The struggles of women farmers: a threat to food security

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Research by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has revealed that by giving women the same access as men to agricultural resources, it could increase production of women’s farms in developing countries by 20 to 30 percent.

The contribution of women to agricultural and food production is significant but it is impossible to verify empirically the share produced by women. Additionally, women tend to face greater challenges when it comes to securing credit facilities and, in northern Ghana, women do not own lands even though they form a good percentage of agriculture workforces in the region.

The lack of access to land is making it difficult for the women to engage in commercial agriculture.

Despite their central importance to agriculture, which sees women produce a great chunk of the country’s food, women farmers are sadly excluded from conversations that determine agricultural policies, while unfair laws and practices deprive them of their land, their rights, and their livelihoods.

Also, about 80 percent of agricultural production comes from small-scale farmers, who are mostly rural women. Women comprise the largest percentage of the workforce in the agricultural sector, meaning women in agric cannot continue to be treated with levity.

Rural women farmers continue to encounter difficulties despite contributing to the socio-economic needs of the family and the country. Available data on rural and agricultural feminisation from the Food and Agriculture Organisations shows that this is not a general trend but mainly sub-Saharan Africa phenomena as well as observed in some sectors such as unskilled labour in the fruit, vegetable and cut-flower export sector.

Furthermore, lack of market research and information, limits women farmers to market opportunities, as they are confined to local markets where prices are generally lower than in urban markets.

Women’s participation in rural labour markets varies considerably across regions, but invariably women are over represented in unpaid, seasonal and part-time work, and the available evidence suggests that women are often paid less than men, for the same work.

According to a research by SOFA Team and Cheryl Doss in 2011, women make essential contributions to agriculture and rural enterprises across the developing world but there is much diversity in women’s roles and over-generalisation undermines policy relevance and planning.

Efforts by national governments and the international community to achieve their goals for agricultural development, economic growth and food security will be strengthened and accelerated if they acknowledge the contributions that women make and take steps to alleviate these constraints.

Thanks to the Savannah Integrated Rural Development Aid (SIRDA) which is now Savannah Women Integrated Development Agency (SWIDA), Pure Trust Social Investment Foundation (PTSIF) and Development Frontiers for the interventions to salvage the plight of some rural farmers in the Northern Region in improving marginalized women rights to access and control of shea parklands to guarantee long-term sustainable investment in shea, the situation is changing.

Shea Tree and land tenure arrangements in traditional northern Ghana is associated with systemic elements of exclusion of Gender Equality and Social Inclusion (GESI) groups which affect an inclusive and sustainable shea value chain in Ghana.

To alleviate the plight of the women farmers, the partners have secured shea parklands in 12 districts across Northern Ghana for shea conservation.

The project is to ensure the parks are mainly for shea productions to ensure the women own the shea parklands and manage them by themselves to guarantee the long term investment and sustainability.

The beneficiary Assemblies are Mion District, Savelugu Municipal, West Gonja District, North Gonja District, Lawra District, Lambussie District, Kassena-Nankana West and East Assembly, West Mamprusi District, Karaga District, Gushegu Municipal as well East Gonja District Assembly.

It is also to ensure life after the COVID-19 for the rural women who mostly rely on the shea production for their livelihoods. In addition to medicinal and cultural values, shea nuts and butter are important commodities and play a major role in the local economy of a developing country such as Ghana.

Like in most developing countries, climate change in Benin continues to be a major threat to rural livelihoods, inducing changes in agricultural system.  As the production environment is unpredictable, farmers have developed mixed farming systems such as parkland systems as adaptation strategies.

As part of the implementation strategy, a Movement of Shea Collectors (MoSC) was developed as an advocacy movement. The movement was represented by five women groups in each of the 12 districts with a total membership of 2,369.

The project is funded by STAR Ghana, European Union, DANIDA and UK Aid with Savannah Women Integrated Development Agency (SWIDA) championing the course in Lawra, Lambussie, Gushegu and Savelugu districts.

Nyoligu is among five beneficiary communities in the Savelugu Municipal with the chief of the town allocating about 20 acres of shea parkland to the women’s group in that community under usufruct right basis. The other four communities are Kadia, Nakpanzo, Nyeko and Laligu.

The Chief of Nyoligu Sabani Mumuni who allocated land for shea conservation parkland threw the support behind the partners for the implementation of the project and advised the women groups to take good care of the land to achieve its purpose.

According to him, some bye-laws have been implemented to prevent the cutting down of shea trees in the community and its environs. He stressed that anyone caught cutting any of the trees illegally would be punished accordingly.

Hajia Alima Sagito Saeed, CEO of SWIDA, said the conservation of the shea parklands could reduce famine in the rural communities since shea is grown on wild and the women pick them for several domestic purposes.

She expressed worry about the rate at which farmlands were being sold for industrial purposes, leaving the local women jobless. “We did this to fight for the vulnerable women in the rural areas who, due to the pandemic disease, could not make ends meet to manage the parks for their living,” she said.

She appealed to the traditional authorities help protect their shea parklands for a better future, saying, the destruction of the economic shea trees could affect food security and the climate change of the country.

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