What do cocoa farmers and school kids have in common?


Blog on her recent trip to Ghana by Sarah Blizzard, Development Writer, CARE

CARE works with farmers in the Ashanti region of Ghana to help improve cocoa yields and educational opportunities for children. How do these two seemingly-disparate things go together?

Like the northern part of Ghana, farming is the primary source of income in rural areas of the Ashanti region in the south. Cocoa is the predominant crop and a leading export from the country. For many families harvesting cocoa on their farm is not only the responsibility of the parents, but also the children. In many cases, children are often helping on the farm arrive late to school, miss a few days a week, or even miss school altogether.

CARE is addressing the issues of child labor, education and the need for more efficient farming techniques through our rural education project. We are improving cocoa yields, thus, income and reducing physical labor by helping communities keep the cocoa trees healthy.

While reducing the need for child labor, CARE also is improving education by providing teacher training and encouraging parents to send their children to school. In the community of Adadekrom, I met George and Margret and three of their nine children. George and Margret are members of CARE's farmers' group and now send their children to school regularly. Before CARE's involvement in their community, they did not understand the importance of regular school attendance for their children. Instead, the children would often arrive to school late or leave early to help transport the cocoa harvest. In addition to missing classes, they also missed out on time for homework due to their chores on the farm and at home chores.

Now, thanks to their training and use of better farming techniques, George and Margret are experiencing higher crop yields and do not rely as much on their children's involvement in farm work. Even though their workloads on the farm have increased as a result, George and Margret explained to me, "The workload is not so much. The most important thing is to see our children in school and getting the best education. We want to be able to give all of our children the highest level of education – university."

George and Margaret, along with their families, friends and neighbors, all face difficult decisions that I cannot imagine. While the challenges are great, these parents want to provide their children with an education. It was wonderful to see how CARE is making a positive change in the lives the adults and the children in this region.

Cocoa farmers George and Margaret stand in front of the primary school with three of their children – Mavis, Amankoah and Agyekum. (2009 Sarah Blizzard/CARE)