“What we were finding was that we were onto something big and something different, something that wasn’t just confined to my community, Tarkwa Breman, alone.”

When Shadrack Frimpong, C’15, returned to his native Ghana after graduation to implement his President’s Engagement Prize-winning project, he had plans to return to the U.S. for medical school the following year. But his project — sustaining a girls’ school and a community health clinic through proceeds from a cocoa farm — turned out to be a revolutionary farm-for-impact model.

This year, he’s back at Penn as a Master’s student in Nonprofit Leadership. He shares how his upbringing in rural Ghana inspired him to create better educational opportunities and more equitable healthcare for Ghanaians working in the cocoa farming industry.

This episode originally aired on February 15, 2019. Please find current show schedules at Wharton Business Radio

Interview Highlights

On Injustice as a Driving Force

“People always ask me ‘how did you know you wanted to do this?’ And I always tell people it has to come from a place of pain and anger. For me, it was because, in the first decade of my life, I didn’t know what electricity or running water was, growing up in the village. My parents were cocoa farmers. And then, coming to Penn, taking classes, I remember Biology 101 with Prof. Scott Poethig, he talked about how Ghana is a world’s second-leading exporter of cocoa [and] rakes in about 2 billion dollars in export every year. I saw that and said: ‘So why’s my family so poor?’ That kind of anger really always stayed with me, and it turned out I wasn’t the only person feeling that anger. These Ghanaian friends of mine also felt the same issue. Even though we came from different economic backgrounds […] that injustice pushed us.” — Shadrack Frimpong

On a Game-Changing Model

“When we started, for me the goal was to go spend one year in Ghana and come back to the U.S. and go to medical school. When we applied for the President’s Engagement Prize, it was to build a tuition-free girls school and a community clinic that would be supported — keyword being supported — with proceeds from the community farm. And it was just in one community. […] Then, over the years, we’ve kept doing this, and after a year I [get] an email the Clinton Foundation. Chelsea Clinton says that I would love for you to come to the office in New York. We meet, I talk about the model, she looks at me and she’s like: ‘Listen, I’ve been working with this foundation for a while. This idea is game-changing.’ […] What we were finding was that we were onto something big and something different, something that wasn’t just confined to my community, Tarkwa Breman, alone.”

On Keeping Students in School

“What we noticed in Ghana is that the Ghanaian educational system provides tuition-free education in the sense that they pay teachers’ salaries. But then there were other factors like books, uniforms, transportation, all these things were not being taken care of. You had a rural attendance of most schools being around 60%. […] That’s where what we call the ‘farm-for-impact’ model [came in]. […] When we did that, parental engagement improved, student attendance improved. Compared to the national rural attendance rate of 60%, at our girls school the attendance rate is as high as 98%.”

Posted: August 27, 2019

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