Self Help Young Adult Training Center in Ghana

 
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Veronica has a new mushroom business
Veronica has a new mushroom business

Veronica and Gideon are married for more than two decades and have three teenaged children; 2 boys and a girl aged between 14 and 18 years old. Veronica has been a petty trader all these years while her husband worked with a mining firm. Ghanaian mine workers used to enjoy good slaries and it has been the dream of many Ghanaians to work with mining firms.

Globally, gold prices have witnessed continuous decline the past five years and it is having unberable consequences on many mine workers and their dependants in Ghana; some have lost working hours and others have become jobless. Gideon lost his job in 2013 and Veronical tells Self-Help the news about Gideon’s retrenchment hit the family like a tsunami. “For a moment I felt my world had caved in and I was completely lost,” she lamented.

The job loss compelled the family to relocate to their home village, Obuasi, which resulted in the collapse of Veronica’s petty trading business. Feeding a family of five and paying for tuition for two high school students and one junior high student were challenging tasks. Veronica resorted to selling sachet water by the road side, earning up to five cedis ($1.66) on a good day. However, the worsening energy supply situation in Ghana and nation-wide rationing of power - 12 hrs with power, 24 hours without power- has posed a major setback to her sachet water business; her freezer breaks down quite frequently and the cost of repairs were draining her capital.

In December 2014, Veronica saw an ad by Self-Help International and quickly enrolled to acquire hands-on training in mushroom production which she completed in January 2015. Although the business is barely two months old, already she is managing 1,000 mushroom bags and makes a weekly sale of GHC 30 ($10). Just like many new products, their home grown mushroom is enjoying minimum but steady patronage from their community, a situation which encourages them to give their new business all their best.

Unlike the water business, this new venture has the potential to become a family business, creating employment for all family members. The market is being explored to solicit more customers, which will soon increase revenue to more than GHC 100 ($33) cedis weekly. Already, Veronica enjoys a lot of support from Gideon. Since she is virtually illiterate, he helps with records keeping and marketing. Veronica is receiving additional training in marketing at the Self-Help International Frances and Virginia Lagerschulte Young Adults Training Centre. With value addition through packaging, pricing and promotion her sales would increase bringing her enough revenue to feed herself and her family.  

Your donations have made it possible for families, like Veronica and Gideon's, to learn new skills and start new businesses.

She sells GHC 30 ($10) of mushrooms weekly
She sells GHC 30 ($10) of mushrooms weekly

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Bernard displays his mushrooms
Bernard displays his mushrooms

Bernard is a young graduate with a first degree in Psychology from the University of Cape Coast in Ghana. After completing his national service requirement, he traveled from his village, Kumawu, to look for a job in the capital city of Accra, but found none.

In July 2014, Bernard enrolled at the Self-Help International Frances Mueller and Virginia Lageschulte Training Center at Nkwakrom in Ashanti region of Ghana with three objectives: to acquire knowledge and skills in mushroom production, to start his own enterprise, and to create employment for the youth.

Having completed his training in August 2014 he set up a mushroom production business in his home village of Kumawu. The business, Fobi Farms, is named after his mother, Georgina Agyare, a.k.a. Fobi, who was adjudged the 2012 Sekyere Kumawu District Best Farmer. Fobi Farms currently employs three people; a male and two females.

The production facility, which is located at Bernard’s residence, is large enough to house 396 mushroom bags and produces 20 pounds of mushrooms a week. Generally 1kg (2.2 pounds) of mushrooms is sold for 5 Ghanaian cedis ($1.55) on the local markets. Fobi Farms sells a half pound for 2 Ghanaian cedis ($0.62) due to value addition process: products are packaged with the producer's contact information and materials used for the production.

Bernard has established contacts with two health facilities located at Kumawu: Jesus Care Voluntary Clinic and Kumawu Health Centre. Both facilities recommend mushrooms from Fobi Farms to their clients. The doctors are particularly happy with the packaging.

Bernard tells Self-Help that initially his parents, especially his mother, did not support the idea of self-employment, but after the first harvest and the professional packaging of the mushrooms, he now receives enormous support from them. Bernard tells Self-Help the prospects for his business are good and he plans to expand the infrastructure at an initial cost of 970 cedis ($300.78). He has so far mobilized 320 cedis ($99.23) and Self-Help is helping with the difference through a micro-loan.

Last month, Bernard was awarded the National Famer's Day Award by the Ghana Ministry of Food and Agriculture in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the development of agriculture in Ghana.

Thank you for your support of the Ghana Training Center. Your donation is making it possible for young farmers, like Bernard, to start and grow awarding winning businesses.

Bernard inside the incubation house
Bernard inside the incubation house

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Graduate Samuel (right) in front of cropping house
Graduate Samuel (right) in front of cropping house

Samuel completed a course in mushroom production at Self-Help International’s Frances Mueller and Virginia Lageschulte Training Center (FMVLTC) in June 2014, and now has a growing business that is creating employment, improving the environment, and providing a more nutritional food source for the market.

Last month, Samuel started up his mushroom business in Offinso, a town in the forest region of Ghana with several timber mills. These timber mills produce tons of sawdust causing considerable environmental pollution due to inefficient waste management practices. The sawdust is sometimes set on fire to eliminate it, and other times carried away by wind with the potential to cause lung infection and other respiratory diseases. Samuel’s business makes use of this sawdust for composting, thereby offering some relief in minimizing this environmental menace. He tells SHI the abundance of sawdust for composting reduces his production cost. He only pays for transportation. It costs 30 pesewas ($0.10) to produce a 1.5kg bag of sawdust compost which sells for one cedi ($0.33). Meanwhile, one 1.5kg compost bag produces 6 cedis worth of mushroom ($2.00), a significant return on investment.

Samuel sees a lot of profitability in mushroom sales since most mushrooms currently available on the market are wild mushroom, which are seasonal and expensive during lean seasons. As an accountant, he is aware of the significant benefits of taking a loan from SHI, where the interest is a flat rate without any additional hidden fees that are charged by most commercial banks in Ghana. With his loan, he was able to invest in building the cropping house for his mushroom.

Yet he is motivated not only by profit from his business but also his contribution to creating employment for the youth. By October, he had already created new job employing three people who were formerly unemployed. Awudu and Zakaria are both full-time employees who assist with composting and bagging for mushroom production, and Mamuna works part-time.

Samuel has big plans to grow this business into three major cities, creating even more employment as the business grows. He and his wife have one son and one adopted daughter (niece) in their care. Even though he has a day job as an accountant and his wife works as a nurse, he says it would be challenging for them to care for the children’s needs and school fees without this supplementary income. He plans to expand by marketing the mushrooms to hospitals as well since they are currently promoting low cholesterol diets and increased vegetable consumption.

With the outbreak of Ebola in Africa and heightened education for people to stay away from bush meat, availability of skills and resources for people to go into agro-based enterprises such as rabbit rearing and mushroom production will not only create employment for the youths, but will also provide more affordable and healthier nutritional sources, which minimizes morbidity rates and increases productivity. Thank you for your support of Samuel’s business, which is providing better livelihoods, healthier foods, and safer environments for many residents of the Ashanti region.

Mamuna, Awudu, & Zakaria bagging compost
Mamuna, Awudu, & Zakaria bagging compost

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Studentsof St. Peter
Studentsof St. Peter's Jr. High prepare compost

Things I hear I forget. Things I see I remember. Things I do I understand.

In May 2014 during the 53rd Diocesan Synod of the Kumasi Diocese of the Methodist Church in Ghana, the Right Reverend Professor Osei Safo-Kantanka, Methodist Bishop of the Kumasi Diocese, added his voice to calls for Ghana to focus on hands-on training for the youth.

He reiterated “the country cannot develop if we do not develop our hands-on technical and vocational education.” He advocates for scholarships to be given to students pursuing technical and vocational education.

The Ghanaian system of education coupled with limited financial resources has compelled many, especially public schools to rely heavily on text books for teaching and learning. Teaching of subjects such as information and computer technology, engineering, agricultural science are about 70 percent textbook-based with limited opportunities for practice. This has adverse effects on the quality of Ghanaian graduates; they hardly fit into the job market let alone being prepared to start their own small operation. This has contributed to an unemployment rate of more than 40 percent among graduates and low gross domestic product.

From afar the situation looks hopeless but it is never too late to make amends. People trained at the Frances Mueller and Virginia Lageschulte Training Center (FMVLTC) are proving that people understand better and are more willing to practice when given hands-on training.

Kofi is 28 years old and a pupil teacher. In 2013, in his quest to earn higher income, he enrolled at the University College of Education in Kumasi-Ghana but withdrew due to financial challenges. He enrolled at the FMVLTC in June 2014 and is currently raising rabbits. He now has a reliable supply of protein for his family and additional income to continue his education.

St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Junior High School at Toase received training at the center in March 2014. After the training the headmistress, Mrs. Mary Magdalene Wompakeah, was more convinced than ever before of the need for hands-on training and won the confidence of the PTA for the school to continue practical education at the center. Currently, the school is embarking on mushroom production in collaboration with FMVLTC. The children are enthused about the fact that mushroom production is well within their capabilities.

Traditionally, Ghana’s supply of mushrooms have come from the wild but this source has witnessed a sharp decline in recent times and the need to find a reliable supply is urgent. Mushrooms, snails, and cocoyam, though seasonal, used to be in abundance a decade ago but have witnessed population decline due to climatic changes and use of agro-chemicals which in many cases are wrongfully applied due to inadequate hands-on training in their application. With proper training there is great opportunity for students pursing mushroom cultivation today.

Because of your support many young students have the opportunity to receive hands-on training and acquire new, useful skills through the Frances Mueller and Virginia Lageschulte Training Center. Like Kofi, they can put their new skills to use to better provide for their families future. Thank you for your generous donation.

Rt. Rev. Prof Osei Safo Kantanka
Rt. Rev. Prof Osei Safo Kantanka
Kofi with the rabbits he is raising.
Kofi with the rabbits he is raising.

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Junior high students visit training center
Junior high students visit training center

In March, students and staff from Toase Roman Catholic Junior High School paid a two-day educational visit to the Frances Mueller and Virginia Lageschulte Young People's Training Center in Ghana.

SHI Training Center Manager, Justice, explained projects and training programs to visiting students. They learned about the mushroom growing program including the development of compost for mushrooms. Students also learned about the production, care and management of snails, rabbits, grass cutters and poultry.

In all 35 students (17 females and 18 males) and three teachers (two males and one female) visited the center.

Your generous support provides new educational experiences and training for current and future students from Toase Junior High School and other schools like it. Thank you for your donation.

Students learn about composting
Students learn about composting
Justice, center manager, speaks to students.
Justice, center manager, speaks to students.

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Project Leader

Nora Tobin

Executive Director
Waverly, IA United States

Where is this project located?

Map of Self Help Young Adult Training Center in Ghana