When Comfort Addae was a newlywed, she and her husband moved to their new home in Wa in the northwest of Ghana. There they hoped to begin a new, more prosperous life. But she could not know the many twists of fate her life would take before her dreams would be realized.
In Wa, she and her husband worked long hours farming the land just to feed and clothe their eight children. Her dream of a better life was shattered when her husband died, leaving her alone to care for her children. Struggling to support her family, she packed up and moved back home to Offuman, a day’s bus ride away in Central Ghana.
Home for Comfort and her children was one room in her father’s mud house, with no electricity or running water. But Comfort – who only had three years of schooling – was determined to educate her children and provide them with a better future. She did not give up, and continued working a piece of land – just as she had with her husband – growing corn, cassava, and yams.
Part of the harvest was used to feed the family, while the rest was sold to market women. But the income was barely enough to keep her children clothed, not to mention pay their school fees. “At times I did not know if we would make it,” she remembered. Then, in 1995, Comfort heard about a local group of farmers – the Offuman Multipurpose Cooperative Society, a 102-member group that was receiving assistance from TechnoServe to help them glean larger profits from their harvests – and she joined them with the hope that she could find ways to increase her income.
TechnoServe taught members of the cooperative how to obtain a much higher price for their crops by using a delayed-sale marketing technique. Members were encouraged to put a portion of their corn into storage at harvest time, when surplus supply lowered prices, and sell it when prices rose later in the year. To cover household expenses in the interim, the cooperative lent its members a percentage of the harvest time price, using the corn as collateral. To keep this collateral intact, TechnoServe showed the group how to properly treat and store the corn so it would not spoil. After the first year of using this technique, group members made more profits than ever before – receiving up to 100 percent greater returns for their corn than their neighbors.
The members even used some of their earnings to improve their community, grading their town’s dirt access road to make the transport of people, livestock, and produce that much easier.
With her new earnings, Comfort gave her children the best education possible. She enrolled them in the International School, and her oldest son even attended a nearby technical school, making him the first in the family to receive a specialized education. Comfort’s higher income also enabled her to save enough money to add rooms to her home, plaster and paint the walls, buy a wood bed to sleep in, and repair the push cart she used to transport her crops.
“I had a tough time raising my children,” Comfort recalled. “Now, because of TechnoServe’s help, I can pay all the school fees, purchase better quality foods for my family, and provide them with a more secure home.”
By age 50, Comfort had even improved her own education as well, learning accounting and finance on the job as Vice Treasurer of the Offuman Cooperative. Her new skills and success gave her the self-assurance to reach even higher, and she developed plans to open her own business selling soft drinks. Confident in her ability as a businessperson, she planned to build a new home with the profits.
With TechnoServe’s help, Comfort realized many of her own dreams, and was able to plant the seeds for a better future for her children.