A GNA feature by Prosper K. Kuorsoh
Jirapa, (U/W), March 22, GNA – A praise singer once uttered some emotional words of wisdom at my late ground mother’s funeral years back in Gumo and got all women around mourning their hearts out.
“Women of Dorzieh, emulate N-Edeke, if your husband die and you fail to grab a hoe, you may die out of hunger”.
These were the words of the praise singer that got the women so emotional to the extent that they mourned and offered him money in appreciation.
The words of the praise singer perfectly described N-Edeke’s life and personality.
She was the wife of this writer’s ground father, the late Kuoro Bagili Kuorsoh, Chief of Gumo in the Sissala West District of the Upper West Region.
N-Edeke had everything she wanted when the husband was alive but had to grab the hoe and took to farming in order to be able to feed herself and her children after the husband passed on.
She was a true example of a hardworking woman whose life and farming exploits were indeed worth emulating.
Many women are currently in the position of N-Edeke and are labouring under the scorching sun during the farming season to feed and cater for their children’s education.
Kandita Balanta, a 50-year-old woman from Bo community in the Jirapa District of the Region is one of such women. She lost her husband years back and had to depend on farming to cater for the five children the husband left behind.
She said she could only have access to about four and a half acres of land where her farm food crops such as Dorado, Maize, Bambara beans and Groundnuts.
In addition to this, she rears few goats and pigs.
She also brews pito during the dry season and used the proceeds to support her children, three of whom are currently in the Senior High School (SHS).
Kandita said farming was the only thing she could do to support her children’s education, but several challenges such as lack of fertilizer, tractor services and others made it difficult for her to succeed.
Generally, rural communities in northern Ghana lack lots of opportunities including income generating activities for women to take advantage of. The effect of this is the constant migration of young females from the area to southern Ghana to engage in menial jobs under very bizarre conditions.
Undoubtedly, women constitute half of Africa’s overall agricultural workforce and more than half in a number of countries including Ghana.
Women, per research, produce about 80 per cent of crops and yet these African women, depending on where they come from, produce up to two-thirds less per unit of land than men.
Indeed, that is not because women are less able than men or because they are less resourceful. Certainly, it is also not because they are less motivated than their male counterparts.
According to a World Bank’s Gender Innovation Lab, “Leveling the Field: Improving Opportunities for Women Farmers in Africa,” it is because they do not benefit equally from farm inputs such as fertilizers, insecticides, machinery, credit facilities, and information on modern farming practices.
This gap is making it impossible for African women to become the thriving farmers they need to be in order to pull out of poverty and give their children a better life.
The United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has said that if women worldwide had the same access to productive resources as men, they could boost agricultural production and help lift 100 to 150 million people out of hunger.
In Ghana, especially in the Northern, Upper East and Upper West Regions majority of the women are engaged in agriculture as their main economic activity.
Many of these women are the breadwinners of their families. It is out of their sweat that children are fed, clothed and school fees paid.
Challenges of women in agriculture
Research has it that women produce 80 per cent of crops and own about one per cent of land.
This illustrates the lack of security in ownership.
Culturally, in northern Ghana, women do not own land even though they form a good percentage of agriculture workforces in the area.
The lack of access to land is making it difficult for the women to engage in commercial agriculture.
Also, women because of lack of resources, they do not have access to hired labour and tractor services.
They struggle on their small farms alone, hence their engagement in subsistence farming.
Again, research has it that by giving women the same access as men to agricultural resources could increase production on women’s farms in developing countries by 20 to 30 per cent.
Additionally, women tend to face greater challenges when it comes to securing credit.
They are generally less experienced with the “ins and outs” of borrowing from an institution, and without assistance and support they find it difficult to access the much needed funds.
Most agricultural extension officers’ focus is always on owners’ of large-scale commercial farms while providing limited research and farming techniques to small farm holders – majority of whom are women.
Most advanced technology such as ploughs, cultivators, planters, harvesters and irrigation equipment largely benefited male farmers to the detriment of female farmers.
Furthermore, lack of market research and information, limits women farmers to market opportunities, as they are confined to local markets where prices are generally lower than in urban markets.
The Northern Ghana Governance Activity (NGGA) project
These factors among others, which impede agricultural productivity among women farmers, necessitated the initiation of the Northern Ghana Governance Activity (NGGA) project.
The five years project is a United States Agency for International Department (USAID) and Government joint project, which is being implemented by a consortium of non-profit organisations including ActionAid Ghana, SEND Ghana, West Africa Network for Peace-building (WANEP) and led by CARE International Ghana.
The project is being implemented across 28 districts in the Northern, Upper East and Upper West Regions.
The NGGA will seek to strengthen institutional capacity for effective co-ordination and integration of key actors in decentralised agricultural development under the “Feed the Future”, the US Government’s global hunger and food security initiative.
It would also improve the enabling environment for community organisations and the private sector to participate in decentralisation and agricultural development as well as enhance the participation of women in local governance to increase their access to agricultural information and opportunities.
Additionally, the aim is to increase community dialogue and consensus building to prevent conflict and ensure sustainable development in agriculture.
NGGA Women in Agriculture Platforms
To be able to enhance women’s participation in local governance, there is the need for well-organised, strong, capable and well-co-ordinated networks of women platforms to effectively articulate the issues of women in agriculture in order to create enabling space for them to actively participate in and influence decisions in the agricultural sector.
For this reason, USAID and its implementing partners in February inaugurated the Women in Agriculture Platforms across all 28 beneficiary districts.
Leaders of such platforms were brought together to form one regional platform in each of the three beneficiary regions.
The platforms are expected to serve as avenues for the women to receive capacity building training and co-ordinate their issues such that they would be able to actively participate in local governance with a stronger voice to ensure gender responsiveness of agricultural programmes and budgets for the improvement of their livelihoods.
Members of the platforms include crop and vegetable farmers; livestock and poultry farmers; agro processors; food and agro marketers; women from local non-governmental organisations; civil society organisations; queen mothers and other traditional authorities.
Madam Ruby Wuni, NGGA Women in Agriculture Co-ordinator said the challenges faced by women in agriculture explained the overall importance of the NGGA.
She said bringing women in agriculture across the 28 districts in Northern Ghana unto a common platform would give them a stronger voice that would enable them advocate their needs in agriculture.
Mr Chrys S. K. Pul, Governance and Advocacy Specialist, NGGA advised the platform members to work closely with the District Assembly and other stakeholders to ensure that the needs of women in agriculture are promoted.
Pognaa Rose Babai, Chairperson of the Upper West Regional Women in Agriculture Platform expressed the need for the platform to work with traditional rulers who own the land in order for them to see the need to release enough land for women farmers.
Empowering and investing in women, specifically in rural areas, will significantly increase agricultural productivity while reducing hunger and malnutrition in Ghana.
Women certainly have a greater role to play in the government’s bold agricultural policies such as the “Planting for food and jobs” and the “One village, one dam” among others if the policies are to succeed.
Therefore, empowering women to fully take up the challenge is the way to go for “A stitch on time saves nine”.