The 5-year Next Generation Cocoa Youth Programme (MASO) to create employment opportunities for young people mostly in cocoa-farming communities in Ghana has officially come to an end.
The programme, also known as MASO, was funded by the Mastercard Foundation under the Youth Forward Initiative and implemented by a consortium of six partners.
They included Solidaridad West Africa, Aflatoun International, Opportunity International, Ashesi University, Fidelity Bank and the Ghana Cocoa Board.
The MASO programme was executed from January 2016 to December 2020 and focused primarily on young people between the ages of 15 and 25.
The programme is said to have created a critical mass of young entrepreneurial cocoa farmers, as well as youth-led professional service providers within the Ghanaian cocoa landscape.
A press release copied to Cocoa Post noted that over 13,000 young people, comprising 7,410 men (57%) and 5,590 women (43%) in 341 cocoa-growing communities in the Ahafo, Ashanti, Central, Oti, Volta, Western, and Western North regions enrolled in the programme.
It said more than 9,500 of them were equipped with relevant tools and skills to take up cocoa farming and related businesses.
According to Solidaridad, the lead implementor of the MASO programme, more than 4,100 youth have established cocoa farms totalling 1,458 hectares while others were involved in setting up 449 service centres.
Officials reported these professional service providers and cocoa farmers are contributing to the development of the cocoa sector through climate-smart agronomic practices that improve productivity and avoid deforestation.
Activities to officially end the 5-year programme involved a 3-week radio campaign, community and district-level engagements and close-out events.
The final closeout event for the Next Generation Cocoa Youth Programme (MASO) was held at Dzolopuita, in the Ho West District of the Volta Region of Ghana.
The Regional Director for Solidaridad West Africa, Isaac Kwadwo Gyamfi, observed the MASO programme demonstrated the business case for cocoa farming and related businesses and, thus, motivated many youth to venture into the trade.
He, however, called on stakeholders, particularly landowners and financial service providers to prioritize access to land and finance for youth who have interest and skills for cocoa production but struggle with these resources.
“As an organization that implements many other youth-focused interventions in the cocoa and oil palm value chains across our operations in Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone, Solidaridad looks forward to applying lessons from the MASO programme to enhance the lives of other young people in the subregion”, said Isaac Gyamfi.
The CloseOut sessions served as an opportunity to share lessons learned and successes, receive feedback to inform future programming, and also canvass for support for the MASO youth to transition.
The District Chief Executive of the Ho West, Ernest Victor Apau, commended Solidaridad West Africa for supporting the assembly’s drive to curb rural-urban migration by sustaining the interest of the youth in cocoa farming through job creation.
Mr Apau pledged the assembly’s continuous support to ensure that MASO beneficiaries contribute to the development of the district.