Education
 Ghana
Project #9370

Self Help Young Adult Training Center in Ghana

by Self-Help International
Veronica w/ rice straw to use to grow mushrooms
Veronica w/ rice straw to use to grow mushrooms

Ayishetu is a migrant from the north and mother of seven. She has never had any formal education since it is not culturally practiced to send females to school in the north. Like many, Ayishetu and her husband migrated south for better economic opportunities.

For a time, Ayishetu engaged in petty trading, selling fabric, foodstuff, and sometimes traveling to the north to sell. Alas, she had no access to capital to improve or expand her inventory. She poured all of her profits into caring for her children and paying their school fees; so eventually she ran out of inventory and went out of business. Presently, Ayishetu and her husband cultivate rice and maize in Atwima Boko.

After one of Self-Help’s trainees, Solomon, discovered that mushroom composting can be done very effectively using rice straw as a substrate, Self-Help’s Training Center Manager, Justice, began visiting rice farms nearby and reaching out to rice farmers he met to share this new opportunity available to them: they can now use rice straw waste to grow mushrooms. With relatively little startup capital, they can generate additional income to support their families. Even if they have no other formal qualifications, they can attend training sessions free at the Fran Mueller and Virginia Lageschulte Young Adult Training Center (YATC) to learn mushroom production and other enterprises, and after successful completion and demonstrated interest, they are eligible for a micro-loan for startup capital.

Ayishetu visited the YATC for the first time on Monday, September 21, 2015. When asked why she was seeking the training and what she hoped to gain from learning a new enterprise, Ayishetu shared that her dream is to keep her youngest two daughters in school as long as possible to ensure they get the education she never had. “You can hardly accomplish any dream if you do not have the necessary resources,” she said. So she is there to learn, and the center is there to provide access to those resources.

Out of Ayishetu and her husband Mustapha’s seven children, their eldest daughter never attended school, as educating girls is still not common practice in the north. Like many girls in rural villages, her eldest daughter was pregnant by the age of 17. After migrating south, their second daughter made it all the way to her first year of Senior High School. Then she fell in love and dropped out. She is now a farmer as well. Their third daughter made it to her second year of Senior High School, before becoming pregnant. Pregnant girls are not allowed to attend school, so she left for a year. She is now trying to return to complete her last two years of high school, if she can find a new school that will admit her.

Ayishetu and Mustapha could not afford to send their fourth daughter to high school, so she attended trade school and is now a seamstress. Their fifth child, and only son, had little interest in school and dropped out after 5th grade to become a driving apprentice like many of his friends. Their final two daughters are now in 5th and 4th grade respectively. Ayishetu hopes that the pair will see all the way through high school graduation if family finances permit.

Ayishetu and Mustapha recently had to relocate, but despite the move and long journey to visit the training center, she is persisting in learning about mushroom production.  So far, she has completed two training sessions in mushroom production, and looks forward to the day mushroom production may become an additional source of income for her family so they can see their youngest children through high school graduation.

Thank you for your support, which is ensuring that women like Ayishetu are able to complete training courses and access a loan to start mushroom production upon successful completion of all training sessions. This combination of knowledge and funds to put that knowledge into practice will improve quality of life for Ayishetu's entire family, and enable herto cover even high school fees to ensure her daughters get the education she was never afforded. We look forward to sharing further updates once Ayishetu's new venture is up and running. 

Please consider giving the gift of knowledge this holiday season, to ensure illiterate women like Ayishetu can access the resources they need to accomplish their dreams and help their children achieve the same. 

Veronica with rice harvested from her family farm
Veronica with rice harvested from her family farm

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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: https://www.globalgiving.org/recurring-donations-matched/limited-time/?utm_source=GlobalGiving+Project+Leader+Newsletter&utm_campaign=03b87008c1-September_2015_PL_Newsletter9_9_2015&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_e74b9ca250-03b87008c1-391646337 . Please consider the gift that keeps on giving with a recurring donation to the Young Adult Training Center. Click the link to donate now: https://www.globalgiving.org/projects/ghana-training-center-for-2500-young-farmers/?show=recurring .

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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

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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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Organization Information

Self-Help International

Location: Waverly, IA - USA
Website: http:/​/​www.selfhelpinternational.org
Project Leader:
Nora Tobin
Waverly, IA United States
$2,055 raised of $30,000 goal
 
42 donations
$27,945 to go
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