A CHOICE OF COCOA OVER OIL BY YOUNG SMART MINDS
5/30/2012 10:46:39 PM -
Far from the usual 'chilling' and ecstasy that characterizes young peoples' Valentine's Day celebrations, I was glad that I spent February 14 this year, listening to young smart minds educate me on the prospects that the age old cocoa sector and the emerging oil industry hold for the future development of Ghana. It was a hot breezy morning in the town of Mpohor in the Western Region, and the campus of the Mpohor Senior High School was buzzing with activity. Scores of vehicles had flooded the school compound, transporting all the 'big men' you could think of as far as the educational and cocoa sector in the district is concerned.
The District COCOBOD Officer, District Chief Cocoa farmer, District Cocoa Extension officer, District Education Service officials, and World Vision Ghana staff, among others had all gathered to listen to the SHS students debate the motion, 'Cocoa still holds the key to the development of Ghana and not the newly discovered Oil.' The debate competition was organized by Cadbury Cocoa Ambassadors working in the area as part of activities to mark Cocoa/Chocolate's day celebration, in line with the objectives of the ambassadorial program to get more young people interested in the cocoa industry.
I showed up at the campus that morning with a lot of expectation for an exciting debate, but that I was overwhelmed by the thought provoking arguments the students made and their deep levels of thinking as far as the debate topic is concerned. Their arguments were spot on, their posturing exhumed high levels of confidence and immense charisma, and their public speaking manners were overly apt, considering their levels of education. They argued their positions on the debate motion in a way that made it difficult to disagree with either of them.
SHS Four Student, Master Isaac Jerry Arthur, who led the team that argued for the motion told the audience that the contribution of the cocoa industry to the development of the country in terms of giving employment to millions of Ghanaians, providing government with foreign exchange, and supporting the educational sector through scholarships, places cocoa on such a high pedestal that oil would never be able to match even in hundreds of years to come. He noted that 'cocoa is helping close the gap between poverty and wealth without the need for any higher education,' unlike the oil sector, which presents a situation where only highly skilled and well educated persons, majority of whom are expatriates are benefiting from the resource. The debate did not lack humour and fun as Master Arthur told his opponents: 'ask the whites coming to drill the oil to stay away from taking cocoa products if they would not pack their bags and leave the country.'
Master Patrick Zoonu who spoke in opposition to the motion asserted that cases of cocoa beans being smuggled out of the country, and farmers' cutting down cocoa trees to plant rubber trees is an indication that the relevance of the cocoa sector to the development of the country has hit a downturn. He commented that unlike the oil sector which presents Ghanaians with gargantuan developmental opportunities, the cocoa sector only presents microscopic developmental opportunities. 'Looking at the microscopic developmental opportunities of cocoa and the gargantuan developmental opportunities of oil, I still stand by the fact that cocoa don't hold the key to the development of Ghana,' he said. The debate did not lack catchy, well constructed phrases and a display of vast oratory skills, which left the entire audience including those on the high table clapping and cheering over and over again.
Despite the huge efforts by the side that argued against the motion, they lost the debate competition by a point difference of four, which showed that they had fought a good fight. Clearly, audience opinion was weighing heavily against them with all the cocoa folks who had come to witness the event. And majority of the students also threw their weights behind the motion on the claim that they would not have been able to reach that far in their academics, but for the income their parents generated from the cocoa sector. The students insisted that cocoa being a heritage crop still remains the single most important commodity that has the potential to transform the life of Ghanaians and not the emerging oil industry.
As the debate came to a close, I found it necessary to pull the two principal debaters aside to ask of them what the secret for their oratory skills was. They told me they just read widely, and encouraged their juniors and younger ones hoping to become as good as they are, to take the habit of reading seriously. I was glad that advice came, because among the audience at the debate venue were basic school pupils from Cocoa Reading Clubs in the rural communities across the district who had travelled on the over one hour journey to witness the debate competition. The advice was a clear resounding of what the cocoa ambassadors had been telling them since we started establishing the Cocoa Reading Clubs over one year ago.
Asked by cocoa ambassador Audrey Kareen Gambrah what they thought of the debate, 11 year old Class five pupil Mercy Gyampo of Sekyere Krobo School commented: 'They speak good English, so I want to be able to come here so I can speak good English like them.' 16 year old Patrick Kunyama of the Sekyere Aboabosao D/A School also remarked: 'students here learn hard, and that is why they were good with the debate so I hope to someday come here and be like them.' We were glad that the trip had at least gone a long way to inspire the children for higher education, in line with one of the major objectives for which the Cocoa Reading Clubs was set up. The Cadbury Cocoa Ambassadorial Program is an initiative of the Cadbury Cocoa Partnership, is an initiative of Cadbury/Kraftfood which aims at creating thriving cocoa communities, in which more young people are engaged in cocoa production.
By Joseph Opoku Gakpo
Third year student, Agric Faculty, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology