Held at the Akroma Plaza in the Western region, Takoradi, the two-day event was on the theme, “AGRIWOMAN: GROW. RECOVER. STANDOUT,” with specific intensions of providing practical training and mentorships for the women farmers, to build the capacity in farming and agribusiness, while celebrating their outstanding achievements through the “Gold in the Soil Awards.”
Annually, the event moves from region to region. In the past three (3) years, it has been held in the Volta Region, Ashanti Region, and Upper East region. This year, bringing together stakeholders in government, corporate leaders, policy and administration, development-partner organisations, agric institutions, and resource persons, women farmers and agribusiness owners in the western and western north also got a chance to be celebrated and empowered with business knowledge and industry innovations, to help them excel even further within the sector.
Global Affairs Canada, YARA, RDF Ghana, ABSA, OCP AFRICA, and Fidelity Bank sponsored the event; with collaborating Institution being the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA), Women in Agriculture Development (WIAD), the National Farmers and Fishermen Award Winners Association (NFFAWAG) and the Western Regional Coordinating Council.
While the event strives to target women farmers of all groups, this year’s event gave considerable attention to women farmers with physical disabilities who are, “living beyond the disabilities,” Executive Director of Agrihouse Foundation, Alberta Nana Akyaa Akosa Sarpong, underscored in her welcome address on the first day, while highlighting the sessions that would serve as mediums of engagements.
“We have a series of great, positive and highly impactful activities lined-up, including a Panel Discussion, dedicated to how we can further empower, the woman farmer with disability. There will also be Technical field demonstrations, on appropriate use and application of equipment, one-on-one mentorships, empowerment talks, case study presentations, on modules and practices, that have worked, and how beneficial, they are, or can be for women farmers,” she said.
She added, “The “10-to-1,” Breakout session, will offer our women farmers a hands-on educational opportunity; from learning about farm safety, to learning about financial management, nutrition, markets, exports and investments, among others. On Day 2, we continue with mentorship, and climax it with the “GOLD IN THE SOIL AWARDS,” where 15 women farmers will be recognized and awarded, within 15 different categories. We will highlight their stories, through a documentary series and celebrate their passion, zeal, desire. We shall celebrate the fire in their hearts and the Grace in the Soul. We shall celebrate how they are contributing to shape agriculture in the respective communities.” Feedbacks gathered after the two-day event, though interviews with the women farmers, sponsors and partners revealed the above benchmarks were reached, and beyond expectations.
The Corporate-Impact Dialogues gave the organizing partners opportunity to share key policies and programs they are facilitating in theirs organizations, towards increasing agric opportunities for woman farmers, and importantly, those with physical disabilities.
Mr. Kwaku Owusu-Baah of the Modernizing Agriculture in Ghana (MAG), in his presentation noted that through MAG, Canada continues to provide empowerment for Ghanaian women in agriculture because, Canada recognises the agriculture sector continue to hold great potential for reducing poverty and inequality in Ghana, and women play important roles in the process. He said a 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 are receiving 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,” he said.
The West Africa Regional Director for YARA, Mr. Danquah Addo-Yobo said, Yara grows knowledge to responsibly feed the world and protect the planet. To meet these commitments, he said Yara has taken the lead in developing digital farming tools for precision farming and work closely with partners throughout the whole food value chain to develop more climate-friendly crop nutrition solutions. “In addition, we are committed to working towards sustainable mineral fertilizer production. We foster an open culture of diversity and inclusion that promotes the safety and integrity of our employees, contractors, business partners, and society at large,” he said.
For his part, Mr. Emmanuel Kodwo Sackey, Head of Operation, Programmes and Partnerships at RDF Ghana LBG, noted that RDF is a development finance institution established to provide access to funds and capacity building services to agriculture, agribusiness, and renewable energy. He said RDF is committed to the growth and sustainability of women in agriculture, and thus works with Ahantaman Rural Banks in the regions and districts to provide financial access to women farmers. According to him, RDF provides wholesale funds to a wide range of financial intermediaries for on-lending to Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs).
Mr. Eric Nesta Quarshie, Business Development Manager of OCP Africa noted that the company’s initiatives such as the Agribooster and OCP School lab offer women farmer’s resources and services they need to optimize their efforts. “CP AFRICA’s School Lab has already assisted over 350,000 farmers across Kenya, Nigeria, Togo, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Tanzania and Côte d’Ivoire. As part of OCP AFRICA’s plan to develop customized fertilizer products over the next three years, agronomic trials have been implemented in Nigeria, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Côte d’Ivoire and Cameroun, providing opportunities for researchers to gather information about specific soil types and crops including maize, cocoa, cassava and teff,” he revealed.
From ABSA Bank, Mr. Joslyn Attram urged the women farmers to work in farmer groups, which he said makes it more convenient and productive for the bank to provide financial supports. He said ABSA supports SMEs including Agribusinesses, women-led businesses as well as youth-led businesses; taking into consideration value chain financing model like Inputs Suppliers (Fertilizers, chemicals, seeds etc.), Farmers/Growers, Processors, as well as retailers and Wholesaler. “We invest in value chain crops such as, Soya, Maize, Rice, Sorghum, Pineapple, Vegetables, Cashew, and Cocoa, among others. Some of our agribusiness partners include the Ghana Incentive-based Risk Sharing System for Agric Lending (GIRSAL), Out-grower Value Chain Financing (OVCF), MasterCard Foundation (MCF), and the Rural Development Fund (RDF).”
The Development Awareness for Growth Session highlighted speakers including Mr. Emmanuel Kodwo Sackey (RDF); Mr. Issaka Osman (YARA) and Ms. Eunice Etwire (MAG), of the Modernizing Agriculture in Ghana (MAG) project, all speaking on different agri-focused themes. For his presentation on the theme, ‘highlighting the challenges we face in linking market, building capacity and investment in women in agribusiness,’ Mr. Sackey urged the agriwomen to make the most of communal partnerships, which he said which would make it easier for them to access financial support for their agric projects, from their partners at Ahantaman Rural bank. Speaking on the theme, ‘principles and practices that should be adopted by women in agriculture to increase yield and meet quality standards for community consumption and export,’ Mr. Issaka Osman educated the women on best farming practices which can guarantee them healthy crops and maximum yields. For the part, Ms. Eunice Etwire, spoke on the theme, ‘how I can take care of myself and balance my role as a agri-working woman.’ She educated the women on the need to ask for help, delegate responsibilities and importantly rest and connecting with friends and family outside of work. She said such practices would keep them healthy and enable them to be more productive.
The Breakout Capacity Building Sessions integrated focused group discussions, mentorships and training sessions that allowed for interaction, discussions, empowerment and grooming to help them women build their capacity in ways that guide them to scale-up their agribusinesses. Thematic areas and topics explored in these sessions included, Planning your financial future, Self-presentation and positive mental health (a growth tool for the agriwoman); Providing finance to meet the need for women, and Going digital- the success factors of connecting foreign companies with local agribusiness firms. Others include, Enabling the abilities to build an agri-future for women- living with disabilities, Right ways and methods of building a profession and generating income from agriculture, Appropriate fertilizer application methods for maximum yield, developing a personal brand, creating a niche within the agribusiness, and 15 steps to becoming a sustainable farmer.
Highlights of Remarks
In a brief remark, the Western Regional Agric Director, Mr. Patrick Akowuah, reiterated the importance of WOFAGRIC and Gold in the Soil Awards and the Capacity building sessions the event offers women in agric, “more and more women are turning to agriculture,” he stressed and therefore called on all stakeholders to make the sector an even platform for both men and women farmers.
The Western North Regional Director, Mr. Fordjor noted that women farmers and more diligent when it comes to best farming practices and said, the capacity building would help them put in place more smart-climate farming practices, “women tend to prefer more organic and sustainable farm. They stand behind eco-friendly ideals,” she added.
The Chief Director of the Regional Coordinating Council, Mr. Frederick Agyeman, while praising Agrihouse Foundation for instituting an event that allows for the growth of agriwomen, also called for more partnerships within the value chain to support such initiatives and the sustainability of women farmers.
In a speech read on his behalf, the Chairman of the National Farmers and Fishermen Award winners Association (NFFAWAG), Mr. Davies Korboe, said WOFAGRIC and Gold in the Soil Awards is a laudable initiative and therefore called on government, development partners, and corporate organizations to financially and technically support the event.
Day 2 – Gold in the Soil Awards
Although Day 2 of the event opened with a one-on-one mentorship session, which focuses on building the drive and knowledge of the agriwomen through intimate conversations with the resources person, an equally significant part of the day was the ‘Gold in the Soil Awards.’
This year the ‘Gold in the Soil Awards’ received a total of eight-two (82) nominations, from the Western and Western North region. Fifty-two women comprising of both western and western-north nominees were shortlisted and documented for the awards documentary produced by Agrihouse Foundation. The documentary tells the inspiring stories of the agriwomen; it highlights their journey over the year, the successes and impacts they continue to chalk and establish in their lives and communities. It shows how they are overcoming the challenges they face as agriwomen and they support they need to scale-up their activities.
A breakdown of this year’s nominations revealed that for the first time in four years the, ‘Super Woman Farmer Award Category’ committed to recognizing Ghanaian women farmers with disabilities received significant entries, with fifteen nominations. The list includes Ten-year-old Esther Ofori who resides in Dzatokrom, in the Sewti Wiawso District of the Western North region. At the event, Esther was honored for her bravery and determination to find her passion and continue her education, in spite of her physical challenges. Other nominees recognized and honored in the category included: Rebbecca Aidoo, Joyce Asante, Agathor Bosompim, Joyce Quarteng, Rose Mensah, Afua Kunado, Joyce Agyei Sakyiwaa, Rebbecca Asamoah, Akosua Nyarko, Ophelia Ackah, Akosua Addei, Akua Atta and Maame Yaa. Women who won in the remaining categories were:
The Passion for Farm Award— Esi Akyere, from Western Region. The award recognizes an individual woman who is excited and passionately about agribusiness and contributing to the growth of her community, creating jobs, mentoring girls in the community and supporting them to take up agric, either small scale and large scale.
She Innovates Award— Matcom Company situated in the Western-North Region. This award goes to a woman who has or is working with the power of innovation and adding value to her agro business. She Identified a challenge within the community and the value chain and found 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— Mary perpetua Kwakuyi, from Western Region. This award provides recognition for the efforts of a group of women or a woman-led organization, implementing an outstanding project in agriculture by adopting a climate smart approach and practices, that supports in the transformation, development and is sustainably increasing agricultural productivity in the community. This project must be seen to be solving a real challenge and create tangible results
Outstanding Woman in Extension Services Award— Eva Adu, from Western Region. This award provides recognition to women, either in the public or private sector, contributing effortlessly through training, capacity building, advocacy, to encourage the adaptation of best practices by farmers, thereby contributing significantly to the empowerment and socio-economic development of the society and the country as a whole.
Royal Agro Award— Ekua Badu, from Western Region. Through this award, we identify 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 programs and advocacy.
Diamond in the Rough Award— Abena Asantewaa, from Western Region. 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 Foods Award— Edna Ama Mensah, from Western Region. 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 a long-lasting benefit to the Livestock, Poultry or Fisheries sector.
Change Champion Award— Marian Ofori Twumasi, from Western-North Region. 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, whiles making a national impact.
Development Partner Award— Global Affairs Canada. This award recognizes the efforts of an International organization, whose works centres on agriculture and in particular, towards the development of women in the community, encouraging to adopt best practices, whiles adding value.
Lady of the Export Region Award— Georgina Filson, from Westen Region. This category recognizes and rewards the region’s most successful and innovative woman exporter, with regards to the size of the business and the export sales.
Star Woman Agripreneur Award— Rosemond Afua Afful, from Western Region. 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 (ie, efficiency in service delivery, income performance,) in her field and already a great role model, mentoring other young girls in her community.
Princess Carla Award— Monica Nwiah, from Western Region. This award recognizes the efforts of a dedicated woman, whose works and role affects communities positively; touching lives, mentoring, role modelling, advising, counselling and enhancing networks for other women, both young and old.
Madam Evelyn Andoh Wins Ultimate ‘Gold in the Soil Award’
The 63-year farmer from Wassa Akutuase in the Wassa East District was crowned the Queen of the “Gold in the Soil Award.” In her documentary, she revealed she farms a 128-acre farmland, consisting of Cocoa, plantain, palm nut, yam, Cocoyam, goat, sheep, poultry, rice, maize She took home a tricycle, three Knapsack sprayers, 20 boxes of fertilizers, six Wellington booths, three Lamps, T-shirt, 15 packs of Maize seeds, 20 bottles of weedicide, a plaque and Certificate. The Gold in the Soil Award is awarded to an agriwoman 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 recognizable impact on her community.
In his congratulatory remarks to all the women, the Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Hon. Yaw Frimpong Addo, said government is committed to investing in the sector to sustain the development and progress of Ghanaian women in the agric space. “I want each one of you to know that you are significant contributors of agriculture. I congratulate you all for your incredible achievements as you receive Gold in the Soil Awards today, especially to the 15 women farmers living with disabilities, who have shown that your challenges does not limit your potentials. Continue to invest in your efforts and be assure that we all as stakeholders are here support you.”