Project #9370

Self Help Young Adult Training Center in Ghana

by Self-Help International

In Atwima Nwabiagya, many farmers engage in rice farming for both personal consumption and as a cash crop. After harvesting the rice, much of the rice straw remaining is considered waste. Some farmers throw away the rice straw away, while others burn it leading to environmental pollution. Many farmers continue this practice just as farmers before them did, unaware of the environmental impact.

Solomon is a thirty-three year old graduate from the University of Education, Winneba Campus where he earned a Bachelor’s degree in Education. He and his wife, Abigail, have one son, and cultivate a rice farm in Atwima Nwabiagya.

Solomon completed a training course at the Fran Mueller & Virginia Lageschulte Young Adult Training Center in Feburary 2015, where he learned about mushroom production. Just like the other graduates, he learned how to compost using sawdust, another common “waste” product from the mills. However, sawdust has not been as readily available lately due to roling power outages in Ghana which have lead to lumber mills producing only a fraction of the outputs, and therefore a fraction the sawdust.

Solomon decided to diversify his business pursuits by adding in mushroom production. In order to maximize returns on his investment, he explored an innovative idea: to tap into this wasteful material he had ready access to on his farm, and turn the rice straw “waste” into compost for his mushroom. In March, Solomon started a pilot study by collecting most of the straw produced nearby test out his theory that rice straw could be used in place of sawdust for compost for mushroom production. Despite the rice straw substitution, the mushrooms grew and he was able to successfully start up a new enterprise. In fact, the yields of oyster mushrooms were higher than those produced using sawdust compost. The straw produces mushrooms much bigger in sizes than the sawdust. Consumers appear to prefer the larger mushrooms to smaller ones.

Mushroom production is now a family business. The enterprise supports the livelihoods of both Solomon and his wife, Abigail, who was previously unemployed, but is now the sales person for their home business. This innovative trial was observed by a Self-Help internship student, who plans to re-create the trial for her final year capstone project. The results will be shared with all future trainees so they are able to make the most informed decision about how to re-purpose readily available materials in their mushroom production pursuits.

Thank you for your support of Self-Help’s Young Adult Training Center in its mission to alleviate youth un(der)employment in Ghana. Your support empowers Solomon and other young adults like him with the training and start-up capital they need to start new ventures and better provide for their families.

From today, September 21, through Friday, September 25, GlobalGiving will be offering a one-time 100% match on all new recurring donations up to $200 per donor! To qualify for the match, donors must give for at least four consecutive months. You can read complete terms and conditions here: . Please consider the gift that keeps on giving with a recurring donation to the Young Adult Training Center. Click the link to donate now: .


NASEY Organic Oyster Mushrooms
NASEY Organic Oyster Mushrooms

The Self-Help International (SHI) Young Adult Training Centre (YATC) was established in 2013 to reduce unemployment in Ghana,especially among the youth, and related social vices such as robbery, prostitution, and unwanted teenage pregnancies. Thankfully, young adults including Bernard of Kumawu, Samuel of Offinso, and Veronica of Obuasi, to mention but a few, have gained employment and even become employers having passed through the Training Centre.  

For Yaw, his encounter with the Centre brings him more than employment. He has joy and satisfaction.

Yaw is married to Eva and they have a three-year old daughter, Nana. In 2008, he completed Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology with a degree in Industrial Arts. From 2009 to 2011, he worked as a sales manager in a furniture manufacturing company. He later joined a brewery company and finally an insurance company, all as a sales person. He tells SHI he never found satisfaction in any of those places due to workplace politics. ‘I almost lost my life’ he lamented.

In January 2015, Yaw enrolled at the SHI YATC and successfully graduated in mushroom production in February 2015. He has since been producing and marketing mushrooms. His business is named NASEY. This is a combination of the abbreviation of his name, his daughter and his wife. They produce pure organic mushrooms to the delight of many vegetarians in his community. His experience as a sales person has enabled him to quickly establish contacts with restaurants and supermarkets. Demand for NASEY mushroom is fast growing and he plans to mobilize past graduates from the training centre into an association to be able to control mushroom production and marketing and also meet demand from clients.

Though he acknowledges there are challenges, Yaw tells Self-Help there is joy in self-employment. It is indeed refreshing to see Nana lend a hand to her father.

It is gratifying, realizing that the training centre is providing opportunities for the unskilled and marginalized in society as well as for people like Yaw and their families who seek jobs they can do with passion so they can experience returns beyond the bottom line: inner joy and satisfaction.

Nana helps her father with mushroom sales
Nana helps her father with mushroom sales
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


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


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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Organization Information

Self-Help International

Location: Waverly, IA - USA
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Nora Tobin
Waverly, IA United States
$1,980 raised of $30,000 goal
39 donations
$28,020 to go
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