Agrihouse Foundation, last Week Friday, brought a cloud of life, music, educational interaction, and an exciting atmosphere of buying and selling to a large section of the people of Dzorwulu in Accra, through its first of a kind agri-interventional event, dubbed, the ‘Agrihouse Agri-Woman Farmer’s Market Place,’
The event was aimed at supporting Ghanaian woman farmer, processer, packager, marketer, IT service providers, among others, working within the agric value chain to market their services and products with convenience, directly to buyers.
It was an immensely successful event, according to much of the feedback collected during and after the event, “the women we hosted wish it will be a weekly Market Place event,” Regina, a communication and media relations of the Foundation noted during a post-event meeting, and the rest of the group (colleagues) agreed with her.
This is what Agrihouse Foundation is known for— setting the pace as a non-governmental agric-focused organization that seeks to continuously advocate, build the capacity of people in the agric sector, whiles promoting, initiating interventional projects and showcasing the wide range of services and opportunities within the agric value chain, with the aim of motivating everyone to take a closer look at the sector and see how they can contribute and enjoy its many benefits.
Activities of the Maiden Edition
Activities of the event were solely coordinated by women, to drum home a message of empowerment. The side-activities besides buying and selling, included, the Agri-Woman Dialogue, the Corporate Women Talk; and the fire in my heart, grace in my soul conversations.
In the Agri-Woman Dialogue session, the women discussed how COVID-19 has disrupted the entire food chain, highlighting some personal stories and experiences, and how they are managing to stay in business in spite of the challenges of the pandemic. Madam Gafaratu Fusseini, CEO of Queen Gaf Enterprise, who came from Tamale in the Northern region to participate in the event, noted that, a few months into the pandemic, she realized that the public was more focused on buying sanitizing products like hand sanitizers, paper towels, and t-rolls. Thus, she had to quickly adjusted her business activities to align with the times. She went into the production of sanitizing products, after making enquiries from the Food and Drugs Authority. Producing sanitizing products has been quite successful, she said during the session. She was able to depend on some plants like allo vera to help in the production of her sanitizing products. She has since gone back to crop production, but because of her innovative thinking in these times, she now has an added business, and was thankful to Agrihouse for creating the Agri-Woman platform that helps agri-women like her showcase their services and products.
Madam Pomaah, a piggery farmer from the Asanti region, noted that even as an employee of the National Ambulance Service, she was passionate animal farming. Thus, when she had an opportunity to get into the sector, she took the chance. And it had been successful, until recently she encountered quite an unfortunate situation. She revealed that in the middle of the pandemic, she also lost a number pigs as a result of poisoning. But through it all, she has been confident and encouraged to work harder. She is focused and working with the number of pigs remaining. She thanked Agrihouse for the opportunity to be part of the Agri-woman Market Place and encouraged young women to venture into the agric sector because it was possible to be successful as a women farmer in Ghana.
The 2019 Miss Agriculture, Ms. Margret Afriye, who also doubles as a midwife shared her experience as a vegetable’s farmer and the opportunities, she has derived from it. She said, she collaborates a lot with people in her community on projects, and that has enabled her to build a strong network.
In the Corporate Woman Talk session, the Women’s Desk Officer of Ecobank, Ms. Lauretta Sarpong, noted that Ecobank has intensified its efforts towards woman’s businesses, thus the reason the bank has step up a women’s desk in all its branches across the country. The Woman’s desk allows women in all areas of business to walk into any Ecobank branch and make enquiries about support systems the bank has put in place to help women in business. She therefore encouraged the women to take advantage of this initiative because Ecobank is passionate about working with women in the agricultural sector.
The CEO of Mazia Co. Enterprise, Florence Tomazia Cossou, who has been operating in the sector over the last two years, she said the lack of capital has affected her company’s expansion drive.
According to her Mazia Honey and Natural tea enjoyed impressive patronage during Covid-19 locked down but due to lack of financial support the company was unable to meet the demands.
She is, therefore, appealing to government to support companies such as hers to enable them to expand their production to meet the growing demand for both local and export markets.
In an interview, the Executive Director of Agrihouse Foundation, Alberta Nana Akyaa Akosa, said the Agriwomen market place is tailored-made for women, with women and by women. She said the program was fully funded by her foundation to contribute their quota to women development in agriculture and also in the agribusiness.
Alberta Akyaa Akosa noted that women play a key role in the agricultural sector which is the backbone of the Ghanaian economy. She complained that despite the several contribution women in the agric sector are making, there is no dedicated platform created for them to showcase their products and services.
“We just want people to know that women are playing a key role within the value chain right from production to marketing and we need our voices to be heard,” said Alberta Akyaa Akosa.
Why Agri-Woman Market Place?
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit Ghana last year, it drastically affected negatively all sectors of the economy, including the agricultural sector. It created challenges in the areas of production, processing, transport, sales, consumption, investment, trade and promotions, among others, hitting agri-women in these areas the hardest. It is important to note that in Ghana, the majority of women are engaged in agriculture as their main economic activity. Through this activity, there is a cost to the female workforce and changing the face of agribusinesses. About 80% of crops within Ghana are produced by women. However, women farmers in the country continue to face majority of the challenges in the sector, and unfortunately, these challenges only intensified as a result of COVID-19.
It is with this background that Agrihouse Foundation set out to intact with over a thousand agri-women in different parts of the country, to better understand the challenges women farmers are grappling with because of the pandemic, in the areas of transportation, marketing and sales, education, self-reliance and food security assurance, and limited access.
TRANSPORTATION: A 44-year-old chief district farmer from the Sekyere Central District, in the Ashanti Region, Madam Ohemaa Akyaa representing about 1,700 women in cocoa and maize farming, noted the COVID-19 spread has affected their transportation system, and now causing them to sell produce at no cost at all, to avoid losses. The situation has also affected the accessibility of inputs for farming. Already, they have been facing challenges of little or no access to finance to farming, and it is affecting their entire livelihoods.
INNOVATIVE MARKETING OR NEW SALES APPROACHES: Aunty Ekua Atta, 57 years, also representing a select group of about 870 women farmers in mixed cropping in the Gomoa West District Assembly, emphasized an increasing need for support in training on new markets accessibility approaches and innovative ways of selling, leadership and financial management, training on modern technology, best practices, cooperative structure development, mentorship and training in maintaining food production in crisis.
EDUCATION: Also, Madam Asabea, 62 years, representing 647 women cooperative in cocoa and cashew in the Goaso Municipal and Ahafo region, shared the challenges family farmers are facing since the lockdown of schools, which has brought school-feeding to a halt. She highlighted the need for more education on social distancing for farmers during this crisis and provision of PPEs, capital for production and farming inputs.
SKILLED TRAINING FOR SELF RELIANCE & FOOD SECURITY ASSURANCE: Again, about thirty-two (32) young female student Agronomists and agripreneurs, currently unemployed, spoke of the challenges they are facing to afford a day’s meal and the call for skilled training to support and be useful to their communities, during this time of crisis.
LIMITED ACCESS TO MARKETS: About 500 women Smallholder farmers and processors (the majority in rice parboiling, shea, baobab and Neem) from Bolgatanga, Wa, Tamale and the Brong Ahafo regions of Ghana have always expressed the need for assistance to access ready markets indicating the challenge is not limited to a particular geographical location.
Scaling-up Through Agri-Woman Market Place
Governments across the globe have reiterated the need to keep the food supply chain intact, especially, in these times. Thus, the need to put in place agri-mechanisms to support farmers, importantly, women farmers and businesses for them to continue working, towards food security and food supply. And ensure that production of agricultural products, raw materials and food will also not be disrupted.
The Agri-house Agri-woman Market Place is Agrihouse’s way of rising up to the call of ensuring that in Ghana, women farmers are protected and supported whiles they are being efficient on their farms, lending their efforts to food production for the country. The goal, as mentioned above, is to help women famers and others within the agric value chain to market their services and products with convenience.
Over the past 8 years, Agrihouse Foundation has consistently been engaging over 50,000 women farmers, processors, service providers, input dealers and other major stakeholders along the value chain by leading initiatives focused on empowerment, leadership, best practices and management training programs that lead to effecting positive change in the mind, field, economy and translate to the community in which we operate or live in.
Through these projects, one reoccurring concern that continues to come up as a big hindrance to women is access to markets. Women Agribusinesses, start-ups, smallholder Farmers who attend our trainings and exhibitions have continuously raised the issues of “limited market access”.
Therefore Agrihouse Agri-Woman Market Place is in direct response to the “call to action” by these women farmers who have continuously urged Agrihouse to create a market platform that will help them to promote, market and sell off their produce from their respective farms, beyond the open markets. The two phases of the Agrhouse Agri-Woman Market Place are explored below:
The Direct Market Place
This is the physical engagement aspect of the Agri-Woman Marketplace project. The monthly farmers market is designed to take place on the last Friday of every month; bringing together woman farmer, processer, packager, marketer, and IT service providers, working within the agric value chain. Items on display will cut across vegetables, rice shea butter, peanut butter, raw cocoa butter, coconut oil, ginger oil, papaya oil, clove oil, among others. Also, women providing services in Mechanization, Transportation, Digital Marketing, Branding, Communications will be able to introduce patrons to their products and services.
The Digital Side of Agri-Woman Market Place
We believe an effective digital approach to sales and marketing will considerably mitigate the challenge of access to market faced by our women farmers and agri-processors. Especially in these times, the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted an upsurge in online businesses and marketing; speedily igniting a rethinking and a need to create and develop an Online Marketing Platform, solely focused on Women in Agriculture, agribusinesses, Women agripreneurs and start-ups. The platform is being designed to be free for every woman in the sector, to support and complement their efforts towards farming, Agri-marketing and food security.
The platform, when completed will enable our women in agriculture undertake the following opportunities: accessing external market beyond their reach; enabling farmers receive better prices for their produce and gain financial security; support their long-term personal, household and community-level goals; boosting the attention to women in agric as drivers of progress and change; providing farmers with direct outlets for farm products and ensure fair compensation; directly linking producers with consumers allowing people to have a personal connection with their food and the land on which it was produced; making nutritious, affordable, wholesome foods accessible and widely available to community members; and last but not least, reducing post-harvest losses.
Impacts of the Maiden Agri-Woman Market Place
The one-day exhibition attracted 25 exhibitors from the Volta, Northern, Ashante, Central, Eastern and Greater Regions. On display were packed locally produced rice, vegetables, shea butter, peanut butter, raw cocoa butter, coconut oil, ginger oil, papaya oil, clove oil, organic honey and poultry products. Women providing services in Mechanization, Transportation, Digital Marketing, Branding, Communications were also able to highlight their products and services through discussions. The second edition of the event is scheduled to come off on April 30. Agri-Woman Market Place, is among other people-centered projects, including the Agricultural Students Career Guidance and Mentorship Dialogues Bootcamp (AG- STUD); Livestock Poultry & Fisheries Trade Show (LiPF); International Farmers and Agribusiness Resilience and Sustainability Convention (INTAFAC) Women in Food and Agricultural Leadership Forum (WOFAGRIC) and Gold in the Soil Awards; Annual Pre-Harvest Agribusiness Conference and Exhibitions; Agri-Watch; and the 1 household, 1 Garden Initiative (1h,1g), initiated by Agrihouse Foundation to reach all its stakeholders.