She is living the dream. Like most women in rural Ghana, the ambition of being financially empowered remains elusive, but not for 52-year-old Rose Yeboah who turned a $357 investment into a $4335.27 business within 12 months.

Despite the difficult economic circumstances of the little known village of Ahwerewa, in the Amansie West District in Ghana’s Ashanti Region, Rose is making the most of the appropriately named, Forever Chocolate Initiative. 

She is a smallholder cocoa farmer. Before joining the Forever Chocolate Pilot Project that closed earlier this year, she was just a wife. Rose, is one of many women who support their husbands on the cocoa farms to produce nearly 20% of the world’s cocoa yet do not have access to any meaningful livelihood of their own. As a result, they are very poor. Most live on just over $1 a day.

Cocoa production has been the backbone of Ghana’s economy since the 1870s. It dominates the agricultural sector and contributes about 30% of the country’s export earnings. Yet many smallholder cocoa farmers in Ghana experience poverty and economic vulnerability.

But through the Forever Chocolate Program funded by Barry Callebaut and Heifer International, the story of Rose Yeboah has changed.

She is not alone. 302 other at-risk cocoa farmers have now been equipped with improved livelihoods—through additional diversified enterprise development. 

Rose Yeboah may just count as ordinary rural farmer but her drive has remained her biggest asset. She strong, kind, and self-determined. Like many of us, she is consumed by the desire to have the very best for her five children.

“Before this support, I only supported my husband on his cocoa farm. I did not have my own money. I knew I could be successful with soap production. We use soap everyday and during funerals, people buy and donate soap to the bereaved family,” she says.

As self-reliant as Rose is, she believes in supporting her husband in the education of the children through their cocoa farm.

“When you want the best future for your children it is not always easy, sometimes you don’t have the means. When growing cocoa, there are times when you need to apply fertilizer and other things to help it to grow faster and there is no money to do this” she observed.

But then help arrived.

“Our purchasing clerk with Nyonkopa informed my maternal aunt about her selection for the Forever Chocolate program,” Rose said. “She asked if I was interested in joining it on behalf of the family. I said yes.”

With that, Rose Yeboah was connected with Self-Help Group with other cocoa farmers, and started working with Malik Antwi, her Project Field Officer.

Rose Yeboah is part of a local soap producer network in Ahwerewa and Gyinenso that produce and sell many varieties of soaps including liquid, bar and cake soaps.

Following her 4-day soap training in her community with external facilitators, she received an input loan of $357. From her first month of production in March 2020, of 54 units of soap, she is now producing 650 units including liquid soap, parazone and hand sanitizer.

Today, the value of her business is $4335.27 and she has paid off her loan in 6 months.

Rose, focuses on supporting women in her group by providing advice and one-on-one coaching to help build their skills in producing soap, parazone and hand sanitizer in her community.

“No one has ever done anything like this for me. I am excited about my success in this business. The support and the guidance I received from the Field Officer really helped me.

“Even during the peak of the pandemic, Heifer continued to support us through remote coaching via mobile phones. This helped me to find new opportunities amid the pandemic and diversified into parazone and hand sanitiser.”

Rose is excited about her success which includes distributing hand sanitiser and soap to non-soap producing group members and school children in her community.

“I also enjoy the company of my husband when making the soap. And has been able to train him to help with cutting and mixing the ingredients. I am able to support the cocoa farm with some of my profits and contributing to my children’s education.”

Rose currently works with four distributors who off take her soap directly from her home. She is indeed living her dream.