Gold Fields launches youth farming programme at Tarkwa - Graphic.com
An agricultural programme dubbed: ‘Youth in organic horticulture production (YouHop)’, intended to entice the youth in the Tarkwa-Nsuaem municipality in the Western Region into wholesome vegetable cultivation, has been launched at Tarkwa.
Gold Fields Ghana Limited and the Federal Republic of Germany, under its employment for sustainable development in Africa programme, have committed 800,000 Euros to the three-year project which is designed to create employment and improve incomes for about 1,000 young people in the municipality.
Under the terms of the project, Gold Fields will provide funding and other forms of assistance, including equipment and farming inputs, support for the promotion of the Ghana Green Label and farmer business schools, as well as stakeholder workshops.
The green label certification is to ensure that vegetables produced under the YouHop programme will seek certification from the Ghana Green Label Secretariat to confirm that they were produced under strict, acceptable and verifiable agricultural protocols.
On the other hand, the German Development Co-operation (GIZ) will offer technical and financial assistance, ensure project management and monitoring, as well as identify key actors along the vegetable value chain, among other forms of support.
To ensure sustainability of the programme, the availability of capital is critical and, therefore, a co-operative credit union has been instituted which requires membership of all YouHop participants.
It is a community-based financing system that will provide low interest credit facilities and business advisory services for the programme players.
The project business schools will offer training in both improved traditional farming practices and organic vegetable production and also assist producers to organise themselves into farmer co-operatives (FBOs) and build their leaders’ capacities to establish community-based credit unions.
Mr Robert Siaw, the Sustainable Development Manager, Gold Fields Ghana, who gave an overview of the project, explained that even though agriculture was the mainstay of most of the communities, it was quite evident that the youth in the company’s operational area and even countrywide were not particularly excited about traditional cash crops such as cocoa and oil palm.
He said those crops had long gestation periods and required large tracts of land, the acquisition of which was usually problematic and expensive.
Mr Siaw noted that vegetable production seemed a viable alternative for the youth, since it required much smaller land, had shorter gestation periods and had great income-generating potential.
‘‘While waiting for two to five years for cocoa and oil palm to be ready for harvest, the vegetable farmer will benefit from three harvesting cycles within a single year,’’ he said.
According to him, statistics from the Ghana Export Promotion Centre (GEPC) suggested that Ghana was nowhere close to meeting its export potential in vegetables, while local supply was also only seasonal.
The Executive Vice-President and Head of West Africa, Gold Fields, Mr Alfred Baku, disclosed that the company, in partnership with the government, through the Ghana Highways Authority (GHA), was undertaking the rehabilitation of the 29-kilometre Tarkwa-Damang road in the municipality at a cost of $17 million.
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