Women working in agriculture, are an undeniably a strong influence, and have for many years been the backbones of their communities and societies, contributing immensely to food security. In Ghana, agriculture remains the predominant economic activity, employing 55 percent of the workforce and producing 45 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product. Approximately, 70 percent of the rural population depends on agricultural activities as a source of income. Smallholder farmers – the majority of whom are women – on family operated farms generate 80 percent of total agricultural production in Ghana. As of 2003, 49.4 percent of the female population were employed in the agricultural sector, compared to 51.7 percent of the male population.
The majority of women in agriculture are food producers, working on joint family farms and tending their own land for household food production, while only a small percentage are independent farmers. About 90 percent of women in Ghana are self-employed or work as unpaid family labour in farming, agro-based enterprises, or small-scale manufacturing in the informal sector with low productivity and low incomes. In periods of labour shortage, women are often engaged, without any remuneration, in post-harvesting activities on cocoa plantations.
Societal and cultural restrictions have limited the potential of the work of women farmers in Ghana’s agriculture sector. Issues such as access to land and a reoccurring situation of losing land rights have discouraged women’s long-term investments or improvements in their own land, where they are responsible for household food security. With their access restricted in general to less fertile land, women often are able to cultivate only cassava and other food crops, while men cultivate the more fertile land with cash crops.
Participating in paid labour activities, women are very much constrained by their role as the primary providers of food for their household. On family farms, while women can influence decisions, the male head of household has final decision-making power and often controls household capital and labour. Providing women farmers with the right incentives, such as access to credit, to increase their productivity and skills could foster higher growth rates in Ghana’s agriculture sector. A World Bank study has recently revealed households headed by women experience a sharp decline in poverty levels.
Agrihouse Efforts towards Women in Agriculture
Agrihouse Foundation aligns strongly with the world bank study, believes that furnished with the right support, women will continue to contributing immensely to the agric sector and society. That is why since its inception, the NGO has been championing the course of women in the sector through its intentionally thought-out interventional project like Women in Food and Agriculture Leadership Training Forum (WOFAGRIC) and recently, and Agri-woman Market Place, both highlighting the work of women-farmers and building their capacity, while creating market accessibility, training and mentoring opportunities for them.
Agri-Woman Market Place
Last week, Agrihouse Foundation held the maiden edition of its new interventional project, ‘Agri-Woman Place,’ a project aimed at supporting Ghanaian women farmers, processers, packagers, marketers, IT service providers, among others, working within the agric value chain to market their services and products with convenience, directly to buyers. The event was highly patronized by the targeted group of women within the agric value chain and supported by organizations like Ecobank, the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Nyonkodo Woman Farmers Association among others. According to feedback received, ninety-eight percent of the exhibitors sold out their produces and products, whiles establishing new contacts and networking. The goal now is to organize Agri-Woman Market Place on the last Friday of every month, thus, the second edition has been scheduled for 30 April, which promising to be bigger and more publicized. You can’t afford not to be part of it, as a woman exhibitor or patron.
Women in Food and Agriculture Leadership Training Forum (WOFAGRIC)
In the meantime, Agrihouse Foundation, in partnership with the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA), and the National Farmers and Fishermen Award Winner’s Association of Ghana (NFFAWAG), is set to launch the third edition of the Women in Food and Agriculture Leadership Training Forum (WOFAGRIC), on March 23. The theme for this year’s 2-day event is ‘WOMEN IN AGRIC – SURVIVING, THRIVING & MAKING WAVES, BEYOND THE PANDEMIC’ and is scheduled to take place in Bolgatanga in the Upper East Region.
The Women in Food and Agriculture Leadership Training Forum (WOFAGRIC), project was established in 2019 by Agrihouse Foundation to enable women develop their agricultural skills, motivate, mentor and build upon their capabilities to becoming independent. For those already in the sector, through constant interactions and engagements, Agrihouse identified some major issues they face, such as:
Lack of infrastructure: access to transport and logistics would improve the capabilities of women farmers and they could sell more of their farm produce in time when granted or exposed to the needed logistics. Empowering and investing in women, specifically in rural areas, will significantly increase productivity while reducing hunger and malnutrition.
Access to funding: Women tend to face greater challenges when it comes to securing credit. They are generally less experienced with the ins and outs of borrowing from an institution, and without assistance and support they find it difficult to access much needed funding. Women receive seven percent of the agricultural extension services and less than ten percent of the credit offered to small-scale farmers.
Limited access to new practices: Most agricultural extension focuses on large-scale commercial farming with limited research conducted on small farming techniques, which are often owned by women.
Limited access to technological advancements: Most advanced technology includes ploughs, cultivators, planters, harvesters and irrigation equipment. Most of these advancements are aimed at a male specific audience, with improvements aimed to accommodate their requirements. Women farmers often lack the know-how and the confidence to use the improved technology and most of the new technologies.
Less market opportunities: Lack of market research and information limit women farmers to market opportunities. Women are confined to local markets where prices are generally lower than in urban markets.
These concerns have informed the direction and themes Agrihouse Foundation has worked with over the years, to make WOFAGRIC a purposeful interventional platform that practically meets the needs the our agri-women in all areas. WOFAGRIC has helped to shape and build more career women in the field of agriculture in their various rural areas and communities. The platform has also been a source of women empowerment since its inception, whiles acknowledging the efforts of women-farmers in the country, and awarding a number of the through the Gold in the Soil Awards scheme, “The event continues to strengthen the capacity of our women farmers. At WOFAGRIC, we teach women through competence-base approaches, demonstrations, and soft skills they can employ to build vibrant agribusinesses. We celebrate their work in the agric sector, provide them support and urge them to do more. This goes a long run to motivate other women to venture into the fields of agriculture business,” the Executive Director, Ms. Alberta Nana Akyaa Akosa, has noted.
The Gold in the Soil Awards
Touching on the Goil in the Soil Awards, Ms. Nana Akyaa Akosa, has noted that the second day event of WOFAGRIC is also a women-focused award ceremony that promotes and motivates women achievers in agribusiness, “it is quite unfortunate that till date, no woman-farmer in the country has been adjourned best farmer on the national front. At Agrihouse Foundation, we are looking forward to that day and achievement for our women farmers,” she said. That is why in the meantime, The Gold in the Soil Awards established by the Foundation is the vehicle by which it seeks to recognize and celebrate pioneering women and trailblazers who push the boundaries along the agribusiness value chain, especially, in our communities, districts and regional levels, within and across the country.
The awards scheme is made up of 15 categories, including: Passion for the Farm Awards, She-Innovates Award, Climate-Smart Women Project Award, Outstanding Woman in Extension Services Award, The Super Woman Farmer Award, Star Woman Agripreneur Award (Woman Agripreneur Award), Royal Agro Award, Diamond in the Rough Award, Feed to Food Awards – (Poultry, Livestock & Fisheries), The Change Champion Award, Lady of The Region Export Award, Development Partner Award, Princess Carla Award, Gold in the Soil Award, and She-Operates Award.
Impacts of WOFAGRIC & Gold in the Soil Award
In 2019, almost a quarter of the nominees for the Gold in the Soil Awards made entries into the National Best Farmers Award Scheme at district, regional and national levels with about 7 of them winning laurels at the district and regional levels whist 2 of them picked up awards at the National awards.
Also, the WOFAGRIC and Gold in the Soil Award, agri-women have been able to access loan facilities to support their farms and businesses. Furthermore, information and guidance provided by the Netherlands embassy and the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) have equipped some of the women farmers on the standard procedures, best practices and how to go documentations to export their produce. This has helped about 13 women to start the process to go into exportation.
In 2020, at the end of the tw0-day event, 25 % of women who were not into agribusiness but attended the program had decided to start up their own agri-projects, as a result of the competence based training and soft skills, they had acquired; about 900 women were groomed to take up leadership roles and build their capacities, to drive them towards growth and expansion of their agribusinesses.
The Beauty of WOFAGRIC in 2021
According to the Executive Director of Agrihouse Foundation, Ms. Alberta Nana Akyaa Akosa, this year, Agrihouse is receiving nominations for the Gold in the Soil Awards, from both Upper East and Upper West Region. She said this is the first time the Foundation is opening up nominations in such a way, to allow more women from culturally diverse backgrounds an opportunity to participate in the awards scheme, “This year’s event is going to be bigger and better; more practical, especially in this time of COVID-19. We want to build the resilience of our agri women and ensure that in this critical time, they don’t just survive as agriprenures, but also thrive now and beyond the epidemic. This year’s activities will expose them to more practical competence-based skills in bookkeeping; applying for bank loans; managings farm and agribusiness, among other skills. The theme is, ‘women in agric – surviving, thriving & making waves, beyond the pandemic” Ms. akosa stressed, “nominations for the Gold in the Soil Awards are also open. We encourage the public to visit our Agrihouse Foundation social media pages and nominate Agri-Woman who are shinning in their communities, districts and regions,” she added.