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Towards the economic empowerment of young entrepreneurs in Ghana’s Cocoa sector

Posted in News on May 20, 2021

2020 marked the final year of the MASO programme, focused on creating employment opportunities for youth (aged 18-25) in Ghana’s cocoa communities. MASO is part of the Youth Forward initiative, a partnership led by The MasterCard Foundation, Overseas Development Institute, Global Communities, Solidaridad, NCBACLUSA and GOAL. Due to the COVID-19 restrictions, the close-out sessions of the Next Generation Cocoa Youth (MASO) programme were postponed and finally held in May 2021. At the closeout event, the project partners took stock with stakeholders, reflected on the results achieved and lessons learned, to guide similar future interventions so that now trained and capacitated youth do not go into hibernation with the programme’s end.

The MASO programme was targeted at not-in-school youth, living under the $2 per day poverty line, in the following cocoa-growing regions of the country, including Afadzato South, Hohoe, Adanse South, Assin Foso, Bia West, Ho West, Kasapin and Sewfwi-Wiawso.

The challenges of the cocoa sector in Ghana

Unemployment amongst rural youth in Ghana is high and increasing. With few prospects for gainful, meaningful employment in their communities, youth are migrating to urban centres in search of a better life, only to find equally challenging conditions, but now without the support of their families. cocoa production is Ghana’s largest agricultural activity; it accounts for 8% of GDP and supports approximately 6.3 million people. Despite a growing demand for cocoa and chocolate products, cocoa production is declining due to a number of factors, among which is the ageing demographics of cocoa farmers. Therefore, the MASO programme specifically focused on increasing the attractiveness of a career in the cocoa sector.

The recent impact evaluation of the programme found evidence of the programme’s capacity to improve economic and financial inclusion in eight districts of the cocoa-growing regions in Ghana. This is especially important evidence in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, as youth livelihoods have been significantly affected by the measures in response to the crisis, including school closures, and disruptions in agricultural value chains and markets.

This programme has provided sustainable jobs for the youth across different communities, being called “transformative” by MASO Programme Officer, Joan Atiase, as “it created a lot of awareness for youths to become entrepreneurial farmers, as well as venture into alternative livelihood income activities to support their welfare and growth in their communities.”

Life skills and financial education in action

Within this programme, Aflatoun was responsible for developing a youth-centred curriculum and providing training on social and financial education, Legal Rights, and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR). Aflatoun also worked with consortium members to develop an assessment tool that focused on the financial literacy level of youth living in cocoa communities in Ghana.  Its focus was to link young people to quality employment or enable them to start their own businesses in Ghana’s cocoa sector.

During the last 5 years, the programme directly targeted 10 thousand young people. We also provided training for facilitators on youth-centred teaching methodologies. Thus, participants received foundational skills and engaged in financial and entrepreneurship activities in their communities.

With MASO coming to a close in 2020, Aflatoun reflects on its role in this project for the social and economic empowerment of young people and their communities. The learnings from this successful project will be applied to other similar initiatives focusing on youth economic empowerment.


Over the years, financial literacy has been a missing link in most of the training on agriculture. The component of financial and social skills, as facilitated by Aflatoun International, has been a valuable addition to the MASO programme. — Joan Atiase, MASO Programme Officer

Throughout the programme, its participants developed an entrepreneurial mindset that led them to reconsider their approach towards farming into seeing it as a business opportunity.

“One of the interesting parts of the training over the year is that now young people are conscious about their spending habits and the profit they get from their farms, they save it in banks and in group savings in their communities. This project is very transformative. This is because it created a lot of awareness for youths to become entrepreneurial farmers, as well as venture into alternative livelihood income activities to support their welfare and growth in their communities,” Joan stressed.

We collected some outstanding stories from 4 programme beneficiaries across different communities in Ghana. Learn their perspectives on how Aflatoun and the MASO programme transformed their lives starting from May 25th, 2021.