As early as 5 a.m., Martin Antwi is already working on his vegetable farm. He works until the harsh mid-day sun does not allow him to work any longer.
Later in the afternoon, Martin returns to his land to weed, plow and water all the plants until dusk. He works hard on his farm and is rewarded with a good harvest.
But despite his hard work and a good harvest, Martin had been unable to provide adequately for his family. With nearly every harvest he would lose all of his profit to the market money lenders from whom he buys his seeds and equipment.
Because vegetables such as cabbage, carrots, and lettuce mature within approximately two months, poor farmers make arrangements with market women who buy and sell the crops. The farmers prepare their land and, at planting time, they go to the market to look for prospective buyers to lend them money to buy seeds and other necessities.
Once the crops are harvested, they are taken to the market woman who lended money to the farmer. She determines how much to pay for it. She retrieves her loan plus interest from the amount she offers to pay the farmer. After all this is done, the farmer is left with virtually no money to take home.
“We work so hard but at the end of the day it is someone who loans you the money who gets everything and we go back home with nothing.”
That has been the cycle of life for this 45-year-old father of four. Martin and his family live in Pokuase, about an hour’s drive south of Accra off the main road.
The 12,000 people who live here are mostly vegetable farmers and keepers of free-range livestock, which accounts for the numerous domestic animals such as goats, chickens and dogs that roam the streets.
The residents are also petty traders who sell in stalls located throughout the community. It is possible to find almost anything one might need in these stalls. Some of the people have recently taken to cracking stones to earn a living.
Martin could not provide properly for his family. Three of his children were not in school. Even the oldest child who was enrolled in school was out of class most of the time because Martin was unable to pay the fees.
But two of Martin’s four children, Emmanuel and Sandra, are registered at the Compassion-assisted Church of Pentecost Child Development Center. It is very important for every child in the program to also attend school, so Emmanuel and Sandra were enrolled in school at the same time.
Emmanuel is a very serious 13-year-old who rarely smiles. He and his younger sister, Sandra, are in grade two at school — a situation he does not like.
“Because Sandra is in the same class with me she does not respect me as her older brother. She talks to me as if I am her age mate but I am 4 years older than her. Sometimes I want to hit her but my parents would not like it so I don’t. But I get angry.”
But Emmanuel enjoys and appreciates the child development center, where he and Sandra receive nutritrious supplemental food, medical checkups, tutoring and social nurture, school books and school fees, and Bible teaching. And there, Emmanual was also placed in the Highly Vulnerable Children’s program.
The center’s health social worker tells us,
“When we registered Sandra and Emmanuel, they were very sickly looking. We knew that they needed special care. So when the Highly Vulnerable Children program was introduced they were the first two names on the list.
“But the two of them could not benefit because the number was restricted to only six children. Emmanuel was chosen over Sandra because his condition was worse.”
Compassion’s Highly Vulnerable Children (HVC) program provides services or assistance for children in especially critical situations — conditions which may threaten their lives or prevent them from growing and developing in the way God wants them to.
HVC provided Emmanuel with nutritional supplements and nutritional food items such as beans, eggs and milk. The program also offered income-generation training for Emmanuel’s father, Martin, to help him provide for his family’s other needs. Once Martin received the training, HVC gave him a small-business grant of GHc100.00 (equivalent to about $61) which he invested into his vegetable farming.
Now Martin no longer needs the market women money lenders; he is able to keep his profit and better provide for his family.
“I am now enjoying my work. Since the ministry gave us that hundred Ghana cedis, which was a far bigger amount than I was getting from the money lenders, I have control over how much I want to sell my farm produce for.”
No longer do Martin’s children need to be pulled from school for lack of fee money. With the help of Compassion’s child development and HVC programs, Martin’s four children are all now attending school.