Education
 Ghana
Project #9370

Self Help Young Adult Training Center in Ghana

by Self-Help International
Emmanuel receiving his award
Emmanuel receiving his award

At Self-Help, we take an integrated approach to rural development. If we wish to improve nutrition for our people, we must teach them how to grow more and better food. So as part of the annual plan to train farmers, our Young Adult Training Center (YATC) team coordinates with the School Feeding Program team to schedule informational training sessions about the benefits of cultivating and consuming Quality Protein Maize for representatives of schools active in the school feeding program. Individual farmers from those same communities are also invited to ensure that the community is food secure and not dependent on Self-Help's interventions long-term.

So last March, more than a dozen farmers gathered at the training center to learn about conservation agriculture practices, particularly in the context of maize cultivation. Farmers were trained on land preparation (weeding and herbicide application), sowing, applying fertilizer, weed control, harvesting, and precautions on grain storage.

Emmanuel (pictured) was one of those present. He is a 34 year old teacher tasked with teaching agriculture at Nkontomire elementary and junior high school. He is from Abuakwa, and travels 14 km to school each day where he teaches, among other classes, the “Integrated Science” course at the junior high school level, and heads up cultivation of the school garden. For his efforts on behalf of the school, he received the prestigious National Farmers Day Award for Best School in Agriculture, Atwima Nwabiagya District in December 2016.

The Self-Help International Ghana staff have always known him to be an eager learner; he constantly researches new methods in farming at the YATC and shares his experiences with his co-farmers to all who are interested with the with new methods they put into practice. However, his story was of a different one before Self-Help International existed in his community.

Before starting this teaching position, Emmanuel had no previous background in agriculture, especially crop production. He had participated in a seminar organized by a group called Filicon Consult, where he was introduced to livestock production. The school had previously not been able to establish a farm, which made it difficult to teach methods through demonstration plots. In the past, another nonprofit had decided to initiate a school feeding program through acquiring land to grow the necessary ingredients, hoping it would provide the teachers with a way to experiment. However, the program failed to cultivate the land properly.

Self-Help International was invited to Nkontomire in hopes that Self-Help's school feeding program would succeed since it incorporated greater training for adults and youth on cultivation methods.  Self-Help’s school feeding program team supplied the school inputs such as maize seeds, weedicide, and fertilizer every cropping season to ensure abundant production, and the Parent-Teach Association members and junior high students began cultivating the school garden plots using conservation tillage practices.  

Fast forward to today, the school is now able to produce about 200 kg of grain per production. Because he demonstrated such dedication and motivation, Emmanuel was invited to participate in the agricultural training organized at the Youth Adult Training Center.  By applying the efficient and cost effective agricultural practices he learned at the training center, he enhanced the school's repuation and earned the distinguished National Farmers Day award.  When receiving the award, he credited his success to the Self-Help International team for their unflinching support towards young farmers.

This success motivates me and the rest of my team in Ghana to continually provide knowledge to young and new farmers and schools. To increase the number of the people we serve, YATC has decided to reach out to beneficiaries in several communities this year to teach conservation farming, which could lead to a reduction in production cost, and promote sustainable methods of food production to feed the growing world’s population.  Thank you for your ongoing support of the farmers we serve.

Emmanuel
Emmanuel's experimental production

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Maize-Bush Mucuna Intercrop
Maize-Bush Mucuna Intercrop

Minimizing Production Cost While Growing and Consuming More Protein

In Ghana, the majority of farmers are subsistent— cultivating less than five acres annually. They farm to feed their families and also generate income to cater for other family needs such as paying medical bills and schools fees. Access to land and credit are major challenges confronting subsistent farming in Ghana.

In situations where land is a limiting factor in crop production, use of high yielding crop varieties and effective soil management can’t be compromised.

In 2014, SHI trained six farmers; two females and four males from Bedabour, (in the Atwima Mponua District) and gave them inputs on credit to cultivate one acre each of high yielding Quality Protein Maize (QPM). They recorded increased yields, averaging 1,100kg of maize per acre, which yielded higher profits. Based on the successes recorded, the number of farmer beneficiaries was increased from six to twenty; seven females, and thirteen males in 2015. All 20 farmers received improved agronomic training on land preparation, row planting, and fertilizer application. After the training, they are able to train their colleague farmers— passing these skills onto others in need. Self-Help provided all twenty farmers inputs credit which, they paid back in-kind. The process was repeated again this year, in 2016, with 25 farmers receiving training and inputs. The yields are a success again, just like the previous year.

Though the farmers continue to record good yields, the cost of production keeps increasing yearly due to the fact that most of the inputs given to them are imported, and the local currency (the Cedi), is weak. This year alone, the Cedi has depreciated by over 20% against the US dollar. The gains made by the farmers are thus eroded by the weak performance of the Cedi.

This year, for an acre of maize, each farmer received inputs worth two hundred and fifty-three Cedis (GHC253) and out of this amount, forty-three Cedis (GH43) representing seventeen percent (17%) of the production cost, is for herbicides. The Young Adults Training Centre is currently training farmers to be able to reduce their production cost through conservation agriculture.

Using three experimental plots, the farmers have learned that intercropping with a leguminous crop like cowpea, reduces the cost of weed control. There are three different treatments; 1, 2 and 3. Treatment 1 has mulch, and Treatment 2 is the control plot (only okra). Treatment 3 is okra intercropped with Bush Mucuna. Weed infestation is high on Treatment 2 (the plot without mulch), and weeds have been cleared twice on Treatment 2 since planting. No weeds have been controlled on both Treatments 1 and 3 since planting.  However, weeds are seen on the portions of Treatment 1 where the mulch has decomposed (refer to photos).

It is worth noting that, in addition to minimizing production cost, intercropping with a leguminous crop will ensure that the farmers have the much needed protein necessary for the growth and development of their children. Again, as they produce two crops, they are better able to deal with price fluctuations of their commodities; a fall in one commodity price may be compensated for by the other thereby stabilizing their capital and avoiding unwarranted collapse of their businesses.

Thank you for your support, which has made the progress to date possible. In coming seasons, we plan to establish more demo plots in selected communities to be able to educate more farmers on conservation agriculture.

Help us reach more farmers with improved practices: donate on #GivingTuesday and GlobalGiving will match 50% of your donation so your impact is magnified! This offer begins at 11PM Central on Nov 28 and runs through Nov 29 while funds last, so set yourself a reminder to donate as early as possible to maximize your impact!

Treatment 1 (mulched)
Treatment 1 (mulched)
Treatment 2 (no mulch)
Treatment 2 (no mulch)
Treatment 3 (cover crop)
Treatment 3 (cover crop)
Festus displays the first spawn after training
Festus displays the first spawn after training

Since opening its doors in 2014, the Frances Mueller and Virginia Lageschulte Training Centre has trained 120 people in six different agro-enterprises: rearing rabbit, poultry, grass cutter and snail, as well as vegetable and mushroom farming. Twelve of the trainees (10%) have established commercial mushroom production.

The mushroom business was initially lucrative, but the producers were soon confronted with challenges: as more people went into the industry, the demand for spawns began to exceed the supply. The problem was compounded as low quality spawns with poor germination found their way onto the market. The smallholder farmers lost huge sums of money due to bad spawns.  Understandably, this adversely affected farmers’ interest and many faced returning to unemployment. 

Through a partnership with the Farmer-to-Farmer program, two skilled volunteers from the United States, Dr. Khalid M. Hameed and Dr. Henry Van Tuyl Cotter, traveled to Ghana to train farmers on spawn production so they wouldn't have to rely on untrustworthy sources any longer. Drs. Hameed and Cotter also shared their expertise on marketing mushrooms with those in attendance. 

For two weeks in May, twenty four (24) participants learned about the best practices in mushroom production. Participants included practicing mushroom producers, Self-Help staff members, and students from Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST). Most participants had no more than senior high school education, and enjoyed the opportunity to access free higher-level education.

Held in the Plant Pathology section of KNUST, the training was 80% practical and 20% theory. Participants learned how to prepare potato dextrose agar, malt agar, tissue culture, autoclaving, inoculation, and spawning, as well as environmental conditions suitable for incubation and fruiting. Good marketing practices such as branding, packaging, handling and pricing were also reviewed.

During the practical labs, participants produced over 2,000mls of agar which was used to prepare tissue culture using oyster mushroom, which is the most commonly produced among training center graduates. The training also provided an opportunity to produce tissue cultures for other mushroom species to diversify businesses. These cultures were used to inoculate sorghum and millet in plastic bags to produce spawns.

At the end of the training, participants were given cultures and spawns for multiplication. The participants shared their gratitude with the experts for making the knowledge and skills involved in spawn production accessible even for those with limited formal education. They were extremely thankful for the opportunity offered them.

Three of the participants in particular, Osei, Vivian and Ohene, are making significant progress after the training. They are working with the Plant Pathology Section of KNUST to produce spawns for their own use and also for marketing. Within the first month following training, Ohene had already produced over thirty petri dishes (150ml) of mother culture and twenty (20) jars (800mls) of mother spawns. He is presently producing 400 bottles (120,000mls) of spawn which he will use both for his own production and for sale to farmers who opt not to specialize in spawn production. 

This skilled training has rekindled the spirit of the Plant Pathology section to play a lead role in the production of high quality spawns to alleviate the sufferings of farmers. The section has produced its first pure spawn after the training. Festus, a KNUST staff member, promises that this will be sustained to curb incidents of low quality and shortage of spawns among mushroom farmers in Ghana.

This training represents an important next step for the Centre as we help farmers who are prepared to deepen their knowledge access the information they need, and help ensure a stable supply of mushroom spawn for future trainees. Thank you for your support, which helped make this free training available to farmers like Osei, who are working to better provide for their families!

Ohene prepares millet for autoclaving
Ohene prepares millet for autoclaving
Learning mushroom spawn production (theory)
Learning mushroom spawn production (theory)
Mushroom spawn production graduation celebration
Mushroom spawn production graduation celebration

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Osei: the adaptive entrepreneur
Osei: the adaptive entrepreneur

For fifteen years, Osei worked as a timber merchant. He would go to the forest to cut down trees, send them to his factory, and cut them into smaller sizes both for local use and also for export. But due to deforestation, there are fewer trees to cut and the timber business is no longer lucrative. Besides, for the past five years, Ghana has suffered a major power crisis which has led to the collapse of many industries that rely on a regular source of electricity including Osei’s timber factory.

Osei and his wife have four children; two boys and two girls, ages 30, 27, 22 and 10 years old. Though he is now 53 years old, he has no plans to retire since his children are still schooling. With the collapse of his factory, finding an alternative source of livelihood is a must.

On February 26, 2015, Osei enrolled at the Fran Mueller and Virginia Lageschulte Training Centre (FMVLTC) and learned how to produce mushrooms using sawdust.  He was greatly relieved to discover that the stockpile of sawdust at the factory site could be used to produce mushroom to generate revenue. In the past, he would set the sawdust on fire to dispose of it, which caused considerable environmental pollution and lung infections. Neighbours complained each time he burnt sawdust. Now this practice is no more.

Now, a year later, Osei has three employees including his wife and two local men, and together they produce 1,500 bags every month. It costs three cedis ($0.75) to produce one bag of mushrooms, which is then sold for 8 - 10 cedis ($2 - $2.50). Demand for his produce is high: he is currently working to fulfil an order to supply 10,000 bags of spawned compost.

Osei also learned how to rear snails at the FMVLTC and this second business is also picking up gradually. The spread of knowledge goes beyond Osei: his friends who were also in the timber business are now leaning from him how to produce mushroom and rear snails as well.

As present production rates, Osei will utilize approximately 17 tons of sawdust annually which otherwise would have been burnt to pollute the atmosphere. With his friends following his lead and turning their sawdust into mushroom production as well, indiscriminate burning of sawdust and the associated atmospheric pollution will be reduced, and lung-related diseases among children living in timber mill communities will be reduced as well.

Saving the environment while earning a living constitutes sustainable development, but  still we know our work is not done: with our forest almost depleted, an alternative growth medium must be found. After the initial successes Solomon experienced in producing mushrooms in rice straw, the FVTC is currently supporting a student from Kwadaso College of Agriculture to study the performance of rice straw as a growth medium for mushroom production.  The results of the study will be shared widely to ensure all practicing mushroom producers can put this new knowledge into action. 

**JUNE 15TH IS GLOBALGIVING BONUS DAY!  All donations to this project from $10 - $1,000 are eligible for a 50% match on June 15th only, starting at 9AM Eastern / 8AM Central, while funds last!!  Set a calendar reminder now to multiply the impact of your gift & empower the next farmer like Osei!**

Osei employs two men to help produce mushrooms
Osei employs two men to help produce mushrooms
Preparing the mushroom bags for sterilization
Preparing the mushroom bags for sterilization
Osei with his snail beds
Osei with his snail beds
Osei
Osei's 10 year old daughter, home from school

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Justice warns students about the tough job market
Justice warns students about the tough job market

***TODAY IS A BONUS MATCHING DAY - READ HOW YOU CAN INCREASE YOUR IMPACT BELOW***

Students at St. Joseph Senior High School now have the practical skills they need to be able to enter the rural workforce. A few months ago, we started a remote training workshop series on mushroom production at the high school, located at Bekwai, Ahwiren in the Ashanti Region of Ghana. The training workshop was organized to create awareness among the General Agriculture Science students about the current youth unemployment crisis in the country, and to empower them with practical skills and knowledge to start up their own oyster mushroom production enterprises in case college education is not an option following graduation.

The mushroom training was divided into three sessions, one theory course, then two practical sessions.  In the theory course, participants at the workshop were briefed about Self-Help International, our mission and vision with an emphasis on how to adversities in entering the workforce, including opportunities available to them through the Young Adult Training Center.

During the second training session, the students were guided to prepare 100 kg of compost, which the medium that mushrooms grow in. One critical aspect of the training was how to determine the composition of the compost. The students learned the proper ratio of 500 kg of sawdust, 35 kg of rice bran, and 3.5 kg of oyster shells. Most of the students initially had difficulties determining the proper ratios when scaled down to one fifth of the ratio, but eventually they all got it correct. At the close of the second training session, the students were counseled to turn the mixture every four days for the next twenty-eight days in order to complete the compost preparation.

Once the compost was prepared, I returned for the third and final training session, where the students were taken through the process of bagging the compost for mushroom production. A total of ninety 6” x 12” plastic bags were filled with compost. These bags were then sterilized, the spores added, and they were stored in a cool place. The students were pleased to see their hard work come to fruition when they harvested the first crop of mushrooms. 

After completing the workshop courses, the students expressed satisfaction with the training received. This is their first time ever to have received such hands-on training, and they enjoyed reaping the benefits of their hard work!

Thank you for your support, which is enabling hundreds of students to learn the practical skills they will soon need to become a productive member of society.  This free course is only possible thanks to the generosity of donors like you! 

 ***Please support the Young Adult Training Center TODAY, MARCH 16 with a gift any time from now until Midnight Eastern / 11 PM Central. All donations made today will be matched so your gift nourishes even more children!!***

Turning sawdust-rice bran-oyster shell compost
Turning sawdust-rice bran-oyster shell compost
Students bagging the compost
Students bagging the compost
Students show off their mushroom bags
Students show off their mushroom bags
Students with bags after spores added
Students with bags after spores added

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Organization Information

Self-Help International

Location: Waverly, IA - USA
Website: http:/​/​www.selfhelpinternational.org
Project Leader:
Nora Tobin
Waverly, IA United States
$2,030 raised of $30,000 goal
 
41 donations
$27,970 to go
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