Governance and Agricultural Leadership (GOAL) in Africa

TRENDS Global in partnership with local partners is currently establishing a Research and Training Center for Governance and Agricultural Leadership (GOAL) in the Volta region of Ghana to strengthen democratic governance and economic self-sufficiency in rural communities in West Africa.

Since the independence of most African states in the 1960s, scholars and policymakers have argued consistently that leadership, democracy, governance and economic development are inextricably linked and that good leadership will lead to good governance and prosperity. Despite of all good intentions, much of Sub-Saharan Africa is still underdeveloped, undernourished, undereducated, poorly governed and riddled with diseases, violence and conflict. If leadership and governance are the answer, then the past half-century indicates that there must be something wrong with these concepts or their application.

Leadership, democracy and civil society conceptualized in Western terms have paved the way for strong states and centralized power among urban elites. But traditional systems of governance in Africa differ considerably from Western political practice. Imposing modernity and centralized democratic governance on local communities with little recognition of the norms, values and traditions that have shaped these communities for centuries has resulted in ineffective leadership, suboptimal governance and a continuing lack of economic, social and political opportunity.

The GOAL Center focuses on bridging local, national and international governance, fostering sustainable leadership, promoting agricultural development, and advocating economic self-sufficiency. The GOAL Center offers trainings promoting leadership and governance, conflict management, sustainable development and agriculture leadership, and economic self-sufficiency.

Our first GOAL center is located in Abutia, a farming community in the Volta region of Ghana. The area is comprised of three main towns and several settler villages engaged mainly is subsistence farming. Spanning more than 200 square kilometers, Abutia is home to a total population of over 20,000 people, more than 90 percent of whom are farmers living on less than $1.50 per day. Despite the significant impact farming has on the local community, Abutia still suffers from chronic food shortages due largely to outdated methods of farming and a lack of storage and processing and delivery facilities.

Recognizing the need for technological, agricultural and management skills training, our local partners are currently piloting a local demonstration farm that engages 50 young adults in sustainable farming and a small micro-lending program providing start-up financial capital to 30 community members to sustain their own farming. Both programs show initial success in that participants are able to meet their household food requirements and send their children to school full time. The GOAL project will build on these existing efforts and develop comprehensive training programs to empower economic progress, sustainability and local ownership while strengthening community leadership, conflict management and shared governance.