The challenges of our Ghanaian agri-women are no secret to us at this point in Ghana. Over the years, through research work and discussions, we have been able to outline them in documents, and now clearly understand the root causes of some of these challenges that continue to hinder our women in agriculture from reaching their fullest potential and ambitions in the sector.
At the recently held 3rd Women in Food and Agricultural Leadership Training Forum (WOFAGRIC) and Gold in the Soil Awards, organized by Agrihouse Foundation in Bolgatanga, in the Upper East Region, the Regional Minister, Hon. Stephen Yakubu, reiterated some of these challenges as, insufficient agricultural training, limited access to markets, insufficient access to credit facilities, innovative marketing approaches, amongst others.
The Deputy Director, Program Planning, at the Canadian High Commission, Madam Corey Huntington, noted that, It is important for the country to put measures in place to help agri-women in the country build their resilience against the impacts of such challenges and concerns, even as they strive to grow within the agric sector.
Co-signing the sentiments of the Deputy Director, the West Africa Regional Director of YARA, Mr. Danquah Addo-Yobo, also stressed that, deliberate policy actions needed to be in place to mitigate the challenges facing women in agric in Ghana. He said that is the only way women will survive, thrive and make waves in the sector.
He said, even though women continued to play major roles in the country’s agricultural sector, they also continued to face challenges such as, “gender-based disparities in terms of access to resources and services, influencing decision-making, unfair land tenure systems and unbalanced economic opportunities,” he stressed.
The Director of Business Banking at ABSA, Madam Grace Anim Yeboah, for her part revealed that, ABSA is working with organizations like IFAD, Mastercard Foundation and Rural Development Fund, to enable the bank reach more actors in the value chain with financial and technical supports.
Highlighting and addressing such concerns, are part of the reasons Agrihouse Foundation, annually, works hard to pull together resources, with the support of sponsors and collaborating institutions, to organized the two-day interventional event; WOFAGRIC and Gold in the Soil Awards. The Women in Food and Agricultural Leadership Training Forum aims at bringing together agi-women, to helping them to develop their agricultural skills, through motivational talks, mentorships and trainings sessions.
Third WOFAGRIC and Gold in the Soil Awards
This year in particular, the event helped to explore ways to enhance women’s resilience and recovery from the effects of the pandemic, while enabling women in agribusiness to develop, improve and sustain new agricultural practices, as well as develop their business within this pandemic era and beyond. Appropriately, the theme was, “Surviving, Thriving and Making Waves beyond the Pandemic.” Mentors and Trainers for the various capacity-building sessions were drawn from representatives of the various sponsoring institutions, including Canadian High Commission, MAG-Canada, ABSA Bank Ghana, YARA, NBSSI, OCP GHANA, INTERPLAST, GEPA/FDA, RDF GAHAN LBG and GSA. The representatives took the women through capacity-building topics such as:- How Agri-women can make the most out of the pandemic; how to keep proper accounting and records in farming and co-operative management/ funding opportunities, and how to access loans and funding; best practices and skills to adopt in farm management; and simple steps to develop a business plan, among others.
The second part of the event, the ‘Gold in the Soil Awards,’ is an awards scheme dedicated to strengthening and projecting a paradigm shift of celebrating women farmers, processors, marketers and women who are playing a role within the agricultural value chain, including women into Transportation, packaging, Technology, input dealers, etc.
The Awards moves from Region to Region, yearly, to search for these extraordinary women who contribute significantly to putting food on our tables daily. Their stories are shared in a documentary series produced by Agrihouse Foundation. This year, the Awards Scheme received 131 nominations from both Upper East and Upper West Region; the first time nominations were opened in such a way, “to allow more women from culturally diverse backgrounds an opportunity to participate in the awards scheme,” the Executive Director of Agrihouse Foundation, Ms. Alberta Nana Akyaa Akosa, noted.
During the assessments and breakdown of entries received, the Foundation realised that 50% of the entries were from women farmers, farming between 10-65 acres of maize, yam, groundnut, soya beans, vegetables, Bambara beans, millet and sorghum. 32% of the women were largely into Processing, Packaging and marketing of Shea, Neem, Moringa, Boabab, Dawada, groundnut, oils, etc. 15% were into distribution and marketing of Input (seeds, fertilizers, etc) and about 3% of these women were into Tractor and Equipment operating and hiring.
Furthermore, the majority of women farmers who submitted entries were between ages 25-65years, and have been operating their businesses within a period of 2 to 40years, “This for us is a positive signal. It is great to know we have very young women in the Upper East and West Regions, who are taking Agric seriously and contributing to enhancing nutrition and changing livelihoods,” Ms. Akosa said.
At the end of the assessments and breakdown, out of 131 nomination, 45 women were shortlisted and documented on video telling their stories as agri-women. The number was further shortlisted to 14 agri-women who received the Gold in the Soil Awards.
Portia Wins the Ultimate Gold in the Soil Award
The vibrant and passionate Farmer, Madam Portia Asumda, was crowned the ultimate ‘Gold in the Soil Awards,’ Winner this year. The thirty-eight years old farmer hails from Zangeyire in the Upper East Region, and has been farming for the past eight years.
She is into shea-processing and crop production, and rearing of livestock. In crop production, she farms twenty acres of land, of which she uses ten acres for maize production; two acres for Guinea corn; three acres for groundnut; and two acres for rice. She rears about two hundreds ruminants; one hundred and twenty cows; and five hundred guinea fowls. She works with about two thousand agri-women across upper-east, west and the Tansi district. Under her leadership and coordination, they are able to process their sheabutter, which for some years now; they have had opportunity to start exporting to countries like the USA and Canada. They export up to forty tonnes of sheabutter.
According to Madam Asumda, most of the women she works with are widows, and because of their farming activities, they are able to pay fees for their children to go to the university or training college. Some have also renovated their buildings and others have put up single rooms for themselves. So far, she has invested about two hundred thousand Ghana cedis into her farming activities, including the twenty agri-women she has employed who help daily on the farm. She pays them a daily wage of ten Ghana cedis. “Even though last year yield wasn’t very good, I think we are still making profit” she revealed in the Gold in the Awards documentary, produced by Agrihouse Foundation, as part of the event.
Touching on challenges, she said transportation and the absence of a farm tractor makes it difficult for them to transport their harvest and plough their farmlands. “When we hire a tractor to come and plough our land, one plot is one hundred and fifty Ghana cedis. So ploughing all twenty acres is very expensive and is a problem,” she stated.
She said a “Motor King,” the tricycle they use to transport food from the farm would considerably solves their transportation challenges, and therefore pleaded with Agrihouse Foundation and sponsors to provide the farm with one. Emerging as the ultimate Gold in the Soil Award winner, Portia Asumda, took home a brand new tricycle to aid with transportation on her farm, just like she requested for. She was awarded a Gold in the Soil Award plague and other incentives, including, bottles of fertilizer provided by Yara Ghana, an irrigation pump, provided and to be installed on her farm by Interplast. She received a certificate of honor, a full piece of cloth and branded T-shirts from sponsors.
In a brief media interaction after the awards event, she expressed her immense gratitude to Agrihouse Foundation and sponsors for adjudging her the ultimate ‘Gold in the Soil Award’ Farmer, whiles congratulating all the other nominees who won in other categories. She said the recognition has encouraged and empowered her to be more focused as a woman farmer. Thus, she is looking forward to intensifying her efforts and be a blessing to more afri-women in her community. The rest of the winners in the various categories are as follows:
The Passion for Farm Award— Portia Gban, from Upper West 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— Gafaratu Fuseini, from Upper East 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— Memuna Abdul Rahaman, from Upper West 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— Leuzumah Rashida, from Upper West 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.
Super Woman Farmer Award— Alima Wahabu, from Upper East Region. This special category goes to a physically challenged woman, whose role, works and passion for agriculture, is contributing largely to community development, food security, poverty alleviation, job creation and economic growth in the Agric sector.
Royal Agro Award— Ayiesheitu Mahamadu Asaki, from Upper East 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— Saantuma Sala, from Upper West 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— Genevive Akugu, from Upper East 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— Asieme Elsie Azelikumah, from Upper East 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—Canadian High Commission. 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— Anita Sutha, from Upper West 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— Mavis Alahire Aboko, from Upper East 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.
She operates Award— Joy okrah, from Upper West Region. This Award recognises an exceptional female into operation management and maintenance of tractor services. She should be earning income from this trade and imparted her community with her skill.
Princess Carla Award— Hawawu Gbahara, from Upper West 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.
Projecting Younger and Physically Challenged women Farmers
This year the ‘Gold in the Soil Awards,’ received significant number of entries from younger women farmers. Twenty-three years old Mavis Alahire Aboko, and Genevive Akugu, are two of such young ladies who won Star Woman Agripreneur Award and Feed to Foods Award, respectively.
In the documentary, Mavis Alahire Aboko, revealed she hailed from Langbinsi in the Upper East Region and farms seven acres of cotton, three acres of maize, four acres of groundnut and two acres of yellow Melon. In all she farms sixteen acres of land. She started selling smocks in 2020, and in the course of that, she realised that the smock weavers in her community had a challenge purchasing the threads because it was imported from Burkina Faso and other neighbouring countries, making it very expensive on the local market.
“So I took it upon myself to venture into the farming of cotton, to help produce it and make it available to the local weavers,” she revealed. Further realizing that it was a one season planting period, she decided it was best to add other crops to her farm, and that was why she ventured into maize, groundnut and yellow melon production.
Touching on investments made, she said she depended on her savings, thousand-five hundred Ghana cedis, to start her farm; she bought her piece of land and seeds from the amount. Thankfully, she was partnered by Regional Manufacturing Group (RMG), a company that buys her produce after production. She has employed five permanent workers and has fifteen part time workers, some she pays twenty Ghana cedis daily, and others she recompenses with food crops. She considers farming very profitable, both financially and socially because she is being able to provide employment for other young people in her community. “Many women are looking up to me. At times, I do not even call them, but they come and support me on the farm. So, I have initiated a project to support their children. On menstrual hygiene day, we distributed sanitary pads to selected school in upper east and we are looking to do more,” she said.
She highlighted the land tenure system as a major challenge, because lands are not easily made available for women farmers in the community. Thus, it was a challenge acquiring her sixteen acres of land. She also said getting qualified human resource persons and tractors services and funding are also challenges she faces as a young female farmer. “I wish to get more funds to produce more and buy machines for ploughing, harvesting and weeding the land,” she stated.
Winning the Star Woman Agripreneur Award, she thanked Agrihouse and sponors of the Gold in the Soil Awards for the recognition and said it will encourage her to continue being a positive impact in her community.
For her part, Winner of Feed to Foods Award— Genevive Akugu, from Upper East Region, revealed she hails from Chuchuliga in the Upper East region and has been a poultry farmer since 2019. She said she went into farming because she realized the eggs they received in her community were surpluses from other parts of the country, and that was never enough. “I realized this was an opportunity for me to explore,” she said.
However, starting was easy, she revealed. It was capital intensive. She made use of her two thousand cedis savings; an amount of five thousand Ghana cedis she won from participating in an entrepreneurship competition and thankfully, her mother also took a loan to two thousand Ghana cedis to support her. She was therefore able to start her poultry farm with two hundred and fifty birds, “the demand was high” she revealed, “people kept coming back asking for eggs. We could not even meet the demands. So, I applied for the MasterCard scholars Entrepreneurship Fund, and I was awarded thirty thousand Ghana cedis to expand,” she added.
Touching on challenges, she said the price of maize shot up soon after, making production cost very expensive. Furthermore, they experience a shortage of concentrate, which they have to mix with food for the birds. They have to travel to other parts of the country to purchase. The high cost of these products started affecting the business negatively, “we had to sell some of the birds to stabilize the business.” she said.
Currently, she has two permanent employees and three temporary ones she calls on when needed. Her vision in the next five years is to expand her poultry farm and hopes that organizations like Canadian High Commission and ABSA will be of support.
“We want to make this farm a training centre, to help more young women come to an understanding of the poultry business, and venture into it,” she said.
In the meantime, her farm is being able to reach out to some young women in the community interested in poultry farming. She takes them through the pros and cons associated with the venture and she is glad some have started putting the knowledge to work. Winning the award, she expressed immense gratitude to Agrihouse Foundation and sponsors of this year’s event, adding that, she hopes her win will be a motivation to other young women in the country, to encourage them venture into agriculture.
Highlighting Physically Challenged Women Farmers
Alima Wahabu and Aberiga Yesara, both physically challenged women farmers were nominated for the Gold in the soil Awards this year, under the ‘Super Woman Farmer Award’ category. They are residents of Adamkologa, in the zebilla constituency of the Upper East region. Alima Wahabu who is a widow with 5 kids took home the award.
Narrating her story in the Gold in the soil Awards Documentary, she revealed she farms maize and soyabeans. She is able to support herself and children with the crops she grows and money she earns during harvest. She thanks her father for giving her the piece of land she farms on, and the compassionate members of her community who help her farm her land. She listed challenges such as her need for tractor services and transportation, to and from her farm. Winning the award, she thanked Agrihouse Foundation and sponsors for recognizing her efforts, and supporting her with bottles of fertilizer and the title of Super women Farmer.
The second nominee, Madam Yesara, has 2 acres farmland of Maize and Soyabean. She is also into the rearing of animals; Cow, Poultry, Guinea Fowl and Goat. Her passion for farming and the agricultural sector, she says, is far greater than any form of physical disability she has in her life, “being physically challenged doesn’t limit me in any way, I can do everything like any other person,” she affirms about herself in the Gold in the Soil Awards Documentary.