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Voice of Cocoa

Cocoa Rehabilitation Job Is Paying For My University Degree

Esther Nyarko, a resident of Dadieso in the Suaman District of Ghana’s Western North Region, has her life back on track thanks to an employment opportunity she grabbed in the ongoing cocoa rehabilitation programme.

Nyarko, 28, faced an uncertain future as job prospects looked grim after finishing her mandatory national service in 2021.

She completed a 3-year diploma course in general agriculture at the Kwadaso Agricultural College between 2017 and 2020.

With no funds to immediately pursue her dream of continuing her academic journey to attain a university degree, Esther said she decided to stay on to volunteer her service at the Dadieso district of the Cocoa Health and Extension Division of Ghana Cocoa Board.

The situation Nyarko found herself in was not peculiar to her, as thousands of residents in the district, mainly cocoa farmers, joined an exodus out of the enclave as the general economic situation took a nosedive with the decline in cocoa production activities.

A massive outbreak of the Cocoa Swollen Shoot Virus Disease (CSSVD) across Ghana’s cocoa belt has shattered livelihoods and eroded hope for many.

For decades, Western North reigned as Ghana’s top cocoa-producing region until neighbouring Western South snatched the title in the 2017/18 season.

From an output of 51,412 metric tonnes in the 1984/85 crop year, Western North’s leadership peaked in the 2010/11 crop season, when it produced 590,370 metric tonnes of cocoa, representing 57.6 per cent of the total national output.

The region today is a pale shadow of its heyday, having woefully succumbed to the deadly Cocoa Swollen Shoot Virus Disease (CSSVD).

As part of a nationwide intervention to roll back CSSVD, the government is implementing the National Cocoa Rehabilitation Programme in partnership with Afarinick Company Limited, a leading private sector farm and forest management service provider.

In line with its contract implementation strategy, the firm established the world’s largest plantain nursery at Dadieso in the heart of the Western North Region.

The facility is producing millions of plantain seedlings to support the nurturing of more than 100,000 hectares of sustainable cocoa farms.

The 500-acre Dadieso nursery and other satellite nurseries by Afarinick have engaged over 5,000 direct employees from Western North and other parts of Ghana, 65% of whom are women, including Esther Nyarko.

Esther Nyarko is among the pioneers to join the nursery department at its startup stage in December 2021.

“My job with Afarinick Company Limited has brought great improvement to my life,” said Nyarko, adding, “I have been able to save up in this short period of working with Afarinick to self-fund my first degree at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST).”

Nyarko, who works during the week and attends weekend school twice a month, feels proud that she can independently finance her tuition, stationery, and other costs.

“I foot my transportation fare for my bi-monthly 2-hour commute to KNUST, Kumasi, to attend lectures,” she boasted.

The Assistant Project Officer at Afarinick commended the proprietors of the company for setting up the nursery in her community, which has afforded herself and others rewarding jobs and financial empowerment.

“My dream to further my education by obtaining a first degree is being fulfilled thanks to my job at Afarinick Nursery,” Nyarko emphasised.

According to her, she has acquired a great depth of practical knowledge, skills, and techniques at Afarinick, positioning her for a great career as an agriculturist.

Given the sheer scale of rehab activities being implemented by Afarinick Company Limited, Esther Nyarko does not doubt that very soon cocoa production in her beloved Western North Region will rise once again, like a phoenix from its ashes, to reclaim its lost glory.

Kojo Hayford
Source Cocoa Post
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