Ghanaian women continue to play significant roles in the country’s agricultural sector. Women in the sector contribute up to seventy percent of all agricultural production, marketing and processing – mostly combining these responsibilities with raising a family and meeting other social and cultural expectations.
It is however no secret that Ghanaian women in agriculture are also faced with several challenges, despite their contributions. Challenges involve lack of ownership and limited access to productive and arable land, low literacy rates, lack of access to information, low participation in agricultural governance, poverty and insufficient access to credit facilities.
Agrihouse Foundation remains one of the few non-governmental organisations in the country, working closely with women farmers and other value chain partners to address the challenges of these hardworking women across the country. With projects like the Women in Food and Agricultural Leadership Forum and Gold in the Soil Awards; the Monthly Agri-Woman Market Place; and the 1 household, 1 Garden Initiative (1h,1g), Agrihouse Foundation continues to train and build the capacity of women farmers to enable them scale up their agribusinesses.
For example, over 25% of women who have participated in the Women in Food and Agricultural Leadership Forum and Gold in the Soil Awards are now thriving as agribusiness owners because of the agribusiness management training they receive during the event.
Since 2019, the two-part event has awarded about 300 women who excelled exceptionally as farmers and have taken up leadership roles within them within their communities and regions, as aggregators, NGO Founders, Women Farmer Organisation leaders, among others. In 2021, about 50% of women farmers recorded at the event managed 10 to 65 acres of farmland and are between the ages 25-65 years, with a number of them being women farmers with a physical challenge.
The monthly Agri-Woman Market Place Initiative has since last year supported and empowered women-led agribusinesses by creating an engaging platform that helps them to network, exhibit and sell their produces as a way of helping them to recover fully from effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Over 200 women farmers and women-led agribusinesses have so far benefitted from the event, which also offers them an opportunity to share knowledge and build their capacity through inspirational and empowerment dialogues.
The 1 household, 1 Garden Initiative (1h, 1g), has empowered about 100 households to become more self-reliant and conscious about food security and the importance of home-cooked meals. As part of the initiative, households are freely provided with 12 assorted vegetable seedlings, manure, garden tools, treated soil, a Training Manual and garden structures, and given the needed support and gardening inputs to help them establish their garden and manage it. Early last month, to start the 2022 New Year, the Agrihouse Foundation team was at Bamvim in the Northern Region to train and support 100 women in the community to set up backyard gardens. The team intends to expand the project to other parts of the region later this year.
Even with all these initiatives aimed at lessening the burdens of women in agriculture, while empowering them to build their capacity, more challenges still persist. At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in year 2019 and 2020, Agrihouse Foundation undertook a research initiative that assessed how the pandemic was affecting agricultural activities of the women farmers. Generally, they noted that the pandemic had heightened already-existing challenges in the following key areas: transportation, marketing and sales, education, self-reliance and food security assurance, and limited access to land and finance.
Challenges Confronting Ghanaian Women in Agriculture
Transportation: A 44-year-old chief district farmer from the Sekyere Central district in the Ashanti Region, Madam Ohemaa Akyaa – representing about 1,700 women in cocoa and maize farming, noted the COVID-19 spread has affected their transportation system; and is now causing them to sell produce at no profit at all to avoid losses. The situation has also affected the accessibility of inputs for farming. Already, they have been facing challenges of little or no access to finance for farming, and it is affecting their entire livelihoods.
Innovative marketing or new sales approaches: Aunty Ekua Atta, 57 years old – also representing a select group of about 870 women farmers in mixed cropping in the Gomoa West district Assembly – emphasised an increasing need for support in training on new markets accessibility approaches and innovative ways of selling, leadership and financial management, training on modern technology, best practices, cooperative structure development, mentorship and training in maintaining food production in a crisis.
Education: Also, Madam Asabea – 62 years old and representing 647 women cooperatives in cocoa and cashew in the Goaso Municipal and Ahafo Region – shared the challenges family farmers are facing since the lockdown of schools, which has brought school feeding to a halt. She highlighted the need for more education on social distancing for farmers during this crisis, and provision of PEs, capital for production and farming inputs.
Skilled training for self-reliance & food security assurance: Again, about thirty-two (32) young female student Agronomists and agripreneurs, currently unemployed, spoke of the challenges they are facing to afford a day’s meal and called for skilled training to support and be of use to their communities during this time of crisis.
Limited access to markets: About 500 women Smallholder farmers and processors (the majority in rice parboiling, shea, baobab and Neem) from Bolgatanga, Wa, Tamale and the Brong Ahafo Regions of Ghana have always expressed the need for assistance to access ready markets, indicating the challenge is not limited to a particular geographical location.
FDA Certification: Some farmers who are making attempts to add value to their products before selling need to acquire certification from the Foods and Drugs Authority. They lamented the bureaucracy in the process and stress involved when they have to certify their processed goods. According to them, each product from a company/entrepreneur will need to be certified separately – thus increasing the cost one needs to get the certification. Though some admitted agencies like the NBSSI have been helpful, the cost and processes involved in getting a product certified remain a challenge.
‘Gathering of the Royals’ to Develop Sustainable Farmers
To be considered sustainable, agriculture needs to integrate social, environmental and economic interests. The goals of sustainable agriculture are: to help provide enough food for everyone; bring communities out of poverty and provide an enhanced quality of life for farming families; and utilise farming methods that promote soil health and reduce reliance on fossil fuels for environmental sustainability. The following are some advantages of sustainable farming:
Healthier food: Food produced by sustainable farming methods has more nutrients in it, as it avoids dangerous chemical and pesticides. Crop rotation also guarantees more nutrients in fruit and vegetables, while livestock farmers raise animals in a humane way without any dangerous practices such as the use of growth hormones and non-therapeutic antibiotics. Thus, the meat is safe for consumers. The food also tastes better.
Building and maintaining healthy soil: Sustainable agriculture’s focus on building and maintaining healthy soil is therefore a critical component in securing the viability of food systems worldwide. Practices recommended for building and sustaining healthy soil include planting diverse crops; reducing or eliminating tilling that can disrupt and loosen soil; and never leaving fields bare with exposed soil – which has the effect of lowering nutrient availability and allowing dry soil to blow away as dust in the wind.
Safeguarding biodiversity: Sustainable farming, embraces a diversity of plants and animal species, both on-farm and off-farm, in order to help produce and promote healthier foods. Hedgerows can bring non-crop vegetation into fields, creating habitats for pest-predators and pollinators. Agroforestry practices can allow native trees to coexist with crops like coffee that prefer shade. Sustainable farms can be places where biodiversity thrives, sometimes successfully coexisting with adjacent wildlands while supporting sustainable diets based on locally sourced foods.
Reduce pollution and use of chemicals: Sustainable farming reduces pollution by using natural fertilisers and fewer chemicals. This means that farm produce is healthier and better for you. Sustainable farming incorporates integrated pest management to identify pests in the initial stages and target-spraying only for particular pests limited to a particular area. This way, it does not affect bio-diversity and protects the natural wildlife.
Sustainable communities: An important aspect of sustainable farming is that it remains economically viable for farmers, farm workers and others who are employed in the food system so that they make a livable wage and work in a safe environment. Sustainable farming encourages the resurgence of smaller family-run farms that strengthen the rural community, which benefits everyone.
‘Gathering of the Royals’ set for tomorrow, Tuesday, February 22
In a press statement, the Executive Director of Agrihouse Foundation, Alberta Nana Akyaa Akosa Sarpong, has noted that the maiden edition of ‘Gathering of the Royals’ is scheduled for tomorrow, Tuesday, February 22, 2022 at the GNAT Conference Hall in Accra. The event will gather fifty (50) queen mothers, together with representatives from academia, policy, government, development agencies and Agric institutions to explore further opportunities within the agric sector, as well as conflict resolution alternatives toward Peace-building and the development of sustainable farmers in the country.
According to Ms. Akosa Sarpong, Gathering of the Royals is a much-needed intervention that will contribute significantly to policy direction and assist in structuring appropriate approaches, practices, systems and innovations for sustained agricultural value and growth – from the community level to the top level. As part of the half-day event, there will be a Panel Conversation with a thematic focus on Working Together: Role of Royals and Corporates in accelerating Agri-Peace and Developing Sustainable Farmers.
The panellists for the session will include Nana odeatwon II, Divisional queen-mother, Ketekrachie-Oti Region: Portia Asumda, Leader of Kosanaba Women Farmers & Processors Group, Bawku West, Upper East Region; Nana Akua Amoah II, Tuobodom Queen-Mother, Bono East; and Ayisheitu Nahanadu Asaki, Queen-mother of Zebilla, Bawku West district. Others include Nana Akosua Bempomah, District chief farmer, Sekyere-kumawu – Ashanti Region; and Mama Dzitri Novuiango II, Divisional Queen-mother of Nkonya Tradional area.
There will also be a Contributors session, which will have key industry leaders and decision-makers like the Hon. Member of Parliament for the Klottey Korle Constituency, Hon. Zanetor Agyeman Rawlings, leading a Call-to-Action session which will guide and build the working path and manual for Royals and Agricultural businesses. Other notable personalities include the Deputy Minister for Food and Agriculture, Hon. Yaw Frimpong Addo; the Members of Parliament for Abirem, Hon. John Osei Frimpong. Corporate sponsors of the event and collaborating institutions will all make inputs, aimed at informing policy-direction in favour of women farmers and development activities.
“We are positive that by end of the event we will have contributed to creating sustainable working relationships which strengthen collaborative efforts between our corporate bodies, stakeholders and traditional leaderships,” Ms. Akosa Sarpong noted.