Three Questions to Mawuse Hotor on the Partnership Meeting, Youth in Cocoa, and Women’s Empowerment

  • Interviewee Mawuse Hotor

    Cocoa Farmer
  • Interviewer Boukje Theeuwes

    Senior Policy Advisor
    Solidaridad
Photo by Solidaridad

Following the 2019 World Cocoa Foundation Partnership Meeting in Berlin, civil society organization Solidaridad sat down to speak with Mawuse Hotor on her experience as keynote speaker at the 2019 Women in Cocoa and Chocolate (WINCC) event, as a panelist during the closing session of the Partnership Meeting, and as a young cocoa farmer in Ghana.

What brought you to the WCF Partnership Meeting in Berlin?

I was invited to the WINCC event on the eve of the WCF partnership meeting to share my experience of becoming a cocoa farmer in Ghana. I spoke about how important it is to invest in the potential of women and youth in the cocoa value chain as well as their significant impact on making the cocoa sector more sustainable.

Also, I joined the closing panel of the WCF meeting, and had the chance to share my views with attendees. I used the opportunity to stress the importance of engaging young women and men who are often not interested anymore in following in the footsteps of their parents and becoming a farmer. It is through the potential and entrepreneurship of the next generation of cocoa farmers that we can achieve a sustainable cocoa sector.

Mawuse Hotor speaks during the 2019 Partnership Meeting

We often hear that young people are not interested in cocoa farming. How do you see this?

That is indeed the case. I come from a cocoa family from Akome Gbota in the Volta Region of Ghana and I have seen my parents struggle financially despite all their hard work. I was very determined to work hard for a better future for myself, so despite the financial hardship of my family I managed to finish my primary and secondary education. Due to financial constraints I could not further my education, so I left my village and went to the city to look for a job. In most cases, however, jobs in the city are extremely difficult to come by. It was while I was in the city working as a teacher and selling fruit on weekends and during holidays that Solidaridad’s MASO program started in my village. The MASO Cocoa Academy is a training program for young Ghanaian women and men to become skilled, business-savvy cocoa farmers.

My mom saw prospects in the program and asked me to come back to the village and ‘try my luck’ with farming. I did not like that idea at all – actually I thought it was a very bad idea. So I told her that I respectfully disagree. You know how persistent moms can be – especially my mom – so on the very last day I enrolled in the program and I have never regretted that decision.

Mawuse Hotor Photo by Solidaridad
MASO program participants Photo by Solidaridad

After going through the training, I started my farm at age 26. There are quite some challenges for young people, especially women, to start a business in cocoa. My biggest challenge is obtaining land and access to finance. But I am currently the proud owner of a small plot of land. I am harvesting my first cocoa this year and have already started earning money from the food crops that were intercropped on my farm. Also, I have been able to save some money from this and have started a teacher training program recently. But I will stay a cocoa farmer, as cocoa is my first love.

What is your takeaway from your participation in the 2019 Partnership Meeting?

I am grateful that I got the chance to travel outside Ghana to Berlin and now have a broader world view. I can see that my confidence level has greatly improved and I have better self-esteem. My family respects me because I am able to contribute financially and also support other members of my family. My status has also improved in my community because not many women have ventured into cocoa farming. I am a better person now than I was three years ago.