The role of training, mentorship, and knowledge-sharing among agriculturists is integral. These efforts lead to holistic mental and technical capacity building among actors, leading to higher productivity within the agric value chain.
These thoughts were well-articulated by the West Africa Regional Director of YARA, Mr. Danquah Addo-Yobo, in a welcome message recently delivered on his behalf at the 3rd Women in Food and Agricultural Leadership Training Forum (WOFAGRIC) and Gold in the Soil Awards, organised by Agrihouse Foundation at Bolgatanga in the Upper East Region.
Exploring the theme of the 2-day event, ‘Surviving, Thriving and Making Waves beyond the Pandemic’, the regional director said that for women in agriculture to survive, thrive and make waves beyond the pandemic in the agricultural sector, deliberate policy actions need to be in place to mitigate the challenges they face.
He was therefore glad that the annual event did not only seek to celebrate agri-women who are shining exceptionally in their roles, as the event also served as a training and mentoring platform that facilitated knowledge-sharing – enabling the women to build on their understanding within the agric sector.
This year, as part of the capacity building training and mentoring sessions, the agric-women were taken through topics such as: how Agri-women can make the most out of the pandemic; how to keep proper accounting and other records in farming and cooperative management/funding opportunities, and how to access loans and funding.
Others included: best practices and skills to adopt in farm management; simple steps to develop a business plan; practical ways of overcoming challenges among agribusiness women; how to improve and increase markets through digital and technological innovation; and how women agribusinesses can be grown and connected to a world of opportunities. The rest are: Farming for Export, Promotion and Development; enhancing access to finance; and promoting quality standards within agricultural spaces.
He was particularly pleased that YARA representatives were selected to share knowledge on ‘Best Practices and Skills to adopt in Farm Management’, considering the emphasis Yara places on sharing knowledge and building capacity within the agricultural sector. “Yara grows knowledge to responsibly feed the world and protect the planet to fulfil our vision of a collaborative society, a world without hunger and a planet that is respected,” he stressed.
To meet these commitments, he said, Yara has taken the lead in developing digital farming tools for precision farming and working closely with partners throughout the whole food value chain to develop more climate-friendly crop nutrition solutions.
In addition, the global company has committed to working toward sustainable mineral fertiliser production and fostering an open culture of diversity and inclusion within its organisation. Such efforts promote the safety and integrity of employees, contractors, business partners and society.
Mr. Addo-Yobo therefore urged the women to participate actively in the sessions, ask questions and even make suggestions. This, he said, will help them put the knowledge gained into practice and share with others who did not have an opportunity to be at the event. He further used the opportunity to encourage the women to keep working hard and scaling up their efforts.
He said even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, women farmers in the country played major roles in ensuring that the country’s agricultural sector saw a healthy growth of 2.5 percent, according to the Ghana Statistical Service (GSS). “However, women continue to face challenges such as gender-based disparities in terms of access to resources and services, influencing decision-making, unfair land tenure systems and unbalanced economic opportunities,” he added.
He said agencies like Women in Agriculture and the Ministry of Food and Agriculture must work to ensure equal access to capital, capacity building and other essential linkages in the sector. Touching on YARA’s association with the WOFAGRIC & Gold in the Soil Awards, he said YARA recognises the crucial roles women play in various areas of the agricultural value chain, even as they continue to take responsibility for their family’s welfare, health, education, food and nutrition. He said Yara Ghana has been supportive of the event from the onset, and will continue to be a part of WOFAGRIC and Gold in the Soil Awards because the events seek to improve the capacities and highlight the efforts of our gallant women farmers.
Third WOFAGRIC and Gold in the Soil Awards
This year, the 2-day event helped to explore ways of enhancing women’s resilience and recovery from effects of the pandemic, while enabling women in agribusiness to develop, improve and sustain new agricultural practices as well as develop their business within this pandemic era and beyond. Appropriately, the theme was ‘Surviving, Thriving and Making Waves beyond the Pandemic’.
The second part of the event, the ‘Gold in the Soil Awards’, is an awards scheme dedicated to strengthening and projecting a paradigm-shift in celebrating women farmers, processors, marketers and women who are playing a role within the agricultural value chain; including women into Transportation, packaging, Technology, input dealers, etc. The Awards move from region to region, yearly, to search for these extraordinary women who contribute significantly to putting daily food on our tables.
Their stories are shared in a documentary series produced by Agrihouse Foundation. This year, the Awards scheme received 131 nominations from both Upper East and Upper West Regions; the first time nominations were opened in such a way as to “allow more women from culturally diverse backgrounds an opportunity to participate in the awards scheme,” noted the Executive Director of Agrihouse Foundation, Ms. Alberta Nana Akyaa Akosa.
During the assessment and breakdown of entries received, the Foundation realised that 50% of the entries were from women farmers – farming between 10-65 acres of maize, yam, groundnut, soya beans, vegetables, Bambara beans, millet and sorghum. 32% of the women were largely into processing, packaging and marketing of Shea, Neem, Moringa, Baobab, Dawadawa, groundnut, oils, etc.
15% were into distribution and marketing of Input (seeds, fertiliser, etc.), and about 3% of these women were into Tractor and Equipment operating and hiring. Furthermore, the majority of women farmers who submitted entries were between ages 25-65years, and had been operating their businesses over a period of 2 to 40 years. “This for us is a positive signal. It is great to know we have very young women in the Upper East and West Regions who are taking Agric seriously, and contributing to enhancing nutrition and changing livelihoods,” Ms. Akosa said.
At the end of the assessment and breakdown, out of 131 nominations 45 women were shortlisted and documented on video telling their stories as agri-women. The number was further shortlisted to 14 agri-women who received Gold in the Soil awards.
Portia Wins the Ultimate Gold in the Soil award
Madam Portia Asumda was crowned the ultimate ‘Gold in the Soil Awards’ winner this year. The 38-year old farmer hails from Zangeyire in the Upper East Region, and has been farming for the past eight years. She is into shea-processing, crop production and rearing livestock. In crop production, she farms twenty acres of land – of which she uses ten acres for maize production; two acres for Guinea corn; three acres for groundnut; and two acres for rice. She rears about two hundred ruminants; one hundred and twenty cows; and five hundred guinea-fowl.
She works with about two thousand agri-women across the Upper-East and West Regions, and the Tansi district. Under her leadership and coordination, they are able to process their shea-butter – which for some years now they have had the opportunity of exporting to countries like the USA and Canada. They export up to forty tonnes of shea-butter.
Touching on challenges, she said transportation and the absence of a farm tractor makes it difficult for them to transport their harvest and plough their farmlands. “When we hire a tractor to come and plough our land, one plot is one hundred and fifty Ghana cedis. So ploughing all twenty acres is very expensive and a problem,” she stated.
She said a ‘Motor King’ – the motorised tricycle they use to transport food from the farm – would considerably solve their transportation challenges; and therefore pleaded with Agrihouse Foundation and sponsors to provide the farm with one. Emerging as the ultimate Gold in the Soil Awards winner, Portia Asumda took home a brand-new tricycle to aid with transportation on her farm… just as she had requested. She was awarded a Gold in the Soil Award plaque and other incentives – including bottles of fertiliser provided by Yara Ghana; and an irrigation pump, provided and to be installed on her farm by Interplast. She received a certificate of honour, a full piece of cloth and branded T-shirts from sponsors. The rest of winners in the various categories are as follows:
The Passion for Farm Award— Portia Gban from Upper West Region. This award recognises an individual woman who is excited and passionate about agribusiness and contributing to the growth of her community, creating jobs, mentoring girls in the community and supporting them to take up agric, either small-scale or large-scale.
She Innovates Award— Gafaratu Fuseini from Upper East Region. This award goes to a woman who has or is working with the power of innovation and adding value to her agro business. She identified a challenge within the community and value chain, and found a solution through innovation.
Climate Smart Women Project Award— Memuna Abdul Rahaman from Upper West Region. This award provides recognition for the efforts of a group of women or a woman-led organisation, implementing an outstanding project in agriculture by adopting a climate smart approach and practices which support transformation and development, and is sustainably increasing agricultural productivity in her community.
Outstanding Woman in Extension Services Award— Leuzumah Rashida from Upper West Region. This award provides recognition to women, in either the public or private sector, contributing effortlessly through training, capacity building, advocacy to encourage the adoption of best practices by farmers, thereby contributing significantly to empowerment and socio-economic development of society and the country as a whole.
Super Woman Farmer Award— Alima Wahabu from Upper East Region. This special category goes to a physically-challenged woman whose role, work and passion for agriculture is contributing largely to community development, food security, poverty alleviation, job creation and economic growth in the Agric sector.
Royal Agro Award— Ayiesheitu Mahamadu Asaki from Upper East Region. Through this award, we identify a traditional leader (Queen mother), who is into agriculture herself and her personal commitment to see women in agriculture in her community develop and thrive; and is helping them in all ways possible through access to land, training, social impact programmes and advocacy.
Diamond in the Rough Award— Saantuma Sala from Upper West Region. This award goes to a generational role-model making waves at the background within her community, an unsung heroine who has indeed mentored and made great strides for her family, her people and the community as a whole.
Feed to Foods Award— Genevive Akugu from Upper East Region. This is to a woman with great determination and integrity who has continuously demonstrated a positive role in poultry and livestock, and has an unwavering commitment to succeed in this sector.
Change Champion Award— Asieme Elsie Azelikumah from Upper East Region. This category goes to the professional corporate woman whose ongoing effort, passion for her job, contribution and dedication to her work in the agro space is contributing significantly to corporate internal change while making a national impact.
Development Partner Award—Canadian High Commission. This award recognises the efforts of an International organisation whose works centres on agriculture; and in particular toward the development of women in the community, encouraging them to adopt best practices while adding value.
Lady of the Export Region Award— Anita Sutha from Upper West Region. This category recognises and rewards the region’s most successful and innovative woman exporter, with regard to size of the business and its export sales.
Star Woman Agripreneur Award— Mavis Alahire Aboko from Upper East region. This special recognition goes out to an outstanding agribusiness-beginning young lady, in any field of agriculture. This young lady should be seen to be excelling (i.e., efficiency in service delivery, income performance) in her field and is already a great role-model, mentoring other young girls in her community.
She operates Award— Joy Okrah from Upper West Region. This award recognises an exceptional female who is into operation management and maintenance of tractor services. She should be earning income from this trade and impacted her community with her skill.
Princess Carla Award— Hawawu Gbahara from Upper West Region. This award recognises the efforts of a dedicated woman whose work and role affects communities positively; touching lives, mentoring, role-modelling, advising, counselling and enhancing networks for other women, both young and old.