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Investing in Ghana and our people

Cargill at 150

December 01, 2016

Helping our people and communities thrive through the spirit of cooperation, Cargill’sTaco Terheijden recounts the story of the early days of Cargill Ghana Ltd.

After Cargill Ghana Ltd (CGL) was formed in July 2005, plans were quickly put in place to build a cocoa processing plant in Tema, in the southern part of the country. Prior to this, Cargill Cocoa & Chocolate had no office, no plant, and no suppliers in Ghana. There was a longer history with regards to buying beans and the Cocoa Board, but otherwise our presence was very limited, with four pod counters becoming the first official employees at CGL.

Taco Terheijden, now Director Cocoa Sustainability, was one of the early employees sent to Ghana to help establish the business there. Joining in early 2007, he arrived not only with the substantial responsibility to develop the commercial infrastructure along with a core team of specialists, but also with the challenge of moving to a new country with three young children under the age of five.

The intention was to strengthen and stabilize the supply chain and for Cargill to become a long-term player in the cocoa business. Today of course, it is clear that these goals were achieved. Ghana is our second-largest producer of cocoa beans, and we have 173 full-time employees and over 250 contractors working there today.

Cargill values and helping others thrive

“I really appreciated the friendship among colleagues at CGL,” says Taco. “I think we realized that those early years are extra special and what remains are the great memories of the CGL team and colleagues who contributed to an exciting and successful experience.”

Adding to the spirit of cooperation, almost everyone at CGL was initially trained by people from our operations in Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana’s neighboring country.

This lively, busy start-up spirit could have resulted in cutting corners when it came to following safety procedures in the haste to get things done. But even with close to 1,000 people involved in building the site, the entire project was finalized with zero incidents – a clear demonstration of how Cargill values safety. Another very positive note was that Cargill was able to show people – including the Ghanaian government - that a plant in an origin country can have the same quality in terms of people, machinery and processes as anywhere else in the world.

Even as the business was being built from the ground up, Cargill formed a partnership with Care International, the global aid organization. “It also says a lot for Cargill that they were focused on improving the lives of people involved even though they were still in the developing phase of the entire project. This was at a time where sustainability and other terms associated with it were not even being used yet,” says Taco. “Due to the efforts of many others after I left, I am happy to note that the partnership with Care International in Ghana is still a very strong one.”

Personal reflections

On top of a whole new business in a new country, it took some adjusting on the personal side as well. Taco’s older children did not speak a word of English when they arrived, making it a challenge to fit in initially. “And in the first few weeks we had to get used to the fact that Ghanaians – even complete strangers – would regularly pick up your child from his stroller and carry him around. But the initial fear that we were witnessing the kidnapping of our baby boy in front of our eyes soon disappeared as it became clear that the love for young children was the only motive for this special attention.

“It’s clear that these brief memories do not fully reflect the enriching experience this was for me and my family. Aside from the work experience, when we left in 2010 the kids were fluent in English and had friends from many nationalities. Having had the opportunity to spend some time to understand this part of the world better was really amazing and I would not have wanted to miss it for anything.”