Alberta Nana Akyaa Akosa’s thoughts ….How can women build long-term resilience in future crises through sustainable mechanisation and technology?

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 The sudden manner in which the COVID-19 pandemic took hold of the world must have taken even the most ardent augur by surprise.

For many across the globe, there was no premonition of a pandemic that would practically shake the very foundations of mankind – only high hopes for a year that looked both eventful and promising for the business community and allied areas. But there are lessons to absorb – very legible and unforgettable ones. Of the lot, a salient lesson readily deducible is why it is crucial to build long-term resilience against future crisis through sustainable Mechanisation and Technology for the local agric sector.

Evidently, of the plethora of challenges presented by the pandemic, the threat to food security perhaps loomed larger –causing concern to many.

Thankfully, the mad rush for food supplies that characterised early days of the pandemic has fizzled out. Despite a long list of protocols that now guide our daily lives and interactions, basic agricultural activities have resumed with the hope that lost ground may perhaps be recovered.

For any discerning agric enthusiast, there is conspicuous handwriting on the wall – pointing out how fragile the local agric industry appeared to be at the onset of the pandemic, and why we must not dawdle in addressing this patent loophole.

A popular African adage posits that one bitten once by a serpent shudders at the mere sight of a cord. It is this sense of a valuable lesson gained that has influenced the introduction of the topic How can women build long-term resilience in future crises through sustainable Mechanization and Technology?’ at the second edition of the Women in Food and Agric Leadership Training Forum & Expo (WOFAGRIC 2020)

Set to be held under the theme ‘Transforming and Sustaining Women in Agriculture: The Role of Public, Private and Development Partners’, the event is slated for July 30-31, 2020 in the Ashanti Region and will honour the efforts and impacts of women, young female ‘agripreneurs’, female students and women with disabilities for their role toward guaranteeing food security, poverty alleviation and job creation while building the capacity of participants.

The event will focus on equipping agric-industry women with the capacity to improve production output. It will also assess the impact women have in areas such as production, processing and marketing, policies; how farm-related components of rural economy can contribute to income generation and employment; and how women can annexe opportunities within the agric sector.

Event Structure

Activities lined up for the event include: Leadership Training; Aspire to be a Mentors Session; At the table – AgriWomen Panel Discussion & Dialogue; Best practices Session; Financial Management and digital & Innovative Marketing  session; Focused Training programmes for women seeking to venture into agriculture; Empowerment Talk; Exhibitions; Distribution of PPEs; Practical & educational materials on COVID-19; Distribution of Agri-input materials; Gathering of the Royals (Queen mother in Agriculture); Lead & Impact stories; Fire in My Heart; Grace in My soul; Wave-Maker; Experience Sharing; Feedback & Learning Sessions; Documentary and Awards (Gold in the Soil Awards).

Key topics that will be discussed include: Assessing and understanding the challenges and opportunities for women in Agriculture; Identity – Access and Appraisal for obtaining credit or loan-Value Chain Optimisations; How can women build long-term resilience in future crises through sustainable Mechanisation and Technology?; Giving women farmers support to enhance their productivity and market the food they produce, through e-commerce channels; Effective ways for women in agriculture to increase their ability to produce food for their communities during COVID-19 and beyond: How do we ensure that the primary drivers of the sector – the smallholder women farmers – are included and empowered, and their economic outcomes enhanced?, among other Insightful subjects.

The GOLD IN THE SOIL AWARDS, which climax WOFAGRIC, will also pay tribute to the efforts and contribution of agri-industry women who have shone bright in roles such as corporate leaders, innovators, extension officers, climate-smart agric champions and traditional leaders.

 A documentary on activities and impacts of these women will be produced to be to be aired on TV and social media platforms so as to showcase the works of these women, and an award ceremony organised to celebrate them.

The Awards are spread across fifteen (15) categories – a deliberate design aimed at rewarding as many women as are deserving of recognition.

Passion for the Farm Awards

 The award recognises a 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, both small scale and large scale – it’s the passion that is central.  This award cuts across crop farmers, vegetable farmers, livestock and fisheries farmers.

She-Innovates Award

This goes to a woman who has or is working with the power of innovation and adding value to her agro business.  She identifies a challenge within the community and/or the value chain and finds 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

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 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

This award provides recognition to women, either in the public or private sector, contributing effortlessly through training, capacity building and advocacy, to encourage the adaptation of best practices by farmers, thereby contributing significantly to the empowerment and socio-economic development of the society and country as a whole.

The Super-Woman Farmer Award

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.

Star Woman Agripreneur Award (Woman Agripreneur Award)

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 already a great role model, mentoring other young girls in her community.

Royal Agro Award

This award is set aside for 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 is helping them in all ways possible through access to land, training, social impact programmes and advocacy.

Diamond in the Rough Award

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 Food Awards – (Poultry, Livestock & Fisheries)

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 benefit to the Livestock, Poultry or Fisheries sector.

The Change Champion Award

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.

Lady of the Region Export Award

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.

Development Partner Award

This award recognises the efforts of an International organisation, whose work centres on agriculture and in particular toward development of women in the community, encouraging to adopt best practices while adding value.

Princess Carla Award

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

She-Operates

This Award recognises an exceptional female who’s into operation management and maintenance of tractor services. She should be earning income from this trade and impacting her community with her skill.

Gold in the Soil Award

 This is the ultimate Award: it seeks to appreciate the outstanding achievements of a woman 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 recognisable impact on her community.

This year’s awards are open to women aged 18 and above from every district in the Ashanti Region. There can be direct entries or one could be nominated by friends or family by filling in an application form online at: [email protected], [email protected] or submitted at the offices of Agrihouse Foundation. Full details can also be found on www.agrihousefoundation.com

Telling Impact

Agri-house Foundation and its organising partners have made significant impacts since the maiden edition in 2019.

A post-event appraisal of the main objectives for the initiative proves that success has been achieved across the board.

About 43 women have so far made inroads into full time commercial farming or made attempts to expand the capacity of their enterprises owing to the experience garnered at WOFAGRIC 2109.

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 whilst 2 of them picked up awards at the National awards.

The effective book-keeping drills participants were introduced to have yielded fruits. A post- event assessment carried out 3 months after the event last year revealed that a significant number of women present at the event in 2019 have now been able to access loan facilities to support their farms and businesses.

Information and guidance provided by the Netherlands embassy and the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) equipped some of the women farmers on the standard procedures, best practices and proper documentation tips to export their produce. So far about 13 women have begun processes leading to their ability to begin exportation.

The role modeling and mentoring sessions created business networking opportunities for attendees. Some of the mentees have had their mentors evaluate their business models and periodically give business advice to these women who are being mentored at no fee.

This year’s event is open for sponsorship support from stakeholders who wish to join an esteemed list which include the Canadian High Commission, Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Absa, Yara Ghana, Women in Food and Agriculture Development (WIAD), National Farmers and Fishermen Award Winners Association of Ghana.

Women, Technology and the Future

The spontaneous socio-economic misery the world is reeling from shows clearly the need to strategize for the future. From the angle of women agri-preneurs particularly, it is crucial to examine how stakeholder’s efforts can influence understanding on how women can build long-term resilience for future crisis through sustainable mechanization and Technology.

Historically, agriculture has been done on a subsistence scale. Fast-forward to today, civilisation has improved how people participate in the discipline. Despite this monumental upgrade, noticeable with the introduction of liberal inputs, production capacity has never quite managed to keep the fear of food insecurity at bay.

Indeed, when the pandemic struck the most prominent concern was whether Ghana had the wherewithal to survive the threat of food shortages if the lockdown measures that prevailed with onset of the pandemic had lingered.

While this stomach-churning fear has whizzed away with lifting of the lockdown, any forward-looking person understands that something practical and timely must be done to ensure we achieve the capacity for long-term resilience in the event of any future crisis.

Women constitute a significant percentage of practitioners in the agric industry – with this undeniable influence, you only need to introduce the unrestrained clout of Mechanisation and Technology and we will be within touching distance of a robust food security base for Ghana, today and in the future.
Currently, there are start-up entrepreneurs and local enterprises which are able to deliver Mechanisation and Technologysolutions to small farmers at affordable cost.

This trend must be encouraged: it has a huge potential to fuel a sporadic growth in the production capacity of farmers – most of whom are women.
Other slightly more complex technologies – like aerial images from satellites or drones, weather forecasts, and soil sensors that make it possible to manage crop growth in real time – must become commonplace in the industry.

These very useful systems are able to provide early warnings in case of deviation from normal growth. There is also available technology that deals with precision farming. This will give farmers improved capacity to measure and analyse soil data like temperature, nutrients and vegetative health. This helps farmers apply the right fertiliser and irrigate their farms optimally.

Reliance on technology not only reduces input waste but also serves to improve farm productivity. Generally, the improved reliance on technology will make farming more exciting for women practitioners to appreciate its wealth creation dimension.

Ultimately, digital agriculture should become part and parcel of women in the industry, so as to support the development and delivery of timely, targetted information and services. These would then serve to make farming profitable and sustainable while delivering safe, nutritious and affordable food at all times.

Through the foresight of many industry firms, all manners of technologies are available to farmers across the country today. One can only hope that the ambitious leap into reliance on agri-tech will be sustained, and consequently become the catalyst that spurs Ghana into attaining robust food security that will stand the test of time and any future crisis of a national proportion.

Mechanisation and Technology have the potential to help agribusinesses address a range of challenges – like gaining better access to customer and market price information; maximising efficiencies along the value-chain; and promoting products cheaply and widely.

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