Working to bridge the gabs of inequality and inadequacy that affect women in the agricultural sector is indeed tedious. However, Executive Director of Agrihouse Foundation, Alberta Nana Akyaa Akosa Sarpong, is positively of the view that strengthening partnerships and collaborative efforts among traditional leaders and stakeholders in the fields of academia, policymaking, government, development agencies and agric institutions, are steps in the right direction towards empowering women farmers and ensuring their sustainability.
According to the Executive Director, stakeholders need to maximize our efforts and work together, as there is need for more long-term collaborations within the agricultural value chain, “at Agrihouse Foundation, we are open to support and partnerships from both public and private agencies, to enable us scale up on our efforts,” she said.
Ms. Akosa-Sarpong made these comments in her welcome address, last week Tuesday, at the ‘Gathering of the Royals and Stakeholders Meeting,’ organised by her Foundation, with the aim of fostering new partnerships and strengthening collaborative efforts among traditional leaders and key stakeholders in other fields.
The event, which was on the theme, “The Role of Royals in Accelerating Agri-Peace and Developing Sustainable Farmers,” further enabled the stakeholders to explore more opportunities within the agric sector, as well as conflict resolutions alternatives towards Peace-building, and the development of sustainable farmers in the country.
“As a woman in agriculture, and the Team Lead at Agrihouse Foundation, it is imperative for me to know that our efforts are creating more productive and empowering avenues for women in the agric value chain. That is why with each of our events; we drive pragmatic call to actions that add our voice to policy directions of our lawmakers; to assist in structuring appropriate approaches and innovations for a sustained agricultural value growth, from the community level to the top level,” she noted.
The colorful event, held at the GNAT Conference Hall in Accra, brought together fifty Queen Mothers selected from the sixteen regions of the country, some traditional leaders and key personalities from the fields of academia, policymaking, government, development agencies and agric institutions. The high profiled personalities were in the persons of Deputy Minister of Food and Agriculture; Member of Parliament for Klottey Korle Constituency, Hon. Zanetor Agyeman Rawlings; and Chairman of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Food, Agriculture and Cocoa Affairs; Hon. John Osei Frimpong.
Others were, Country Manager of OCP Africa, Mr. Samuel Oduro-Asare; Chairman of the National Farmers and Fishermen Winners Association; Mr. Korboe Narh Davies; Chairperson of National Commission for Civic Education; Madam Josephine Nkrumah; Development Queen Mother of Afigye-Kwabre District; Nana Adjoa Awindor; Executive Director of the Savannah Women Integrated Development Agency Ghana; Hajia Salifu Saeed, and Officiating Imam of Dara-Salam Mosque; Imam Sa-id Mukhtar Abubakar.
Corporate Sponsor of the event were in the persons of Managing Director of Agromoti Company Limited, Mr. Benjamin Offei; and Continental Director of Eco Africa Resource Group, Mr. Emmanuel Agyei. Others include, WAATCO, Nanam Ventures, Benyima Farms and C. Woermann.
Deputy Agric Minister Praises Impacts of Agrihouse Foundation
In his opening remarks, the Deputy Minister of Food and Agriculture, Hon. Yaw Frimpong Addo, described Agrihouse Foundation, as a worthy partner with government in unlocking and transforming the massive potentials of the country’s agricultural sector.
He said Agrihouse Foundation known to the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA) for its ability to mobilize stakeholders within the agricultural space to display Ghana’s potential in the sector. “We at MoFA has always have always found the interventions of Agrihouse to be very positive, highly transformative and consistent with government development agenda for the agricultural sector,” he said.
He said Government strongly believes in private sector participation and partnerships that bring all actors together to forge formidable alliances that find solutions to the problems in the agric sector.
He therefore urged the Queen Mothers to make the most of the ‘Gathering of the Royals’ Event, which he said was an appropriate platform to empower them to take up the challenges of providing the needed leadership in their respective communities.
Contributing Remarks by Key Speakers
Member of Parliament for the Korle-Klottey Constituency, Hon. Dr. Zanetor Agyeman Rawlings, in her remarks, urged Ghanaian Queen Mothers to mobilize, and as part of their activities, petition parliament with their concerns and demands. She said petitioning government or parliament should not be and is not the sole privilege of pressure groups and civil society organizations.
“Royals we need to hear more from you,” Hon. Zanetor Agyeman Rawlings stressed. “You have the opportunities to even come to parliament,” she said, “You can come and visit the speaker and share your concerns. You can put together petitions and bring to the speaker. These are all ways you can put pressure to have your concerns addressed. It shouldn’t just be the CSO’s we keep hearing about. You are a force to reckon with, and if you speak up, we cannot ignore your voices,” she ended.
Speaking to challenges highlighted by the queen mothers during a Panel Conversation, the Member of Parliament said the concerns, as a matter of urgency, must find expression in policy design and implementation, to influence the state of their lives for the better.
“You are the ones on the ground who know what is happening,” she addressed the Queen Mothers, “you know the struggles, and challenges and importantly, you have the solutions to advise us on the kinds of policies that will ensure that gender mainstreaming moves from an abstract concept”
She noted that, a woman expected to play a secondary role to a man in these times is very unfortunate, and therefore used the opportunity to call for action towards ending inequalities that bedevil agriwomen in the areas of land tenure system, access to farming equipment, farming inputs, access to finance and training and capacity building, among others.
For her part, the Chairman of the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE), Madam Josephine Nkrumah, praised Agrihouse Foundation for organizing an event that has made room for the queen mothers to amplify their concerns, and connect them to partners and stakeholders who can address the issues. She said, beyond being agricultural challenges, the concerns the queen have highlighted further speak to issues of gender equality, nation building, and security, which are all paramount to be addressed.
“When we discuss these issues, we always look at them from the top; but we need to get down to the basics and understand how these issues affect the bigger picture of nation building,” she stressed. She therefore called on policymakers and corporate entities who were present at the event, to as part of their corporate social responsibilities, work with the queen mothers and traditional leaders to address their challenges.
“Let’s begin to see these challenges as corporate social responsibilities. We should not make this event another talk shop. We have had enough talk shops. The event is a call to action,” she stressed. She urged the queen mothers not to underestimate their powers, “Women are the influencers, and Queen Mothers drive policy at the basic level. Do not underestimate your powers; when you rise up and speak, people listen,” she said.
For his part, the Chairman of the Parliamentary Select Committee of Food Agriculture and Cocoa Affairs, Hon. John Osei Frimpong, said to further grow Ghana’s agricultural sector, government must improve public expenditure allocation and management as well as budget coordination in agriculture. He said the Ministry of Food and Agriculture must improve the collection and analysis of agricultural statistics to produce high quality and credible data for planning on regular basis. Furthermore, the ministry must also improve the efficiency and effectiveness of input subsidy programs and fix gaps in input supply legislation.
In her brief remarks, the Development Queen Mother of Afigya-Kwabre District in the Ashanti region, Nana Adjoa Awindor, stressed on the need for policy implementation. She said it was not enough for agencies to draft agric documents. The policies must be implemented to ensure growth in the lives of the women. “At the second gathering of the royals, we should see that we have made progress; our queen mothers should sit here and tell us how policymakers and corporate bodies have supported their endeavours” she said.
For her part, the Executive Director of Savannah women Integrated Development Agency Ghana (SWIDA), also said to improve agriculture and community, women in leadership positions must not be compromised. Institutions and corporate bodies must engage more women in decision-making, and in the implementation of projects.
“We need to mentor more young women to become leaders in their communities and head initiatives,” she said. She noted that, the inequality margins are widening, and it was therefore important for all stakeholders, especially women and queen mothers, to sit up, and take the responsibility of insisting and demanding for resources and opportunities to develop.
“It is unfortunate that even with the constitution; women are denied opportunities and resources to build their capacity. It is therefore a matter of calling for action, and insist on policy directions that can change the negative trend,” she said.
Touching on the Sustainable Development Goals, the Executive Director said, the implementation efforts must centre on the development of women. “The work must intentionally target the progress and development of women, because women are change agents in the communities and families. Empowering the queen mothers will give them power to lead more women and change in their communities,” she added.
In his remarks, the Chairman of the National Farmers and Fishermen Award Winners Association, Mr. Korboe Narh Davies, praised Agrihouse Foundation for continuously empowering value chain actors with events and training programs that educate and help them improve on their skills, knowledge and capacity. He said NFAWAG would continue to be strong supporter of Agrihouse, as the organization aligns with the initiatives of the Foundation.
The Royal Panel Conversation
In a moderated Panel Conversation, eight Queen Mothers highlighted ways they are engaged in development, as well as agriculture in their communities. Nana Akua Amoah II, the Paramount Queen Mother of Tuobodom Bono Eastern Region, revealed she cultivates over 60 acres of farmland, including cashew nuts and mangos.
Ohemaa nana yaa Asaa Safoa ll, Senior Divisional Queen Mother, of Akwamufie, in the Eastern Region, revealed she cultivates 75 acres of farmland, growing palm nuts, coconuts, plantains, onions, and tomatoes. Nana Odeatwon ll, the Divisional Queen Mother of Ketekrachie, Oti Region, said she is a farmer, processor and aggregator, with 19 acres of farmland, growing cashew nuts, cassava, groundnuts and maize.
Nana Amonsah Dokua lll, the Paramount Queen Mother of Osudoku traditional Area, and the President of the Greater Accra Queen Mothers Association, she grows rice, cattle, cassava, maize and peppers. Nana Dankwah lll, the Queen Mother of Lower Dixcove Traditional Area, in the Westen region, said she cultivates 1 acre of farmland, growing cassava and plantains. Nana Akosua Brimpomah, the District Chief Farmer, of Sekyere-Kumawu, in the Ashanti region, revealed she grows cattle, cocks, coconuts and cocoa. Portia Asumda, the leader of Kosanaba Women farmers and Processors, in Bawku, in the West-Upper Eastern Region, revealed her group cultivates 30 acres of farmland, growing rice, groundnuts, soyabeans, and Bambara beans. The group also rearing cattle’s and Guinea fowls. Ayisheitu mahamadu Asaki, the Queen mother of Zebilla, Bawku West District, in the Upper East Region, said she cultivates over 30 arces of farmland, growing maize, rice, millet, groundnut, tomatoes, onions, and green peppers.
They noted that through community meetings and farmer group deliberations with other women farmers, they are able to inspire more women and young people in the communities to take up farming. They outlined a number of agri-focused projects ongoing in the districts and communities, some private owned and other government owned projects. Touching on their challenges as women in agriculture, the Queen Mothers outlined concerns including, inequalities in the land tenure system, poor road networks to and from farmlands, lack of capital and high interest rates of banks, insufficient market for their crops and inadequate processing centres. The rest include, cattle and elephant invasions, poor irrigation supply on their farms, lack of extension officers and farm equipment, lack agric training and capacity building centres for farmers, fertilizer accessibility challenges, and lack of farming protective wears.
Support for the Queen Mothers
In wrapping up the Panel Conversation, the Dialogue Moderator, in the person of, Country Director of OCP Africa, Mr. Samuel Oduro-Asare announced a support package for the Queen Mothers. He said OCP Africa would provide the queen mothers with free soil testing services, as well as free bags of fertilizers and further, enrol them in the women in agric booster program facilitated by the organization. This training program would impart them with new farming knowledge and help them build on their skills, which they can translate to more women in their communities. He further urged the stakeholders and head of corporate bodies who were present to live up to their promises by working to address the challenges the queen mothers have elaborated on.
The event ended on high notes with calls to action, in the areas of improving access to fund for women in agriculture; creating and sustaining markets for agriwomen, addressing unfavorable land tenure systems that hinder the development of agriwomen; addressing the lack of capacity building and training programs that hinder the progress of agriwomen; among others. The policy directions and calls to actions would be contained in a communique, which organizers anticipate would inform policymakers to come-up with clear and workable measures towards the growth and development of Ghanaian women in the agricultural sector.