Ghana visit 2016 – Visit Report
It’s 6 years since my last visit to Ghana and I’m deeply impressed by the progress our program has made in the past few years. Our trip began in Kumasi, than we spent a few hours travelling through the country by car. Ghana is a large country and due to the size of our farmers’ base, there are a lot of villages which are part of our program and these villages are widely scattered. We visited farmer trainings, model farms, different projects supported by the program and a farm shop.
The trainings we attended were:
- A feedback round with the farmers on the training module “Integrated soil fertility management”
- Farmer training as part of the module “Farmer Business School”
We visited a village where the people showed us a snail farm and a fishpond, both of which they had thought up and created with the support of our local sustainability program manager, in an attempt to diversify their ways of making a living. The last visit was to an entrepreneurial farm shop.
Observing the training about “Farmer Business School” was a very exciting experience. The participants, both women and men, were so attentive and you could really feel their commitment and willingness to learn.
The slogan of this module was: money in, money out. The input of the training was basically to show that investments are needed in order to see an increase in your profit margin and this was demonstrated by a simple calculation. All participants received calculators at the start of the training, so that they were able to calculate the scenario themselves and give their own input to the calculation being done. All involved were very positive about the training afterwards and experiencing It was a real event; I’m sure it will be remembered by all (myself included!) as a helpful session.
In the “Alternative Livelihood” program, the local program manager is trying to motivate people to invest in alternatives which can help to bridge the gap between the more lucrative cocoa harvesting season and then the sale of that harvest, and the low season which inevitably follows. Cocoa is at present often the only cash crop and income for the farmers. With the realisation of this initiative, an income in future low seasons should be more easily secured. The projects are the shared responsibility of a village and invested in by everybody in whatever way they can as individuals; some with work, some with land. Any profits which result will also be shared. The program manager is there to support the local people in questions like: what sort of projects should be tried out, how they should be organized, how the work should be shared, and how the investments should be made and the profits distributed.
We saw a very impressive snail farm, yes, you read this correctly, snails…. they are a delicacy in Ghana and you can easily sell them for a good price at the local market. We could hardly resist trying them….. :-)
Our final visit was to an entrepreneurial farm shop. Several farmers in the village had applied for the job of running it and one individual had been carefully chosen as he fulfilled the agreed criteria.
The shop had just opened when we arrived. The long term goal is to implement these shops at a village level. They are to provide the farmers with all they need to manage their farms; tools, fertilizers and pesticides. The Lindt & Sprüngli Farming Program contributes both financial support, in the form of start-up investments, and know-how by training the shop owner. During our visit we supported the new shop manager by buying two machetes.
My feeling during the whole trip in Ghana was generally very positive and I was really impressed by the commitment of the people we met. Yes, they are poor in relation to “Western standards”, but they have positive vibes. They are proud to be part of the program, they are very motivated and keen to participate and improve their livelihoods.
I’m proud to work for a company like Lindt & Sprüngli: we not only offer financial support in Ghana but also demonstrate an awareness and appreciation of our most important partners: the cocoa farmers.
To close, I would like to cite the local sustainability program manager:
«It's so motivating and refreshing to feel people being appreciative of the work you do.
This is a career I have built for myself and I would always want to make people happy.
I think with this job the most motivating thing is to realise that vulnerable and disadvantaged people nevertheless have a sense of hope and are being shown the way to improve their lot in life. It is believed that the world has left more than half of its population behind to poverty and obscure living conditions, as agents of change it’s our duty to bring those people to the level of the rest of the world. That is why we are doing all that we can to help bring about the change we desire so much. Thank you very much and we will continue to strive together to bring the change cocoa farmers need.»