Women in agriculture empowered

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Two words describe the launch of the 3rd Women in Food and Agriculture Leadership Training Forum and Gold in the Soil Awards, organised by Agrihouse Foundation on Tuesday, 23 March: Inspirational and Impactful.

Inspirational because of the stimulating stories of hard work, determination and innovation the agri-women shared about their journey and experiences so far in the agricultural sector, in spite of their many challenges. And impactful, because of the spirit of motivation each person at the launch walked away with; nurturing hopes of finding a unique place in the agric value chain in order to start contributing in some way to the sector. The event was an eye-opener as a result of the multitude of insightful conversations that also took centre-stage – highlighting all aspects of the agricultural sector and the challenges which burden each one of them.

Throughout the conversations, the issue of funding agriculture and access to funds kept coming up – and the agri-women who were the focus of the event had a lot of stories about struggle to share in that regard. But in spite of their challenges they were an inspiration to all, especially to the many dignitaries and heads of institutions who graced the colourful occasion: including Ms. Stephanie Brunet, Deputy Director-Development and representative of Organising Partners, the Canadian High Commission; Mrs. Grace Amin Yeboah, Head of Business Marketing at ABSA Ghana; and Mr. Addo Danquah-Yobo, West African Regional Director of YARA International – both supporting partners of the upcoming event.

Through the delivery of relevant support, it’s worth noting that the Canadian High Commission is proving itself to be a dependable and trustworthy ally of Ghana’s agricultural sector. For the 3rd time, through the Canadian High Commission, Canada is standing firmly with the Agrihouse Foundation as a partner in organising the Women in Food and Agriculture Leadership Training and Gold in the Soil Awards, to inspire hope and support women despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

Even though the role of women in agriculture is undeniably important to the economic development of our country, many of them continue to struggle in different areas across the value chain – highlighting challenges in the areas of transportation, innovative marketing approaches, education, lack of skills training to enable self-reliance, and limited access to market.

But over the years, the records are there to show that Canada has been in the farmlands, poultry institutions and agri-processing ventures with many of our Ghanaian agri-women, alleviating their concerns through different resourceful interventions. At the recent launch of the 3rd WOFAGRIC and Gold in the Soil Awards, the Deputy Director of Development at the Canadian High Commission, Ms. Stephanie Brunet, revealed that since 2017 Canada has been providing support to the government of Ghana to improve the country’s agriculture sector through an initiative called Modernising Agriculture in Ghana (MAG).

The Modernizing Agriculture in Ghana (MAG) programme is a five-year CAD 135million initiative.  Up to CAD 125million may be provided to Ghana, in accordance with the terms of this Arrangement, for the programming activities outlined in Components 1 to 4 below.

CAD 10million will be managed by the government of Canada for the monitoring, evaluation, auditing and technical advisory services outlined in Component 5 below.

This support follows two previous Canadian agriculture sector budget programmes supporting the implementation of Ghana’s Food and Agriculture Sector Development Policy (FASDEP).  The first programme, Food and Agriculture Budget Support (FABS), provided CAD 20million per year from 2004 to 2008; followed by a one-year CAD 15million bridging programme leading to the Support to the Food and Agriculture Budget Support (SFASDEP) programme.  The CAD 110million SFASDEP programme ran from 2009 to 2013.

The MAG programme evolved from FABS and SFASDEP to respond to the decentralisation of Ghana’s agriculture sector implementation responsibilities to Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) of the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development (MLGRD) – taking into consideration lessons learned from the implementation of earlier sector budget support programmes.

Through the MAG programme, it is intended that conditional budget support and technical assistance will be provided for Ghana to respond to the objectives of Food and Agriculture Sector Development Policy (FASDEP), Medium Term Agriculture Sector investment program (METASIP), and the Ghana shared Growth and Development Agenda (GSGDA II). It is designed to address productivity and value chain development management to add value to farmers’ produce for increased incomes.

The MAG programme focuses attention on demand-driven research and alternative methods of extension delivery, with the objective of increasing productivity through intensive farming. A robust and diverse extension delivery system will facilitate the dissemination of technologies to farm households, farmer-based organisations, out-growers of nucleus farms and others.

In her address at the launch, Ms. Brunet revealed that the MAG project is now in its fifth year of implementation, and tremendous successes have been recorded over the years. 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, among others. She also revealed thata big focus of the MAG project has been to understand the specific needs of women farmers and to ensure that both female and male farmers receive the appropriate extension services to help them improve both their yields and their incomes.

“This is in line with Canada’s Feminist International Assistance policy and the UN Sustainable Development Goal 5 on Gender Equality. Through our partnerships with the government of Ghana and organisations like the Agrihouse Foundation, we are witnessing increased empowerment and self-reliance among women in the agricultural sector.  “Women farmers are demonstrating 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,” she explained.

How MAG has Operated in Ghana to Achieve These Successes

Strongly aligned with Ghana’s decentralised governance structures, the MAG programme has over time been delivered by Ghana through the four components listed below:

Component 1: Support to increase the efficiency of local farmers through value chain development (estimated at $58M/5years): This component has provided direct support for Ghanaian District Agricultural Departments to provide general agricultural extension services to farmers at the local level. It focused on increasing access to essential demand-driven skills, training and knowledge for private operators in the agriculture sector.  Among other deliverables, this component will focus on enhancing farmers’ business management skills and financial literacy.

Component 2: Support to specialised agricultural services to build national market linkages and promote efficiencies in commodity development along value chains (estimated at $22M/5years): This component provided direct support to Regional Agricultural Departments to maintain pools of highly-trained development officers who provide expertise that is more specialised than the general extension services provided at the district level. This component also assisted regions in the coordination of regional programming monitoring and evaluation of national level agricultural policies, and in assessing challenges as part of a feedback loop to inform future policies, legislation and agricultural standards. This section supported research extension activities in promoting effective research responses to identified farmer issues.

Component 3: Support to agricultural research to strengthen agricultural extension services and improve agricultural productivity (estimated at $30M/5years): This component helped identify production needs and demands of smallholder farmers, and defined appropriate agricultural research and innovations which can be efficiently rolled-out. A key aspect of this component will be the revision and re-orientation of the curriculum for training agricultural extension workers through technical assistance to Ghana’s five agricultural colleges.

Funds will be provided via the Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation (MESTI) to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in support of work by the Crops Research Institute, the Soil Research Institute, the Animal Research Institute, the Food Research Institute, the Water Research Institute and the Savannah Agriculture Research Institute. In addition, funds will be provided to the Human Resources Directorate and Extension Services Directorate at the MOFA for capacity and extension package development and the curriculum revision. Finally, support will be provided to the Monitoring and Evaluation Directorate within MOFA for overall programme monitoring.

Component 4: Support to improve Ghana’s competitiveness in international agricultural markets (estimated at $15M/5years): This component supported technical and line Directorates at MOFA that are not included in Component 3.  This component was used to enable the Directorates fulfil their mandates as defined by MOFA. This included, but was not be limited to, addressing specific barriers to commercial agriculture and agri-business; the development of food safety, import/export regulations; standards in the promotion good agricultural practices for priority crops; small ruminants and poultry; and implementation of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture’s (MOFA) Gender and Agriculture Development Strategy.

Touching on the pandemic in relation to agricultural activities in Ghana, Ms. Brunet noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has the potential to erode gains chalked up by the MAG project and agri-women in particular – regressing them deeper into poverty.

“That is why building resilience is very crucial,” she stressed.

In light of this, she noted in her address that Canada has requested a revision of the MAG work-plans and also conducted studies into impacts of the pandemic on women farmers. Recommendations from these studies have provided important inputs to the 2021 work plans. Its important to note that, over the years, Canada has directly managed funds for carrying out activities through the Monitoring, Evaluation, Audit and Technical Advisory Services ($10M/5years):

These funds have been managed by Canada and used to fulfil a variety of functions to support overall delivery of the MAG programme. This includes: i) retaining a Head Monitor, to be embedded within MOFA to facilitate the overall delivery and operations of the programme and manage a pool of funds to respond to technical assistance needs; ii) retaining monitors to assess overall progress of the programme, troubleshoot and address issues and identify technical assistance needs; iii) financing a pool of funds to finance identified technical assistance needs; iv) financing a mid-term evaluation and operational review, and a final summative evaluation; and v) financing annual audits of the funding provided to the government of Ghana for Components 1 to 4.

She said the Canadian High Commission has observed with great satisfaction how its partnerships with the government of Ghana (GoG) and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) like Agrihouse Foundation is increasing empowerment and self-reliance among Ghanaian women in the agricultural sector.

She therefore praised Agrihouse Foundation for creating the WOFAGRIC and Gold in the Soil Awards which continue to enable women develop their agricultural skills, motivate and provide mentorship, and build upon their capabilities to becoming independent.

“The theme for this year’s event, ‘Surviving, Thriving and Making Waves beyond the Pandemic’, could not be more appropriate in view of the adverse effects from COVID-19 on the agricultural value chains – particularly for women farmers,” she noted.

According to her, Canada is proud to have supported the Women in Food and Agriculture Leadership Training and the Gold in the Soil Award during 2019 and 2020, and is therefore looking forward to working with Agrihouse Foundation on this year’s event to be held in the Upper East Region in June.

“We strongly believe that women are critical to the sustainability of Ghana’s agriculture, and that successful women farmers deserved to be recognised for their achievement and contributions to the nation.”

The Beauty of 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 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 within their various rural areas and communities, continuously being a source of women’s 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 to drive them toward growth and expansion of their agribusinesses.

The Gold in the Soil Awards

The Gold in the Soil Awards seek to recognise and celebrate pioneering women and trailblazers who push 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.

Alberta Nana Akyaa Akosa
SOURCEBy Alberta Nana Akyaa Akosa
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