CONSERVATION YOUTH ASSOCIATION
Over 60 percent of cocoa farmers in West Africa are above 60 years. This situation has dire consequence for the cocoa industry particularly when there is little or no incentive for the youth to take cocoa production as a career. Without continued major investment in the youth to take up cocoa production, the world chocolate business is definitively at risk. Poverty can‟t be solved simply by developing new economic opportunities outside rural areas.
It must be addressed within rural areas themselves by focusing on agriculture and in this case cocoa– the basis of most rural poor people’s livelihoods. A key measure of generating interest among the youth is to create awareness about the benefits from the cocoa industry. Targeting the youth for such campaign is seen as the most effective means of influencing and changing behaviors and perception towards the sector.
Conservation Youth Association (CYA) is an association of young men and women (between the ages of 18 – 35 years) with the aim of taking advantage of the opportunity the cocoa industry offers. Whilst producing cocoa, the group is also interested in protecting biodiversity within their locality. The man goal of the youth program is therefore to enhance youth involvement in sustainable cocoa production through the use of information and computer technology.
The need for a more efficient, cost effective and user friendly information technologies for cocoa farmers is crucial if the current poor socio-economic status of farmers and farming communities are to be a thing of the past. Information on improved agronomic practices, pesticides, fertilizers, markets etc will help improve the development of the sector. The program has information centre within designated points in communities to serve as cocoa extension hub. At the centre computers with internet facilities are set up and the youth trained to access information and also communicate with technical staff outside the area. The use of mobile phone for extension is encouraged among the extension agent and the group of youth farmers. The maiden group (around the Ankasa National Park in Ghana) was formed in 2009 with a current membership of 200 cocoa farmers. Similar groups have been formed in Nigeria, Liberia and Cameroon.
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