Canada urges women in agric to support; learn from one another


Globally, development partners remain integral stakeholders in national development. Development partners are usually considered third party organizations that share in the economic risks of development or commercialization of a target or product being developed or commercialized. In Ghana, Global Affairs Canada continues to be a formidable financial and technical backbone to several community and infrastructural projects that are helping to improve the socio-economic and cultural wellbeing of Ghanaians.

One of such projects, the Modernizing Agriculture in Ghana (MAG) project, has since 2017 been providing support for the government of Ghana to improve the country’s agriculture sector. In a speech read last year at the launch of the 3rd Annual Women in Food and Agriculture Leadership Training and the Gold in the Soil Awards organized by Agrihouse Foundation, former Deputy Director, Development, Canadian High Commission in Ghana, Ms. Stephanie Brunet, said Canada recognises the potential of Ghana’s agriculture sector to reduce poverty and inequality in the country. “That is why we are providing 125 million Canadian dollars of assistance directly to the government of Ghana to help modernize the sector,” she revealed.

She went on to outline some tremendous successes of the project, which she revealed is in its fifth year: “These include increases in the adoption of relevant, productivity-enhancing technologies by both female and male farmers in Ghana; the introduction of new market-oriented approaches to farm management; improvements in major crops and many more,” she noted. According to her, a big focus of the MAG project has been to understand the specific needs of women farmers and ensure that both female and male farmers are receiving the appropriate extension services to help them improve both their yields and incomes. “This is in line with Canada’s Feminist International Assistance policy and the UN Sustainable Development Goal 5 on Gender Equality,” she noted.

Canada Reiterates Support for Women-led Agribusinesses

This year, at the fourth WOFAGRIC and Gold in the Soil Awards held in the Western Region at Takoradi, the Agriculture Sector Lead at the High Commission of Canada, Madam Candace Holt, reiterated the relevance of the Modernizing Agriculture in Ghana (MAG) project while underscoring Canada’s commitment to continue supporting more women farmer-based organizations across Ghana to scale-up their efforts – activities that usually include processing and packaging their agricultural commodities to attract higher value markets and make profit from the sale of their products.

She indicated that, already, through partnerships with the government of Ghana and organizations like the Agrihouse Foundation, Canada’s developmental efforts in the country are helping to increase empowerment and self-reliance among women in the agricultural sector. These efforts are helping women to demonstrate higher levels of financial autonomy.  As a result, they are now able to buy land, add rooms to their homes, purchase agro-processing machines, expand their agro-processing activities and pay school fees for their children.

“I am therefore proud that Canada has supported this event [WOFAGRIC and Gold in the Soil Awards] since its inception. We are proud to do so because it strongly resonates with our Feminist International Assistance Policy, which puts women and girls – in all their diversity – at the front and centre of development,” Ms. Holt noted in her remarks. She commended Agrihouse Foundation for ensuring the inclusion of fifteen women with disabilities in this year’s WOFAGRIC and Gold in the soil Awards.

“When women are empowered to realize their rights and economic potential, the benefits trickle to the whole of society,” she stressed. “This is why every development initiative funded by Global Affairs Canada has the FIAP as the starting point, so that we understand from the start how a project impacts women and how it can better benefit women.”

Canada in Ghana beyond the MAG Project

Ms. Candice Holt further noted that Canada’s support to women in agriculture goes beyond MAG. She used the opportunity to highlight projects including the Women’s Innovation for Sustainable Enterprises (WISE) project, the Greater Rural Opportunities for Women (GROW) project, and the Women’s Economic Advancement for Collective Transformation (WeACT) project, which she described as women’s economic empowerment and economic growth-focused projects. She said these avenues are helping Canada support women operating within the value chain to build their skills, manage finances, and develop their businesses in specific areas like cocoa and shea production.

Highlighting the importance of WOFAGRIC and the Gold in the Soil Awards, she said the platform plays a significant role by honouring and displaying the successes of women farmers, which goes a long way to demonstrate that women farmers have a whole lot to contribute in Ghana’s development agenda.

“Women are especially crucial for the sustainability of Ghana’s agriculture sector. And for this, you deserve to be recognized and celebrated for your immense achievements and contributions to your country. When given equal opportunities to succeed, women shine!” she stressed.

Agriwoman: Grow – Recover – Stand-Out

She therefore urged the women to embrace their position as role-models in their communities, and also use it as an opportunity to inspire other women as the theme for the event charges them to do, “Agri-Woman: Recover – Grow – Stand-Out”.

She praised them for their remarkable achievements within the agricultural value chain which have earned them Gold in the Soil Award nominations, stressing on the fact that such visibility and recognition can play crucial roles in inspiring and motivating other women to grow and achieve their full potentials.

“We know that there have been challenges related to COVID-19 among other issues, yet you have all kept your eyes on the finish line and forged ahead. This brings us to today, when we can celebrate your important achievements. Your moment to ‘stand out’ and shine. You got here today through your own hard work and perseverance. However, you should not leave here today without picking up something extra. I want to encourage you to learn from each other, to make connections and support each other. Indeed, in my experience, working together is the best way to thrive,” Madam Candice Holt encouraged the women farmers.

Highlighting the significance of trainings, mentorship, capacity building – which are major aspects of the two-day event, she urged the women to make the most of resource persons the event has given then access to – by asking questions and networking. “It takes many of us working together to advance gender equality, which is why I’m so happy to see the wide range of organizations and partners here for this event: government agencies, front-line agriculture workers, private sector representatives and NGOs,” she added.

She encouraged other corporate sponsors of the event to continue supporting agriculture in Ghana as well as the WOFAGRIC and Gold in the Soil Awards.

4th WOFAGRIC & Gold in the Soil Awards held in Takoradi

This year’s two-day event was held at the Akroma Plaza in the Western Region at Takoradi, on the theme ‘AGRIWOMAN: GROW. RECOVER. STANDOUT’ – providing practical training and mentorships for the women farmers to build their capacity in farming and agribusiness, while celebrating their outstanding achievements through the ‘Gold in the Soil Awards’.

Annually, the event moves from region to region. In the past three (3) years it has been held in the Volta Region, Ashanti Region and Upper East Region. This year, bringing together stakeholders in government, corporate leaders, policy and administration, development-partner organisations, agric institutions and resource persons, women farmers and agribusiness owners in the Western and Western North Regions also got a chance to be celebrated and empowered with business knowledge and industry innovations to help them excel even further within the sector. Global Affairs Canada, YARA, RDF Ghana, ABSA, OCP AFRICA and Fidelity Bank sponsored the event; with collaborating Institutions being the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA), Women in Agriculture Development (WIAD), the National Farmers and Fishermen Award Winners Association (NFFAWAG) and the Western Regional Coordinating Council.

While the event strives to target women farmers of all groups, this year’s event gave considerable attention to women farmers with physical disabilities who are ‘living beyond the disabilities’,  Executive Director of Agrihouse Foundation, Alberta Nana Akyaa Akosa Sarpong, underscored in her welcome address on the first day. The event provided training, mentorship and capacity building sessions which provided resources persons with opportunities to share new and innovative knowledge and best farming practices with the women farmers.

The Gold in the Soil Awards aspect of the event, this year, received a total of eight-two (82) nominations from the Western and Western North Regions. Fifty-two women comprising both Western and Western-North nominees were shortlisted and documented for the awards documentary produced by Agrihouse Foundation. The documentary tells inspiring stories of the agriwomen; it highlights their journey over the year, the successes and impacts they continue to chalk up and establish in their lives and communities. It shows how they are overcoming the challenges they face as agri-women, and the support they need to scale-up their activities.

A breakdown of this year’s nominations revealed that for the first time in four years, the ‘Super Woman Farmer Award Category’ – committed to recognizing Ghanaian women farmers with disabilities – received significant entries with fifteen nominations. The list includes ten-year-old Esther Ofori who resides at Dzatokrom in the Sewti Wiawso district of the Western North Region.  At the event, Esther was honoured for her bravery and determination to find her passion and continue her education despite her physical challenges. Other nominees recognized and honoured in the category included: Rebbecca Aidoo, Joyce Asante, Agathor Bosompim, Joyce Quarteng, Rose Mensah, Afua Kunado, Joyce Agyei Sakyiwaa, Rebbecca Asamoah, Akosua Nyarko, Ophelia Ackah, Akosua Addei,  Akua Atta and Maame Yaa. Nominees who won in other categories included:

The Passion for Farm Award – Esi Akyere, from Western Region. The award recognizes an individual woman who is excited and passionate about agribusiness and is 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 – Matcom Company situated in the Western-North 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 the value chain and found a solution through innovation. It could be adding value to a product through processing or identifying a creative means of preservation or developing an appropriate technology to provide a particular solution.

Climate Smart Women Project Award – Mary perpetua Kwakuyi from Western Region. This award provides recognition for the efforts of a group of women or a woman-led organization, implementing an outstanding project in agriculture by adopting a climate smart approach and practices that support in transformation, development; and is sustainably increasing agricultural productivity in the community. This project must be seen to be solving a real challenge and creating tangible results

Outstanding Woman in Extension Services Award – Eva Adu from Western Region. This award provides recognition to women, in either the public or private sector, contributing effortlessly through training, capacity building and advocacy to encourage the adoption of best practices by farmers, thereby contributing significantly to the empowerment and socio-economic development of their society and country as a whole.

Royal Agro Award – Ekua Badu from Western Region. Through this award, we identify a traditional leader (queen mother), who is into agriculture herself and has a 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 – Abena Asantewaa from Western 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 – Edna Ama Mensah from Western 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. This person should have made a series of significant, selfless contributions with long-lasting benefits to the Livestock, Poultry or Fisheries sectors.

Change Champion Award – Marian Ofori Twumasi from Western-North 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 – Global Affairs Canada. This award recognizes the efforts of an International organization whose work centres on agriculture, and in particular toward development of women in the community, encouraging them to adopt best practices while adding value.

Lady of the Export Region Award – Georgina Filson from Western Region. This category recognizes and rewards the region’s most successful and innovative woman exporter, with regard to size of the business and the export sales.

Star Woman Agripreneur Award – Rosemond Afua Afful from Western 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.

Princess Carla Award – Monica Nwiah from Western Region. This award recognizes 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. 

Madam Evelyn Andoh wins ultimate ‘Gold in the Soil Award’

The 63-year farmer from Wassa Akutuase in the Wassa East district was crowned the Queen of the ‘Gold in the Soil Awards’. In her documentary, she revealed that she farms a 128-acre farmland consisting of cocoa, plantain, palm-nut, yam, cocoyam, goats, sheep, poultry, rice and maize  She took home a tricycle, three Knapsack sprayers, 20 boxes of fertilizer, six pairs of Wellington boots, three lamps, T-shirts, 15 packs of Maize seeds, 20 bottles of weedicide, a plaque and a certificate. The Gold in the Soil Award is awarded to an agriwoman producing along the entire agricultural value chain (from production through processing, branding to marketing etc.). Exporting her products would be an added advantage. Her establishment/business should have made a recognizable impact on her community.

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