Of all the stories many Ghanaians know of the man who first brought cocoa seedlings to Ghana, the narratives that they came from Fernando Po (now Equatorial Guinea) and that Tetteh Quarshie was only able to smuggle the seeds by swallowing them have been the most predominant.
Well, while only one of those two narratives is true, did you also know that the man who has been credited with Ghana’s signature cocoa-producing acumen to date was a blacksmith?
A blacksmith who gifted Ghana its most profitable cash crop, that’s the true story of the man Tetteh Quarshie.
The 1879 story that has been told without number has somehow also missed the very fine and interesting detail that Ghana’s Tetteh Quarshie was not even the greatest farmer the country has ever had.
This historical correction was shared with GhanaWeb’s Wonder Ami Hagan when she visited the Tetteh Quarshie’s Cocoa Farm at Mampong Akuapem, in the Easter Region, in 2020.
Now, this is the true story.
Tetteh Quarshie was in Fernando Po on a missionary journey, and on his return, just like all others on such pilgrimages, there was the need for him to pass through a checkpoint.
This was to allow for all such travelers to be checked to ensure that, while on return from their respective countries at the time, they were not carrying any foreign items.
Tetteh Quarshie may not have known the effect the decision he was making at the time would have on his home country, Ghana, but he made a smart move.
Being a blacksmith, he kept all his working tools in a toolbox. This box was the last place anyone would have checked for any foreign items or goods, and so that was exactly where he kept them.
But all he could keep in there were six cocoa pods; a plant he had discovered in that country on the west coast of Africa.
It became a well-cooked plan, and over the six-week journey Tetteh Quarshie undertook on the sea in 1879, to the coast of the Gold Coast, his pods remained intact.
In the words of Thomas Awuku, who has been working at the Tetteh Quarshie Farm for years, a job handed down to him by his father, who also took over the management of the farm from Tetteh Quarshie:
“That’s the history we also learnt about him, but when I got to this stage, I realised they were telling us a lot of lies about Tetteh Quarshie. Tetteh Quarshie didn’t swallow cocoa beans before he brought them to Ghana because in the 1870s travelling was difficult. There were no aeroplanes for travelling so we travel by the sea – either with ship or canoe. Tetteh Quarshie went with the ship, and it took him six weeks from Ghana to Fernando Po, which is currently known as Equatorial Guinea.
“Assuming he swallowed the cocoa beans and for six weeks on the ship, are they trying to tell us that the whole six weeks on the sea, he couldn’t visit the washroom? And if he did, it means everything went back straight into the sea so we never got back the beans and returned back to Ghana,” he told GhanaWeb‘s Wonder Ami Hagan on People and Places.
Explaining further the story, Thomas said that even on his return to the Gold Coast, Tetteh Quarshie made an unsuccessful attempt at planting the first seed in Accra, as the soil type – mostly sandy and clayey, did not allow the crop to grow.
It was only when another missionary work came and took him to Mampong Akuapem that he found good soil.
Watch the full story in the video below: