3rd WOFAGRIC & Gold in the Soil Awards highlight challenges women face

3rd WOFAGRIC & Gold in the Soil Awards highlight challenges women face

The launch of the 3rd Women in Food and Agriculture Leadership Training Forum and Gold in the Soil Awards (WOFAGRIC) recently organised by Agrihouse Foundation, although inspirational and impactful as described by guests and participants who were present, also highlighted some major challenges agri-women face in Ghana – including agricultural financing and fertiliser supply.

Funding Agriculture in Ghana

On the issue of accessing funds for agricultural purposes in Ghana, a report by the SME Finance Working Group reveals that access to financing is vital for growth of the agriculture sector in Ghana – mainly for working capital such as acquiring inputs (seedlings, farm fertiliser) and hiring labour, as well as for fixed capital acquisition such as machinery.

According to the report, the absence of financing limits the average acreage of cultivated farmlands and thereby, impedes agricultural growth with consequences for the macro economy as a whole. In Ghana the financial sector players involved in agricultural financing include banks, rural banks, Savings and Loans Companies and Microfinance institutions.

But unfortunately, most of these institutions are very reluctant to lend to farmers and others working within the agric value chain – emphasising that the main reasons banks are reluctant to lend to agriculture include:

High-risk perception of the sector and lack of adequate risk management tools; Existential risks such as diseases, pests and changes in climatic factors; The sector is not considered strategically important to banks; Lack of reach by banks, and there are high service delivery and monitoring costs; Agricultural sector is largely informal, lacking the documentation and registered collateral required for loans; Inappropriate financing models applied by commercial banks for agricultural lending due to poor understanding of agribusiness; Perceptions about agriculture’s low profit potential; and Low levels of farmer education and financial literacy.

Much of the above concerns came up when the women farmers were given the platform to share their stories of struggle in regard to accessing funds. For example, Madam Rebecca Aboagye of Yonkodo Farmers Group revealed that the COVID-19 period has been very challenging for the about-30,000 women farmers she works with – with concerns like access to transport, working capital, ready market, post-harvest losses and farming machinery and equipment being on top of their list. But their love for farming, specifically, has kept them going and has been their biggest motivation.

She noted that access to funds will solve much of their challenges, because they are a dedicated and hardworking group of women farmers who are ready to make good use of the support they receive. But presently the group has little support, and even in spite of their challenges they are not ready to give up on agriculture— because, beyond striving to find market for their crops, they also donate to the prisons, charity homes and families in need in their communities, which is a good thing.

Factors Hindering Intensive Financial Investment in Agriculture

Challenges with intervention programmes, which are heavily dependent on public intervention mechanisms, with a top-down approach in planning and implementation -resulting in less than satisfactory relevance, less cost-effectiveness and poor ownership. Interventions are also not properly harmonised and coordinated, and hence this should be an area of intense focus.

Financial Interventions for the Agri-Women: Over the years, governments have been adopting policy interventions in the agricultural sector to boost access to finance, and production for food security and export. Notable ones include: The Agricultural Development Bank (ADB) was set up in 1965 by government to provide credit to crop/livestock and small farmers; and Rural and Community Banks were set up by the policy beginning in 1976 to support rural agriculture and other rural activities. Since then, these Rural and Community Banks with their branches have increased to over 500 communities, mobilizing and delivering credit.

Credit delivery challenges, which mostly involve weak credit appraisal by banks due to inadequate technical capacity of credit officers in delivering quality agricultural credit, and resulting in banks carrying high non-performing loans in their books remain a major problem. Credit models typically employed by commercial banks do not match loan repayment to cash flows, leading to high default rates. Building technical capacity and fostering the introduction of risk-mitigating schemes are essential tools needed to guarantee quality credit delivery.

Delays in implementation, slow disbursement and inadequate counterpart funding: The requirements in agreements with donor partners for government to contribute upfront counterpart funds before the project accounts are credited for specific projects cause delays. It therefore becomes important to seek more partnerships and negotiate what the country itself can realistically contribute.

The ABSA Solution— EMERGE

As a Supporting Organisation for this years WOFAGRIC & Gold in the Soil Awards, ABSA Ghana was present at the launch, and as part of their presentation the Head of Business Banking touched on a number of solution-oriented initiatives the bank has put in place and is expanding on to support women in agriculture. Mrs. Grace Amin Yeboah noted that it is time for Corporate Ghana to step-up when it comes to funding agricultural initiatives in the country, even though the agric sector is fraught with challenges: “But where there are challenges, we need to find alternative ways of dealing,” she said.  She insisted banks must collaborate with agricultural institutions to create different structures and interventions which help agricultural initiatives to grow in the country.

Such collaborations, she noted, have a high chance of succeeding because women largely pay their banks loans; and Agrihouse Foundation, through WOFAGRIC, is shedding light on small-scale farmers, who are mostly women — and according to research contribute up to about 80 percent of all agricultural produce grown in the country.

“So, what can we begin to do differently to fashion solutions for our women farmers?” she asked. According to her, ABSA Ghana has been working on a number of solutions in this regard: “We have created a women’s solution called EMERGE; a banking solution that looks at the totality of the woman agripreneurs needs. The whole idea is to bridge the financial gap between women-led and men-led SMEs.”

She said this solution by ABSA Ghana is looking at how to facilitate business growth for women, to increase employment and reduce poverty in line with MDG number 5 – which is to empower women and achieve gender quality. The solution also creates developmental and networking opportunities for businesswomen, access to market and discounts on banking facilities, free financial and business advisory services, international travelling opportunities and organising coding boot-camps for children of women-farmers.

She noted that in order for agri-women to fully enjoy the benefits of this solution, they must ensure they are practicing best business practices such as proper bookkeeping: “We have also partnered with the Mastercard Foundation to actually provide financial support, and the plan is to lend out a hundred million dollars, equivalent in cedis, over the next five years. We hope to impact at least 5000 SMEs,” she revealed, emphasising that, undoubtedly, financial interventions like this will help agri-women groups like Women’s Small Livestock Breeders, Women in Poultry Value Chain, Yonkodo Farmers Group, and the many more women agripreneurs who were present at the launch.

Fertiliser for Farmers & Yara Ghana

The issue about fertiliser for farming was another conversation that came up during launch of 3rd WOFAGRIC and Gold in the Soil Award: the use of fertiliser and its accessibly and affordability, primarily for women in farming. It’s important to note that in Ghana government and the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA) have been implementing a national fertiliser-subsidy programme to support its flagship Planting for Food and Jobs (PFJ) initiative to boost agricultural productivity and improve the living conditions of smallholder farmers across the country.

However, also at the launch, the West-Africa Regional Director of Yara Ghana, Mr. Addo Danquah-Yobo, said Yara Ghana is well-placed to contribute significantly to the issues about fertiliser supply for farmers in the country, with emphasis on women farmers – considering the climate and environmentally smart nutrition solutions the organisation provides, as well as the several digital offerings that it will be rolling out soon to support smallholder farmers to be more productive, profitable and resilient.

He said, now more than ever, there is a need to rethink and find sustainable approaches to doing business during and beyond COVID-19. He therefore praised Agrihouse for the theme of WOFAGRIC, which he said is very appropriate, ‘Women in Agric: Surviving, Thriving, and Making Waves beyond the Pandemic’.

He said Yara is also engaging partners in the Food Chain globally to ensure that everyone everywhere has enough good-quality food to lead a healthy life, by improving the productivity and incomes of small-scale farmers via promoting equal access to land, technology and markets, sustainable food production systems and resilient agricultural practices as part of the UN SDG Goal 2.

Mr. Addo Danquah-Yobo therefore urged the agri-women to set high ambitions and targets for themselves, and work at meeting them. He said it is not enough to be a woman farmer; and even though the COVID-19 has intensified a lot of challenges women face in the sector, it has also inspired some new opportunities. He therefore encouraged the women to focus more on the new opportunities and use this COVID-19 period to build resilience that will improve their activities in the long-term.

He said corporate Ghana must also do more for women farmers to ensure gender equality in the sector. He therefore used the opportunity to commend the women for their hard work throughout the years, and praised Agrihoiuse Foundation for pushing a platform like WOFAGRIC & Gold in the Soil Awards that continues to celebrate, educate, train and highlight the challenges of women in the agric sector. He said YARA Ghana, like Agrihouse Foundation, is committed to the development and achievements of women; thus, YARA Ghana will continue to support WOFAGRIC & Gold in the Soil Awards for many years.

“Yara Ghana is passionate about women achievers; our human resource manager for West African is a woman; our best distributor is a woman; one of our best field agronomists is a woman, based in northern Ghana,” he noted. “Yara Ghana is looking forward to the day when the national best farmer, best exporter, best processor will be women farmers,” he said.

3rd WOFAGRIC & Gold in the Soil Awards 2021

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 June at Bolgatanga in the Upper East Region of Ghana. 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 the Upper East and Upper West Regions. “This is the first time the Foundation is opening up nominations in such a way,” she said, “to allow more women from culturally diverse backgrounds an opportunity to participate in the awards scheme.”

2019 & 2020 Impacts of WOFAGRIC & Gold in the Soil Awards

Since 2019, WOFAGRIC has helped shape and build more career-women in the field of agriculture in their various rural areas and communities, continuously being a source of women empowerment. 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, while 2 of them picked up awards at the National awards. In 2020 – even though held under strict COVID-19 protocols – at the end of the two-day event, 25% of women who were not into agribusiness but attended the programme 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, so as to drive them toward growth and expansion of their agribusinesses.

The Gold in the Soil Awards

The Gold in the Soil Awards seeks to recognise 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 are 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. Nomination links are currently active for the Gold in the Soil Awards on all social media pages of Agrihouse Foundation.

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