Remembering the heroes of our cocoa

Cocoa has done so much for our national economy that even politicians, economists and the international financial experts stand in awe of what Ghana has achieved with her cocoa. If the truth is told, everyone will agree that without the brown beans, Ghana would have been a failed state. The whole national economy – from education to infrastructural development – has been built on the back of cocoa.

It is therefore appropriate for government to build a museum solely dedicated to the cocoa crop while remembering and acknowledging those who played a part in nurturing this tree of so much national and historical importance. For once there will be a central location where all those who want to learn the history of cocoa: how it got here, the first farms, processes it undergoes and every adjunct angle related to its production including its uses will be documented and better understood as all activities around it will be placed in context.

The project located in Akuapem Mampong – where commercial cultivation of the pod started – when completed will have the full complement of an ultra-modern edifice showcasing the upstream and downstream operations of the cocoa industry in Ghana.

Ultimately Tetteh Quarshie, who first commercialised cocoa cultivation in Ghana will be immortalised through the US$3 million monument that government also believes would transform rural Mampong into a vibrant national and international tourism destination with potential avenues for job creation for the locals.

Much as we agree with government that a museum be built to honour him, we are unfortunately glossing over the true history of cocoa cultivation and production and if care is not taken, the myth will remain and the true story lost in our unbridled zeal to celebrate how cocoa became the mainstay of the economy.

Buoyed with that passion, we are forgetting the human beings who served as the interface – those who accommodated Tetteh Quarshie when he returned from Fernando Po, those who gave him land to plant and even the labourers who worked on the farm, we need to recognise all.

It is an undeniable fact that the famous man, a blacksmith by profession went to rural Mampong to start the farm. Evidently, he did not take any piece of land along with him from Accra or Fernando Po and so relied on families living there for land to set up his, at that time, an ‘experimental’ farm. Even when he successfully harvested, it took some other pairs of hands to split the pods, dry the seeds and preserve and process it before export.

We are made to understand that descendants of those who contributed in various ways to turn cocoa into a multimillion dollar business for the state are still alive. While some contributed money, others joined in planting the crop not knowing whether it will be bought while others also risked exporting the beans.

Today, the state has seen it expedient to glamourise cocoa and honour Tetteh Quarshie. This gesture must be extended to the families who also contributed in to make this crop the cash cow that has virtually built this nation from scratch.  We have heard murmurs from the descendants of the land owners and pioneer exporters who are not enthused by government not acknowledging their role as to even mention them at the sod cutting ceremony. We believe that, at least, part of the museum – conference hall, exhibition centre and such can be named after these families who also played a crucial role in institutionalizing the beans as the nation builder while the whole edifice is named after Tetteh Quarshie. This is our stance.