Throughout my degree, I have enjoyed getting involved in access and outreach work, particularly Oxford University’s Chemistry Taster Days. So, when my friend Megan A. Zhan Yamoah introduced me to Cocoa360 as an opportunity to engage in international education development I readily applied. Cocoa360 publishes literature on development in agrarian and extractive industry-based societies and the chance to develop my social science research skills particularly appealed to me.
In November 2022 I had the privilege of visiting the tuition-free Tarkwa Breman Girls’ School (TBGS), Community Clinic and Library, which serves the eponymous village and eight surrounding CCs and is primarily funded by revenues from the TB Community Cocoa Farms, supported by Cocoa360. With 270 girls enrolled with 30 additional each year, the school is tackling the educational gender disparity prevalent within communities with limited resources. A recent UNESCO report (October 2022) acknowledged ‘the inconsistent delivery of education across [Ghana]. . . with public schools in disadvantaged and rural areas bearing the brunt of weak provision’. By providing free accommodation and healthcare for teachers, Cocoa360 provides sufficient incentive to teach in rural areas of the country. Additionally, TBGS delivers a health equity curriculum (developed by Vanderbilt University) that intends to improve health outcomes through education, particularly as the girls share their knowledge at home.
My journey to Tarkwa Breman involved a seven-hour bus ride from Ghana’s capital Accra (typically eight hours, but the driver had no intention of missing even a minute of Ghana vs South Korea World Cup match) to the nearest town, Bogoso. A subsequent two-hour drive into the village, coupled with the absence of internet/telephone service save for on the large hill on which the Cocoa360 office is situated, provided a stark reminder of the imperative for community-sustained health and educational infrastructure. Prior to the construction of the TB Community Health Clinic, residents were powerless in the face of time-sensitive emergency health incidents. The clinic has treated over 14,000 patients since its launch, seen over 5,000 malaria cases, and delivered over 100 babies. Our goal over the next four years is to scale our FFI model into 20 new partner CCs in Ghana and reach 100,000 more cocoa farmers, with the eventual aim of expanding to cash-crop-based societies worldwide.
As a result of its cooperative mode of operation, particularly at the governance level, Cocoa360 was quickly alerted to the contamination of a water well in the CC Nkrandadieso and funded the construction of a new well. My time at Tarkwa Breman showed me the importance of partnering and communicating with the recipients of development efforts in order to best serve their needs.
This position has nurtured my passion for international development and education policy and as I join the Boston Consulting Group as an Associate, I am very excited to be getting involved in the firm’s Social Impact and Sustainability work to further hone my skills.