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Early childhood experience impacts his advocacy in Child Labour on Cocoa Farms -Prince Gyamfi speaks exclusively to Rebecca Ekpe

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By Rebecca Ekpe

Prince Gyamfi, the Deputy Country Director and Programs Coordinator for International Cocoa Initiative (ICI), was born in Breme, in the now Ahafo Region of Ghana, a town with a population of about 3,000 people. His life began in a village setting.

‘’I grew up in a farming community’’, he said hesitantly, imbibing humour that his birth village was not on the map (just a joke).

Mr. Gyamfi disclosed that he had quite a tulmoutous life, in his early days of acquiring Basic Education.

From Presbyterian Primary School, Junior High School was in Beechem in the now Bono Region of Ghana.

He narrated an interesting story about trekking to school 10 Kilometres each day using (walking 10 km per day is equivalent to about 60-70 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise).

‘’In Junior High School it was about 10 kilometres a day to and from school in Beechem’’.

‘’I trekked 5 kilometers in, 5 kilometres out … .back home each day’’.

‘’Recollecting, it was a difficult childhood, we had an interesting footwear, worn by farmers today, made from car tyres, called ‘’Tawuto’’, also known as ‘’Abongo’’, in some areas’’.

‘’The name of the School is St. Joseph’s Senior High School, a very strict Catholic Institution, and the footwear was compulsory regardless of your status’’, according to Mr. Gyamfi.

The Cocoa Trees of Wassa Akropong

For Mr. Gyamfi his first encounter with cocoa trees and the cocoa Community was when the family moved from Ahafo Region to the Western Region.

‘’Before then I was not staying with my biological parents, I was with my Grandmother, so I moved from the Bono Region to the

Western Region, there they stayed on the Cocoa Farm, it was a Cocoa Community,

We lived on the cocoa farm, with father, brother, sisters’’, Mr. Gyamfi narrated.

Secondary School then and now

‘’We stayed there for some time in the Wassa Akropong in the Amenfi East District at Menfiman Secondary School’’.

Mr. Gyamfi said Menfiman was not a popular School when he completed it in the 1990’s.

‘’ It was not a popular School, early 90s in Secondary School completed in 1993…a very difficult time……no electricity, inadequate facilities, using lanterns to study etc.

Comparatively, today, ‘’I see tremendous improvement in the lives of students, infrastructure wise and facility. Pipe borne water, administration block, infrastructure wise, but in all of that we never gave up’’, Mr. Gyamfi asserts.

Influence of the Cocoa Trees

‘’I was influenced by everything in the Cocoa Farm… I had a clear understanding of issues and I can do everything in the Cocoa value chain so far as farming is concerned’’, Mr. Gyamfi points out.

‘’From planting to the sale of the cocoa fruits’’.

Getting the Cocoa out begins with the ‘’clearing the land, forest trees, felling the trees … .burning the bushes….’’, Mr. Gyamfi explains the processes indicating he has a clear understanding of the cocoa farm value chain processes.

He also comprehends how the young cocoa seedlings are managed within the expected 3-4 years before harvesting begins.

Work at ICI

After his Ordinary Level Certificate, he moved on to attain an Advanced Level Corticated which led him to teaching for a while and then to Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, (KNUST), where he enrolled in a Development Planning Degree Program. He later earned a second Degree also at KNUST in Development Policy and Planning.

Mr. Gyamfi joined the International Cocoa Initiative on 3rd May 2011.

‘’I saw the application and then, I developed my CV and I applied for it, I was hired because I performed well. I got hired as a Program Assistant, 12/13 years ago, and through hard work, I got promoted to Program Coordinator and Deputy Country Director after 3 years, a dual position’’, he narrated.

A look back

A look back at the factors that actually influenced his affinity for the Cocoa Farmer and the work at combating Child Labour and Forced work on Cocoa Farms, My Gyamfi was sincere about the analysis.

‘’Having been involved directly with hazardous activity, even at primary school level, I had no idea although the activities were hazardous…and forced labour all of that …by day and they will use the money to support us’’.

‘’Infact my life from the village till now was a difficult time’’.

‘’While I was trekking 5 kilometers a day, I was the smallest among them although there were big people, sometimes, we went to school without food, no proper clothing on,’’ Mr Gyamfi in retrospect.

Influence and Motivation to succeed

Sharing more on his life, Mr Gyamfi said, ‘’I looked at the situation, and the activities, sometimes, as difficult, I knew I had no choice, I made up my mind to overcome, so I took my studies seriously’’.

‘’I remember sometimes, and at one point, I had to sell polythene bags to survive. I did that in Kumasi Railway.’’, the proceeds he said catered for his daily needs.

‘’Infact my first book and accounting text book, Frank Owusu, I used the sales from the polythene bag to purchase the book’’.

On Comments about the pervasiveness of Child Labour and Forced work, Mr Gyamfi posits that ‘’not every work by the child is considered forced labour’’, instead ‘’stakeholders out to begin looking at what then is NOT child labour’’.

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