A GNA feature by Yaw O. Ansah
Accra, March 7, GNA - Fear griped the Napila Community in the Bimbila District of the Northern Region when the news of a couple who went to the farm and kept their sleeping baby under a neem tree whilst they work could not find the child on their return.
It has been three months since the incidence and the hope of the couple of finding the baby is diminishing by the day. Leaving a child in the shade under a tree to enable a mother work on a farm is a common practice in that community but that has ceased after the incidence.
This is just one of many other challenges that women, especially those in agriculture, go through in the rural areas. These militate against the nation’s quest to attaining the Sustainable Development Goals Five, which focuses on ensuring gender equity and empowerment of all women and girls.
Madam Usiff Awulatu, a Farmer and resident of Madina, a community in Bimbila, suggests the need for stakeholders, especially government, to provide childcare facilities in rural areas, such as a nursery, to provide a safe space for mothers to keep their babies whilst working.
That would also help the mothers to breastfeed their babies intermittently, she said.
As a country, which supports exclusive breastfeeding for six months, more such facilities would ensure that women farmers brought their babies to work and leave them with their caregivers in the nursery whilst at work.
Women, from creation, perform vital roles in life to make it complete. These include social, economic, cultural and political roles. To recognise the achievements of women, March 8, every year, has been set aside globally to celebrate women and call for the acceleration of gender parity.
This year’s International Women’s Day (IWD) comes off this Friday, on the theme: “Think Equal, Build Smart, Innovate for Change: To Reduce the Burden of Care on Women and Girls in Ghana”. The National Women Farmers Movement, in collaboration with ActionAid Ghana, SONGTABA, Widows and Orphans Movement, SODIA, GLOWA and BONATADU, which are women groups in the regions of the North, is celebrating this year’s IWD to recognise the efforts of women in national development.
Indeed, women in Ghana, especially those in agriculture, are worth mentioning and celebrating. Women are the key actors in Ghana's agriculture, making up of over half the agricultural labour force and producing 70 per cent of the country's food stock, according to a SEND-Ghana study.
A whopping 95 per cent are involved in agro-processing and 85 per cent in food distribution and their contribution to agriculture varies even more widely depending on the specific crop under cultivation, type of involvement and activity.
Besides agriculture-related activities, smallholder women farmers are heavily engaged in domestic and reproductive tasks, which are crucial to the maintenance of households and communities. These tasks are regarded as an extension of household duties and hence, remain hidden economically.
Due to the specific role of smallholder women farmers in food production, many of them are repositories of knowledge on cultivation, processing, and preservation of nutritious and locally adapted crop varieties.
Madam Esi Kofi, a member of a rice transplanting group at the Tono Dam, known as the Irrigation Company of Upper Region (ICOUR), for instance, is involved in activities like winnowing, grading and threshing of the rice as well as weeding and cleaning of field farm operations.
These women groups and other individuals wade through the dry, hazy and biting warm temperature of between 30 to 40 degrees to engage in the tedious and strenuous task of transplanting young rice plants one by one in rows covering 2, 000 hectors of land involving huge drudgery.
They are also seen with their babies strapped at their backs painstakingly applying urea and other fertilizers to enhance the growth of the rice. Their role does not end there but continues till the rice becomes ready for consumption.
Knowledge, innovations and technology are advancing; markets are changing very fast, especially for the higher value products; and environmental degradation and climate change require improved sustainable natural resource management to ensure access to land for enhanced food security, particularly for women smallholder farmers.
Madam Veronica Gbande, the President of the National Women in Agriculture, recommends to the Government to establish processing factories, especially for rice and maize production, whiles encouraging consumption of local rice to promote its marketability and increase income of farmers and women engaged in that venture.
While commending the Government for helping women through the Planting for Food and Jobs, she suggests that a special desk be created for women to cater for their farming needs as a means of strengthening the Women in Agriculture Development (WIAD) under the Ministry of Food and Agriculture at the district level.
In almost all cultures and traditions in Ghana, gender is not only a key determinant of access to productive resources but also the basis for the division of labour within the household, the social values attributed to different types of work, and bargaining power.
Madam Gbande says due to the problem of access to land and women often being given infertile land to farm on, there is the need for the implementers of the Planting for Food and Jobs to include organic fertilizer to help rejuvenate the land and make it sustainable for crop production.
The groups want government to recognize the toil of women in care work that is not counted economically and to consistently provide budgetary support for care centres in rural areas that will support mothers in taking care of their children to free up time and engage in economic activities.
Madam Azumi Mesuna, the Project Manager of Promoting Opportunities for Women Empowerment and Rights (POWER) adds that despite the fact that women constitute the highest number of farmers, they are virtually invisible in the agriculture budget.
She said women farmers must be supported widely to enable them to perform their duties effectively in the provision of family nutrition, food security, maternal and child healthcare, promotion of environmental management, and minimizing poverty levels in the country.