A STORY ON COMMUNITY IN GHANA
"WITH COMMUNITY ACTION PLANS, WE HAVE THE POWER TO SPEAK UP AND ADVOCATE FOR OURSELVES."

By Jacob Akpalu, Cocoa Life community leader, Okotokrom, West Akim District, Ghana

Ghana is home to 800,000 cocoa farming families, but despite being the second largest cocoa-producing country in the world, poor infrastructure and lack of resources are an unfortunate reality. Together with NGO partners, Cocoa Life facilitates communities stepping up to drive their own success through Community Action Plans (CAPs) to unlock their potential. CAPs put local communities in the driving seat and enable them to be actively involved in building an environment they want to live in. Jacob Akpalu is a community leader in Okotokrom, a rural village in the West Akim District of Ghana. Here, he describes his journey and how CAPs transformed his community.

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In the village where I was born and raised, poverty is a serious problem. Families and businesses often struggle and opportunities for change are rare. Without resources and support, most our problems usually do not get solved.

When Cocoa Life and Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) introduced CAPs to our community, I knew it was the start of something special. The process begin with community-led discussion. Everyone was encouraged to come. The assembly constituents were mostly adults, many of them women, as well as the school head, the chief and community elders. These discussions opened all of our minds to the challenges we face together. By getting each person's input on what they need, we were able to reflect them in the CAP.

We also elect our own Community Development Committee to identify what our priorities should be. The chief and three opinion leaders are on the committee in my village. They don't normally cross paths, but the CAP has brought them together.

Community Ghana Person
Ghana Community

One priority was to restore the local kindergarten classroom. Because of poor upkeep and a lack of funding, the building was in a bad state and close to collapse. Our community met and decided we had to act, so that our children can learn without being in physical harm. As a first solution, we proposed to move one class to the church room and used the library for another classroom while plans were made for repairs.

Once the community decision had been confirmed in a vote, the community leaders contacted the district assembly, requesting they visit the kindergarten, and sent them a project proposal. After the visit, the district agreed to fund the project. The community participated in the reconstruction of the classrooms, by providing land, and helping the construction workers during the project. Thanks to the CAP process, we now have a safe kindergarten block for our children to learn in.

This became one of the first development projects successfully voted into our CAP.

I'm grateful to Cocoa Life and VSO for introducing us to such a valuable tool. With CAPs, we have the power to speak up and advocate for ourselves. We also do a better job of listening to each other, sharing ideas and learning how to get involved in community activities. I'm excited to bring even more new projects to life and continue seeing my community grow along the way. There is incredible power in all of us coming together.

FROM OUR PARTNER VSO

"Community Action Plans not only provide the entire community with an opportunity to voice their opinion and become involved in addressing their local development issues, but CAPs also fast track outcomes. Working with Cocoa Life in Ghana, along with the other implementing partners CARE and World Vision, we facilitated the activation of 447 CAPs and 372 CAP projects were completed by the end of 2017. Together, we are fostering stronger communities and helping them become more independent."

Victor Anagi, Cocoa Life Program Manager, VSO, Ghana

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