The Next Generation Cocoa Youth Program, MASO, is a five year programme, focused on creating employment opportunities for the youth (aged 18-25) in Ghana’s cocoa communities. It is implemented by six consortium members made up of Solidaridad, Aflatoun, Ashesi University, Fidelity Bank, Opportunity International and the Ghana Cocoa Board.
MASO is part of the Youth Forward initiative which is a partnership led by The MasterCard Foundation, Overseas Development Institute, Global Communities, Solidaridad, NCBACLUSA and GOAL. Its focus is to link young people to quality employment or to start their own businesses in the agriculture and construction sectors in Ghana and Uganda.
This five-year, US$74 million initiative will reach more than 200,000 economically disadvantaged youth aged 18-25. The Youth Forward Initiative uses a holistic approach that combines market-relevant skills training, mentorship, internships and access to financial services to help young people transition out of poverty and into sustainable livelihoods.
The MASO Program is being delivered through three critical components:
- The Agro Academy is training youth in sustainable cocoa farming practices in combination with social, financial, leadership and business development skills in the MASO operational areas.
- The Business Academy is training youth to expand the cocoa sector and develop thriving service sectors that will support the cocoa industry and/or enhance life in the MASO operational areas.
- An Alumni Network, which will be provided with a supportive enabling environment, allowing them - now farmers and entrepreneurs, to flourish by focusing on access to finance, land, markets and the likes.
Role of Ashesi
Ashesi University College is an educational partner to MASO, with oversight of the curriculum development for the MASO Business Academy, and the delivery of the content developed to ensure that the objectives of the MASO Business Academy are being met, and the documentation of learning and success stories through various research efforts. The Project Lead on the Ashesi front is Dr. Sena Agbodjah Agyepong (email@example.com), and Entrepreneurship faculty with the Business Administration Department.
Ashesi’s responsibilities include: (1) Curriculum Development including the development of a facilitator’s guide, an incubation manual, a mentoring manual and various workbooks and templates for the participants; (2) Recruitment and training of trainers including the facilitators, coaches and mentors, and the training of the participants; (3) Selection of participants for Incubator which includes an end of training selection process and recommendation for participants to enter the incubator; (4) Incubator Services including the development of retraining content as well as retaining of the coaches and general monitoring of all incubator activities; and (5) Evaluations, which involves monthly monitoring of field activities, evaluation field studies, opportunity research efforts and all other interventions to aid control any deviations that are identified.
The MASO Business Academy
The Business Academy operates using a 12-month operating model which is comprised of a 5-month training curriculum which takes participants through opportunity exploration, identification and evaluation; business modeling; and customer discovery & validation. At the end of training the validated business model is presented to evaluators who decide, with the facilitators, coaches and mentors, on which ventures should be incubated. The selected ventures are incubated for 7 months. The incubation curriculum takes the incubatees through venture set up, financial literacy, customer relations, business legalization and then scaling.
The Business Academy is designed reach 1,050 youth through 9 calls to be hosted in 5 regions (Western, Brong Ahafo, Ashanti, Central and Volta), and 8 districts (Bia West, Sefwi –Wiaso, Asunafo North, Adansi South, Assin North, Hohoe, Afadjato South and Jasikan).
The MASO Academy is currently in its second year of operations, having started in September 2015. It is running in 3 MASO operations areas: Adanse South District in the Ashanti Region, Assin District in the Central Region and 3 districts: Jasikan, Hohoe and Afadjato South in the Volta Region.
“MASO seeks to demonstrate that youth can make a career from cocoa as an enterprise if given the skills in best production techniques coupled with a supportive enabling environment. This would make cocoa farming more profitable and attractive to the youth and thus contribute to a sustainable cocoa economy for Ghana” Fred Frimpong, Program Manager for the MASO program at Solidaridad © 2017.