martha Mensah, stated that the project was part of a step to empower women and youth by building their cooperative skills.
That, she said, would transform women and the youth in the 18 targeted cooperatives to meet up with collaborations made at the government levels.
Mrs Mensah added that the project was targeted at encouraging stakeholders such as MoFA and COCOBOD to improve their performance in delivering adapted, gender responsive and climate-smart products and services in collaboration with other cocoa actors for the benefit of women and the youth.
The Country Director of SOCODEVI, Nicholas Demers-Labrousse, assured the farmers of an open and free network to ensure that they built a positive, sustainable impact in the selected communities.
He urged them to share their ideas and innovations on how to build on the common goal, and encouraged them to stay committed to the end of the programme.