This series of posts documents two ordinary folks attempting to get out there and do good. Over the next few months, we’ll follow them through the setbacks and triumphs of their endeavor to take the inspiration of Mountainfilm and turn it into something tangible. (To catch up. start here.)

One of our goals for our time in Ghana is to travel around the country and witness efforts to combat labor abuses. To that end, Jenny and I attended a meeting of the Ghana Anti-Human Trafficking and Child Protection Coalition. Members (including the Social Support Foundation) are regional NGO’s that deal with labor issues all across Ghana, from children being forced into dangerous fishing jobs on Lake Volta, to children being forced to carry heavy loads to the market in Accra. One such organization with which we interacted deals with labor issues on cocoa farms.

Cocoa farming employs a substantial number of people in Ghana’s Western and Central regions. As with many of Africa’s industries, it is rife with labor issues. Historically, children on these farms had no access to education and were put to work as soon as they were old enough to help. Simply put, there was not another option. Their labor was valuable to the survival of the family and there was no education available in any case.

Given the inherently rural nature of cocoa farming, many of these problems have gone unaddressed until recently. The NGO’s currently assisting these communities work to ensure that children on the cocoa farms have access to education and time to pursue it. To this end, NGO’s have worked with farming consultants to teach the cocoa farmers best practices and to increase efficiency on the farms, resulting in higher yields with less labor. The NGO’s have also worked to build schools in these rural areas so the children don’t have to travel hours each day to school. In the more remote areas, children have been given bikes to commute to and from the closest school.

Jenny and I contacted one of the Coalition’s partners in order to visit some of these cocoa farms and see the work being done firsthand. Once everything was in order, we hopped a tro-tro to Wasa Akropong, an agrarian community about two hours outside of Obuasi, and checked into the only hotel in town (which, to our utter amazement and joy, had air-conditioning). The next morning, we met our contact, Aikins, and our hired car. Given that we would be trundling over muddy back roads all day, we found it quite ironic that our hired car was spotless and that our driver was perhaps the most fastidious taxi driver in all of Ghana. The driver’s vexation increased exponentially as we alternately submarined through knee-high mud puddles and caromed through massive dust clouds. At each village we stopped at he resignedly engaged in the Sisyphean task of rubbing down the car and re-cleaning the mats.

At each stop, Aikins met with the village elders to discuss their needs, from new concrete for the school buildings to a blight that was affecting the trees. We spent a good part of the day interacting with folks on the farms, trouncing through the groves of cocoa trees and observing the cocoa harvest in process. As it was a weekend, the children were not in school. With the additional schools and the new cocoa farming techniques, all of the children had access to education and attendance was up significantly. We finished the day with a delicious meal of plantains, yams, and peanut soup with chicken that a lady in the last village prepared for our party.

It was wonderful seeing an organization making sustainable headway on a problem their sights were set on. It was not only heartening that children were given access to schools, but incredibly gratifying to witness how attitudes were changing. In one generation, some of these villages went from having virtually no children in school, to having universal attendance, and the degree to which the villagers appreciated the value of education was very apparent.

You can see more pictures of our adventure here.

Next week, we’ll tell you a bit about what it’s like living in Ghana.