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COCOA LIFE IN GHANA: Helping female farmers thrive in business The story of Juliana (Suhum region)

Blog post   •   Nov 17, 2016 07:30 GMT

Juliana is a farmer and entrepreneur in eastern Ghana. Following some tough years on the farm she took part in the Cocoa Life training programme, and has since been able to turn her livelihood around. She is now able to support her children, her sister’s children and her parents, as well as help educate and empower other women in the community achieve their own success.

Boosting production

Juliana produces gari, a powdered product made from grated and dry-fried cassava and a staple of the Ghanaian diet, and until last year she produced around 10 bags of gari per production session; today the figure is closer to 100.

Through VSO* and the Cocoa Life programme, she received training in gari production, as well as broader business development best practice, including recordkeeping, savings and investment. This helped transform her outlook, so that she no longer describes herself as a farmer, but as business woman. Juliana comments: “Record keeping was one of the most valuable skills I learned. I never used to know how much money I was spending, but now I can see from my income records what profit I’ve made, where things could be improved or where I should do more of the same."

From mentee to mentor

After the training, Juliana also formed a group of female entrepreneurs who now work together to support each other and grow their businesses. Together the women realised that one of the biggest barriers to growing their business was the distance they had to walk to use a cassava grating machine. So, they decided to approach the owner of a grating machine who lived in the next village and he soon agreed to let them use it. The time that was spent carrying heavy loads to a town many miles away, is now spent on the farm. They have also opened a joint bank account that is available to members in times of need. Juliana comments: “The joint account acts as a safety blanket. If one of us faces emergency health costs or needs help with school fees, or would like to invest some money into improving their farm for instance, they can dip into the fund. Everyone is very respectful of the joint account and it has shown us we are stronger together than apart.”

It’s all connected

Recognising that business and personal lives are interconnected, Juliana also joined forces with Cocoa Life to learn about nutrition and growing her own food. Recognising that “people learn by seeing”, she invites women’s groups to visit her land and learn how they can plant food in their own gardens.

In the Suhum district where Juliana lives there are 12 women volunteers who have all received the same training as her. Each of them has created groups that support around 30 women, which means there are some 360 women developing enterprises in the district and helping their families to live healthier lives.

*VSO delivers the Cocoa Life programme in the eastern region of Ghana. VSO implements the programme, works alongside international and national volunteers to develop the capacity of local institutions and supports the delivery of Cocoa Life activities at a community level.