Giving back to the Ghanaian community through the green economy

Gold Award holder Emmanuel Odoi Laryea from Ghana used skills and values adopted through the Award programme to engage young people in his town in productive activities, and subsequently secured partnerships, including forestry commission funding, and built up a plantation business.

Lack of opportunities available to young people

Ghana’s youth make up approximately 26 per cent of the total population, however despite economic growth since 2001, the country has seen a decline in opportunities for urban employment. Many young people move to rural areas to seek opportunities, but too often find themselves in slums with little or no way to make enough money to survive. With few development opportunities available to them, many become victims of crime.

Through the Award programme, Emmanuel Odoi Laryea learned the value in reaching out to help others; he wanted to make a positive difference for himself and his community. He decided to start a youth empowerment project to engage young people in productive activities and build a business through the emerging green economy.

Building a collaborative, green business

Having a clear idea of what he wanted to do, Emmanuel approached some of his friends requesting their assistance in establishing his project, which he started in August 2008, with five people participating in the Award expedition at that time. After his expedition in 2008 Emmanuel approached some of his friends who were Award participants, and together brainstormed on how to make the project a reality. A relationship had already been formed with chiefs and elders in the community as they always provided accommodation to Award participant groups at their various camp sites during Award expeditions. In collaboration with his community leaders, Emmanuel secured some land to engage the youth on tick plantation. A tick plant is a type of tree used to make a number of things, such as houses and electric poles.

As with any new project, a strong commitment – including a financial one – was necessary. Emmanuel had to secure land, tick seedling and the initial capital for other equipments. He received funding and advice from the forestry commission, as well as support from the International Award Foundation, Hero Productions and an environmental media company interested in engaging young people in green job creation. Financial support was also secured from LESDEP, a funding opportunity for young entrepreneurs working to make contribution into the Local Economy Development (LED), after an application and verification process. Emmanuel and his colleagues acquired land through the council who praised the initiative. 

More youth now actively employed

Emmanuel now employs over 25 young people (with many more needed during harvest time) and hopes to continue to grow the plantation in the future. Other young people are learning how to make a living for themselves and their community, including Award participants who visit and take part in the project, working towards the Skills and Service sections of their Award.

The Award, Emmanuel says, has ‘changed my life’. He learned to be a proactive and optimistic person, and views life with positivity despite its many constraints.

‘Through the Award, I came to understand the meaning of giving back to the society. The Award has improved my commitment to youth development and engagement skills and enhanced my spirit of volunteerism.’

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