A Q&A with Project Officer Gilbert Nkpeniyeng
In April, Amplio Ghana launched a new project with STAR-Ghana Foundation to train and economically empower women working in the shea butter processing sector in Lambussie District in the Upper West Region of Ghana. The AVID project began in April 2023 and will run through June 2024.
We asked project officer Gilbert Nkpeniyeng to tell us about the project's innovative training model. Gilbert has worked on Talking Book projects since 2015. But he first encountered a Talking Book when he was 10. It changed his life. In September, Gilbert is headed to England on a scholarship to pursue master's degree in Rural Development at Cambridge University. Learn about his remarkable story.
Hi Gilbert! Tell us about the STAR Ghana AVID project.
The STAR-Ghana AVID project—Action for Voice and Inclusive Development—is a life-changing economic empowerment project that Amplio Ghana is implementing in ten communities in the Lambussie District. For this project, we are using a combination of hands-on training and Amplio Talking Books to train and empower rural women engaged in shea butter processing to increase their productivity and income.
STAR-Ghana Foundation is a funding organization that supports development projects to improve social inclusion, good governance, and public goods in Ghana. It is amazing to partner with them! We get to intensively discuss our project activities with their team and collaborate to offer solutions to emerging problems. I foresee future partnerships with STAR-Ghana and Amplio on other projects aside from this.
What types of challenges do women shea producers face?
The women face challenges related to product quality, unfair pricing practices, lack of knowledge about the Ghana Standards Authority's certification protocols, inadequate business management skills and cooperatives, and lack of knowledge about proper shea butter packaging techniques. As a result, they resort to producing very low-quality shea butter which is not properly packaged/branded to meet the average standards that attract buyers. They end up selling their product at very low prices and continue to wallow in extreme poverty despite engaging in a supposed profitable trade.
What are the project goals?
The main objective is to contribute to women's livelihoods through increased productivity and income. We want to ensure the shea butter produced by the women's groups meets at least 75% of Ghana Standards Authority's quality standards by the end of the project. The project also aims to enhance the capacity of women shea butter producers to produce high-quality products, support the implementation of a fair pricing regime, and promote the adoption of improved packaging techniques.
What is the Talking Book listening model for the AVID project?
Group and household listening. Talking Books will be distributed to 10 groups, with two devices per group. The women will listen to Talking Book messages together during their weekly/monthly meetings to enhance their learning. Members will also take the devices home on a rotational basis, allowing them to listen with their families.
What content will go on the Talking Books?
The audio content will cover shea nut collection and processing, shea butter packaging procedures, and safeguarding shea trees—i.e., promoting environmental sustainability (sustainable use of the shea trees). Other topics include Ghana Standards Authority certification protocols, business management and marketing skills, record keeping and market access, collective marketing by women cooperatives, fair pricing regime, shea butter price negotiation, and improved packaging techniques.
We recorded the content in two local languages, Dagaare and Sisaale, to overcome the challenge of low literacy levels among the target audience. We opted for two languages because Lambussie has two main tribes: the Dagaaba and the Sisaala people.
What is Amplio Ghana's role?
As a specialized organization with expertise in delivering audio-based knowledge for impact through development programs, Amplio Ghana is responsible for deploying the Talking Books to the field for beneficiary usage, which is a critical component of the AVID project. Our team will also provide technical oversight and lead and work on a range of program activities, including training and capacity building, content creation, and community sensitization. This includes facilitating the training on Ghana Standards Authority certification and shea butter buyers' quality testing guidelines.
We also engage with local experts and stakeholders. For example, we are collaborating with resource staff from Suntaa-Tietaa and Tondaar shea butter processing enterprises to conduct training on improved shea butter processing techniques and packaging.
Our team will play a key role in the monitoring and evaluation process. Amplio uses the project performance plan as a framework to conduct routine and periodic monitoring activities across the intervention areas. This helps us track progress, identify challenges, and support the target beneficiaries and stakeholders in resolving issues.
What's your specific role on this project?
As the Project Officer, I lead the project implementation with the support of my line manager. I oversee the execution of activities and ensure successful delivery of the project's objectives according to the plan and timeline. I work closely with trainers and resource persons, carry out sensitization activities, and ensure the deployment and usage of the Talking Books by the beneficiaries. I am also responsible for stakeholder engagement, including meeting with the Lambussie District Assembly and community leaders to discuss the AVID project plans and the expected results.
As part of the project's commitment to gender and social inclusion, I ensure that women with disabilities are actively included in project activities. I also work to address potential conflicts that may arise due to gender/social inclusion within households and ensure that the women beneficiaries receive support from their male counterparts.
Can you talk about sustainability?
Of course! Amplio Ghana is actively involved in designing and implementing sustainability measures to ensure project continuity and benefits beyond the funding period. This includes working with the Lambussie District Assembly to integrate the project into their development plans and ensuring that women shea butter producers reinvest their increased income into their businesses. In all, I will say, Amplio Ghana's services and role are central to the effective delivery of the STAR Ghana AVID project. Our technical expertise, innovative audio solutions, and commitment to sustainability contribute to the project's positive impact on the lives of the people we serve.
The AVID project's dual approach is a game-changer. It brings together the benefits of immediate interaction, personalized learning, and long-term accessibility to technical knowledge—empowering rural women with the tools and knowledge they need for personal and community development.
This isn't the first time you've worked on a Talking Book project — what makes the AVID project unique?
Unlike other Talking Book projects, I have supported, which primarily rely on audio-based knowledge sharing, the AVID project goes a step further by providing interactive physical trainings alongside the Talking Book. This unique combination allows for direct and immediate interaction between beneficiaries and technical/subject experts.
One advantage is that beneficiaries no longer have to endure long waiting periods for feedback on their questions. Instead, they receive instant responses from the experts during the physical/hands-on training sessions. Also, the answers to their queries are then recorded and added to the Talking Book content, ensuring that the knowledge shared is preserved for future reference. This ensures sustainability in learning, as beneficiaries can revisit the recorded content whenever needed.
By leveraging both onsite trainings and the Talking Book, the AVID project maximizes the impact of knowledge dissemination. The interactive nature of the onsite sessions fosters a deeper understanding of the subject matter and allows for personalized guidance. The Talking Book serves as a valuable tool, enabling beneficiaries to reinforce their learning and access expert insights even beyond the training sessions.
In sum, the AVID project's dual approach is a game-changer. It brings together the benefits of immediate interaction, personalized learning, and long-term accessibility to technical knowledge—empowering rural women with the tools and knowledge they need for personal and community development.
What difference will the project make?
It will empower women to improve shea butter quality and demand fair prices. They will be able to increase their productivity and income, enabling them to fund their children’s health and education and take care of their family’s most basic needs. I believe, and will continue to say, that whenever you uplift one rural woman out of poverty, you have uplifted an entire household and more.
I understand the women renamed you in Sisaala!
Yes, they did! After a successful training session, the women translated my surname (Nkpeniyeng) into Sissala as 'Azonee' and invited me to dance. Their song mean something like: "Azonee hails from the Dagaaba land. His presence here brings a life changing legacy. Let all shea butter processors take the activities seriously and treat Anzonee well! Anzonee is not here for nothing!"
About STAR-Ghana Foundation
STAR-Ghana Foundation is a national centre for active citizenship and philanthropy. The Foundation fosters the development of a vibrant, well-informed, and assertive civil society able to contribute to transformational national development and inclusive access to high quality, accountable public services for all Ghanaian citizens.