Agrihouse Foundation has launched the 3rd Women in Food and Agricultural Leadership Training Forum (WOFAGRIC) & and Gold in the Soil Awards in Accra on Tuesday.
This year, the 2-day event which is aimed at enabling women develop their agricultural skills, motivate, mentor and build upon their capabilities to becoming independent, is on the theme, “The Agri Woman: Surviving, Thriving and Making Waves beyond the Pandemic,” and is scheduled to come off in June, in Bolgatanga in the Upper East Region.
In an address at the launch, Ms. Stephanie Brunet, Deputy Director, Development, who was representing Organizing Partners, the Canadian High Commission, praised Agrihouse Foundation for creating WOFAGRIC & and Gold in the Soil Awards, which continuous to increase empowerment and self-reliance among women in the agricultural sector.
She said the theme for this year’s event is very appropriate, in view of the adverse effects of COVID-19 pandemic on the agricultural value chains, particularly for women farmers.
“Canada is therefore glad to be part of this event, which will explore ways to enhance women’s resilience and recovery from the effects of the pandemic,” she said.
Touching on the Modernizing Agriculture in Ghana (MAG) project, she said since 2017, Canada has been providing support to the Government of Ghana to improve the country’s agricultural sector.
According to her, 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, she said, is in line with Canada’s Feminist International Assistance policy and the UN Sustainable Development Goal 5 on Gender Equality.
“Canada recognises that the agriculture sector continues to hold great potential for reducing poverty and inequality in Ghana. That is why we are providing 125 million Canadian dollars of assistance directly to the Government of Ghana to help modernize the sector,” she stated.
The MAG project, she said, is now in the fifth year of implementation and has recorded tremendous successes, including increases in the adoption of relevant, productivity-enhancing technologies by both female and male farmers in Ghana, the introduction of new market-oriented approaches to farm management and improvements in major crops, among others.
She commended Agrihouse Foundation for successfully organizing two similar events, in 2019 and 2020, held in the Volta and Ashanti region respectively, “we are looking forward to a successful third session to be held in the Upper East Region in June,” she added.
For her part, the Head of Business Banking at ABSA Ghana, Mrs. Grace Amin Yeboah, noted that, it was time for Corporate Ghana to step when it comes to funding agricultural initiatives in the country, even though the agric sector is frost with challenges.
She said banks must come together with agricultural institutions to create different structures and interventions that help agricultural initiatives to grow in the country.
She highlighted the EMERGE Solution by ABSA Ghana, which seeks to facilitate business growth for women, to increase employment and reduce poverty, in line with MDG number 5, which is to empower women and achieve gender quality.
The solution also creates developmental and networking opportunities for business women, access to market and discount on banking facilities, free financial and business advisory services, international travelling opportunities and organizing coding bootcamps for children of women-farmers.
“We have also partnered with the Mastercard Foundation to actually provide financial support, and the plan is to lend out a hundred million dollars, equivalent in cedis, over the next five years. We hope to impact at least 5000 SME’s,” she revealed.
The guest speaker Ms. Fatima Alimohammed, Agribusiness Chair – Association of Ghana Industries, noted that the intercontinental free trade was one area agric stakeholders should start paying close attention to. She said agri-women in Ghana, as a matter of urgency, have to start educating themselves on how best they can take advantage of the agreement. Furthermore, agric institutions and agribusiness must begin to see how they can start exporting their crops and processes products to neighboring countries, stressing that, measures like this, when utilized properly, will help create financial independence and wealth for the agri-woman. She urged the women farmer to be more innovative and make trading among themselves a priority.
That will also help them create opportunities for themselves. Touching on young people and agriculture, she said, the sector must be transformed to meet the taste of the young people. Young people want innovative agriculture, where they can use the internet, work with machines and apply advanced technology to crop production or animal rearing. This should be the focus of stakeholders in the sector going forward. When this is done, it will prevent rural- urban migration and curb the issue of graduate unemployment in the country.
The chairwoman for the launch, Nana Hemaa Adwoa Awindor noted that women farmers, in particular, face a lot of challenges, and this global pandemic has only intensified such concerns, in the areas of transportation, innovative marketing approaches, education, lack of skills training to enable self-reliance, and limited access to market, “But then again, that is why Agrhouse Foundation has taken up this good fight and an interventional position to ensure that these challenges our women farmers go though in the course of contributing to our national food baskets are mitigated, ” she stressed. She noted that, according to reports available, smallholder farmers in Ghana, the majority of are women in Ghana who are smallholder farmers generate 80 percent of the country’s total agricultural production, “Thus, no support towards the resilience and sustainability of our Ghanaian Agri-women is too small” she added.
In a brief remark, Madam Naa Quartey of the Women in Agic Development Directorate (WIAD), encouraged agri-women and processors to start exploring the use of social media in their activities, especially now in COVID-19, “In order for men and especially women to bounce back in their daily work which brings in income, there’s the need to adopt certain strategies. One of the best strategies working for a lot of women in the agricultural space is adopting online/social media marketing through WhatsApp platforms, Facebook, Instagram. One does not need a shop to take advantage of this. Other notable strategies include engaging women in the labour market within agriculture value chain; encouraging the observance of COVID-19 protocols while engaging in business activities, such as wearing of nose marks. This can affect a customer’s willingness to purchase an individual’s produce,” she noted.
In his speech, the West-Africa Regional Director of Yara Gahna, Mr. Addo Danquah-Yobo, urged the agri-women to set high ambitions and targets for themselves, and work at meeting them. He said it is not enough to be a woman farmer, and even though the COVId-19 has intensified a lot of challenges women face in the sector, it has also inspired some new opportunities. He therefore encouraged the women to focus more on the new opportunities and use this COVID-19 period to build resilience that will improve their activities in the long term.
He said corporate Ghana must also do more for women farmers to ensure gender equality in the sector. He therefore used the opportunity to commend the women for their hard throughout the years and praised Agrihoiuse Foundation for pushing a platform like WOFAGRIC & Gold in the Soil Award, that continues to celebrate, educate, train and highlight the challenges of women in the agric sector. He said YARA Ghana, like Agrihouse Foundation is committed to the development and achievements of women, thus, YARA Ghana will continue to support WOFAGRIC & Gold in the Soil Awards for many years.
“Yara Ghana is passionate about women achievers; our human resource manager for West African is a woman; our best distributor is a woman, one of our best field agronomists is a woman, based in northern Ghana,” he noted, “Yara Ghana is looking forward to the day when the national best farmer, best exporter, best processor, will be women farmers” he said.
In a speech read on his behalf, the Upper east Regional Director of Agriculture, Mr. Francis Ennor, of the total estimated farmer population in the region, 49% are women farmers.
He said the region has therefore in recent times, organized and strengthened women capacities in the areas of agribusiness and marketing, “the region organized a regional agribusiness partnership platform which brought together processors, aggregators, marketers, financial institutions, input dealers and services providers,” he outlined.
He thanked Foundation for choosing the Upper East Region to host this year’s two-days event, “the Upper East Region is more than prepared to for the project and would therefore accord it all the necessary technical support it desires to succeed” he assured.
For his part, the Regional Director of the Upper West Region, Emmanuel Sasu Yeboah, noted that empowering women farmers is the way to ending hunger and poverty.
He said, according to a FAO report, if 43 % of the agricultural labour force in developing countries were women and had the same access to resources as men farmers, this could increase production in developing countries by 20-30% and potentially reduce the number of hungry people in the world by 100 to 150 million people.
He therefore described WOFAGRIC & Gold in the Soil Awards as a laudable idea, and commended Agrihouse for pushing it, “when this is done, it will build life-long resilience to mitigate the effects of any pandemic occurrence on women farmers,” he said.
The Chairman of the National Farmers and Fishermen Award Winners Association (NFFAWAG), in his speech, praised the agri-women for working tirelessly throughout this period of COVID-19, feeding Ghanaians with fruits and vegetables that help to our immune systems as required in these times.
“it the midst of the challenges, COVID-19 has also brought out opportunities in the agricultural value chain, in areas of production, distribution, processing, sales and branding, which our distinguished women in agric are taking advantage of” he added. He said NFFAWAG is looking forward to a successful main event in June and thanked Agihouse Foundation for the opportunity to be part of it.
The Department of Policy Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, also in a speech, noted that because the Ministry is committed to public private partnerships, that is why in the past four years it has been engaging Agrihouse Foundation in all of its activities, “we see the practical and corroborative impacts the Foundation is making in the agric sector and we are very comfortable to call ourselves partners,” he said.
He said the two organizations have over the years been effectively collaborating in the planning and the execution of the National Farmers Day Celebration, “I can confidently say that we have been doing a great job and we look forward to more fruitful engagements in that area” he added.
He thanked Agrihouse for the opportunity to be part of the planning committee of WOFAGRIC and called for more support for the Foundation, “Let me use this opportunity to note how praise worthy it is that Canadian High Commission is standing with Agrihouse as a main organizing partner. On behalf of Agrihouse, I will call on other institutions to come on board to support the various interventional agri-projects the organization is championing,” he said.
WOFAGRIC & Gold in the Soil Awards 2021
The theme for this year’s 2-day event is ‘WOMEN IN AGRIC – SURVIVING, THRIVING & MAKING WAVES, BEYOND THE PANDEMIC’ and is scheduled to take place in June, in Bolgatanga, the Upper East Region of Ghana. According to the Executive Director of Agrihouse Foundation, Ms. Alberta Nana Akyaa Akosa, this year, Agrihouse is receiving nominations for the Gold in the Soil Awards, from both Upper East and Upper West Region, “this is the first time the Foundation is opening up nominations in such a way,” she said, “to allow more women from culturally diverse backgrounds an opportunity to participate in the awards scheme.
2019 & 202o Impacts of WOFAGRIC & Gold in the Soil Awards
Since 2019, WOFAGRIC has helped shape and build more career women in the field of agriculture in their various rural areas and communities, continuously being a source of women empowerment. In 2019, almost a quarter of the nominees for the Gold in the Soil Awards made entries into the National Best Farmers Award Scheme at district, regional and national levels with about 7 of them winning laurels at the district and regional levels whist 2 of them picked up awards at the National awards. In 2020, even though held under strict COVID-19 protocols at the end of the tw0-day event, 25 % of women who were not into agribusiness but attended the program had decided to start up their own agri-projects, as a result of the competence based training and soft skills, they had acquired; about 900 women were groomed to take up leadership roles and build their capacities, to drive them towards growth and expansion of their agribusinesses.
The Gold in the Soil Awards
The Gold in the Soil Awards seeks to recognize and celebrate pioneering women and trailblazers who push the boundaries along the agribusiness value chain, especially, in our communities, districts and regional levels, within and across the country. The awards is made up of 15 categories, including: Passion for the Farm Awards, She-Innovates Award, Climate-Smart Women Project Award, Outstanding Woman in Extension Services Award, The Super Woman Farmer Award, Star Woman Agripreneur Award (Woman Agripreneur Award), Royal Agro Award, Diamond in the Rough Award, Feed to Food Awards – (Poultry, Livestock & Fisheries), The Change Champion Award, Lady of The Region Export Award, Development Partner Award, Princess Carla Award, Gold in the Soil Award, and She-Operate s Award.