Tetteh Quarshie’s travels to Fernando Po (now Bioko in today’s Equatorial Guinea), was to transform the economy of the Gold Coast (now Ghana) with his introduction of cocoa beans on his return. Hitherto, palm-oil and rubber were the main staple industries in Ghana.
Tetteh Quarshie was born in 1842 to a farmer from Teshie known as Mlekuboi. His mother was known as Ashong-Fio from Labadi, both hailing from the Ga-Dangme ethnic group. Tetteh Quarshie served as an apprentice in a Blacksmith’s shop at Akropong belonging to the Basel Missionaries. Due to his hardwork he soon became a Master blacksmith. Tetteh Quarshie was in fact the first blacksmith to be established at Akwapim-Mampong. His hobby was farming.
In 1870, Tetteh Quarshie undertook a voyage to Fernando Po (Bioko in Equatorial Guinea). About six years later he returned to Ghana with several cocoa beans (the Amelonado) and made history.
At this point we must ask ourselves, was Tetteh Quarshie really the first person to introduce cocoa to Ghana? This very question was asked during the administration of Sir Gordon Guggisberg, the British Governor of the Gold Coast from 1919-1927. Sir William Brandford Griffith (Governor of the Gold Coast in 1880 and 1885) claimed it was his father, Sir W. Brandford Griffith who deserved that honor. The Basel Missionaries also claimed to have experimented with the cocoa beans in Ghana as noted in their diaries.
Sir Gordon Guggisberg decided to fully investigate the various claims.
“Sir Gordon Guggisberg, who carefully went into the matter saw (1) that the fact that Government found it necessary many a time to institute inquiries is ipso facto proof that cocoa first found its way into the Gold Coast through a channel rather than Government’s, (2) that it was impossible that the Gold Coast Government could have failed to record or to give credit to such a distinguished personage as the late Governor Griffith if he were responsible for the introduction of cocoa into the colony, (3) that it was not likely that such responsible Officers as Mr. Gerald C. Dudgeon, Superintendant of Agriculture, and the late Mr.W.S.D. Tudhope, Director of Agriculture, would report that cocoa was first brought into the Gold Coast by Tetteh Quarshie without exhaustive inquiry having been previously made — a fact which is recognized by the Gold Coast Board of Education who have associated Tetteh Quarshie’s name with cocoa.”
In 1879 Tetteh Quarshie planted the seeds at Mampong with some success. Friends and relatives also undertook the planting of cocoa when pods were distributed to them. Soon other farmers followed suit. It was only at this point that the Basel Missionaries stepped into the picture by importing large quantities of the crop into the country. From the Gold Coast (Ghana) cocoa beans or cuttings were sent to other countries like Nigeria and Sierra Leone. The export of cocoa from Ghana began in 1891, the official exported in 1893 (two bags exported). Ghana once provided almost half of world output. Between 1910 and 1980 Ghana was the world’s largest exporter. This position was ceded due to bush fires etc. However Ghana’s cocoa is still of the higest quality and the country earns hundreds of millions of dollars annually from the export of the beans and processed materials.
Tetteh Quarshie “kicked the bucket” on Christmas Day of 1892. A great soul had gone to rest. His relatives made a petition to the Gold Coast Government on February 25th, 1925 for a grant for the upkeep of some of Tetteh Quarshie’s relatives. The then Ghanaian Vice-Principal of Achimota College, Dr. J.E.K. Aggrey strenously took up the appeal. His friend, Sir Gordon Guggisberg set up the Tetteh Quarshie Memorial Scholarship at Achimota College. Other honors were bestowed on him. Another petition was made in 1927 and the Government gave a sum of only 250 pounds, although Nana Sir Ofori Atta, speaking in the Legislative Council asked for 2,500 pounds, supported by Kojo Thompson.
As the late Ghanaian Lawyer and Anthropologist, Dr. Isaac Ephson says in his “Gallery of Gold Coast Celebrities,” (p. 64)
“This took the form of a more enduring memorial, which was set up at Achimota in honour of the pioneer of Ghana’s staple crop and the principal bulwark of the country’s economy. The memorial is Tetteh Quarshie House. And since Independence (1957) the Government of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah after petitions from Dr. J.B. Danquah and the Eastern Region House of Chiefs, has built a first class hospital and fittingly named it after him at Mampong-Akwapim – TETTEH QUARSHIE MEMORIAL HOSPITAL.