Cocoa, Ghana’s “black gold” is one of her highest earning cash crops. Over the years, it has been the major source of employment and income for hundreds of thousands of rural dwellers across the country.
Ghana is the world’s largest cocoa producer after Cote d’Ivoire. Cocoa is vital to the strength of the formal economy as it employs 1.5 million people in production and transport. As in most cocoa-producing countries, the crop is grown by small-holder farmers.
Sadly, many of these farmers and their households, who live in the rural communities, have not had the opportunity to access quality education amongst other social interventions. Over the years, this situation has resulted in low levels of education in many cocoa growing communities. With a considerable number of aging cocoa farmers (majority of cocoa farmers are above the age of fifty years), and the seeming lack of interest from the younger generation, cocoa production in Ghana could be at risk.
Spurred on by this threat, cocoa industry players and development partners have teamed up to help empower cocoa farmers and their households through relevant education. This, it is hoped will help to sustain their livelihoods by expanding opportunities in cocoa growing communities. Contributing to these programs is World Education, Inc. (WEI) a private voluntary organization based in Boston, Massachusetts. It has a mission to meet the needs of vulnerable and disadvantaged populations through social and economic development programs.
World Education has since 2009 been an implementing partner on the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF) & USAID-funded Empowering Cocoa Households with Opportunities and Education Solutions (WCF-ECHOES) program in Ghana and more recently, since 2011 in Cote d’Ivoire. The WCF-ECHOES program is a public-private partnership between USAID, WCF and WCF member companies which begun in 2007.
WEI implements the basic education component of the program, with Winrock International, another implementing partner, handling the livelihoods component. WCF-ECHOES is implemented in thirty communities in the Sefwi Wiawso, Akontonbra, Juaboso, Bibiani-Anhwiaso-Bekwai, Atwima Nwabiagya and West Akim districts of the Western, Ashanti and Eastern regions. The current program runs till 2015.