Putting women at the centre of agric sustainability
Women are highly represented in rural agriculture which is key to the sustainability of the sector.
Generally, they play a key role from production to distribution and marketing and make up about 40 per cent of farm labour force, states the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
Ghana’s agriculture is predominantly smallholder, traditional and rain-fed.
The contribution of women farmers to agric varies depending on the specific crop under cultivation and type of involvement.
Many of them are into food production and are considered repositories of knowledge on cultivation, processing and preservation of crop variety.
Some of their constraints
A World Bank document states that production by women is limited by barriers to finance, inputs, extension services and land rights.
The National Women's Leader of the Farmers Organisation Network in Ghana (FONG), Madam Lydia Sasu, lamented that although rural women were hardly recognised in the agricultural sector, they contributed a great deal of their labour to support the weeding, harvesting and carrying of the final product to the marketing centres for sale.
“We may be insignificant but our efforts can’t also go unrecognised. We need simple inputs, good storage facilities and access to credit to make it in agric,” she said.
Ms Sasu also called for a strong partnership with the private sector in order to have financial resources by way of loans to undertake agricultural activities.
Market availability and access are constraints to women farmers and agro-processors.
Producing gari (a staple made from fresh cassava), has been a lifetime business for Faustina Levi and her mother for the past 40 years, at Odumase, Dodowa in the Shai Osudoku District in the Greater Accra Region.
She said the difficulty in accessing market information has resulted in weak bargaining power which forces them to use intermediaries to market their products, which leads to cheating and distortion in prices of agric products.
“We don’t get much as a result of these issues, but we continue to do it so as to survive,” she lamented.
Madam Comfort Bortsi, a cassava dough producer, also at Odumase Dodowa, said she and her colleagues in the business have never received any assistance from the government or other stakeholders to improve their work.
To her, any assistance to them in the form of simple technologies such as a processing plant would help most of the youth in the area, and they as women, especially to be self-sufficient and improve their socio-economic development.
Difficulties in agric financing
The agricultural sector is perceived as a highly risky one and so, funding to the sector by banks is often not attractive.
There is also the lack of market access, especially for perishable goods and poor infrastructure, to facilitate market access, which causes farmers to make losses from production, hence their inability to repay loans.
Women Agric Directorate
The Women in Agriculture Development Directorate (WIAD) is a technical directorate under MOFA and exists to address specific gender issues in agriculture.
It is primarily responsible for policy formulation; developing and implementation of policies which are beneficial to women farmers and agro-processors in the rural, suburban and urban communities.
It has four units, namely: nutrition; value addition; food safety; and gender mainstreaming of all agricultural policies, programmes and projects.
The acting Director of WIAD, Ms Paulina Addy, said WIAD was working to enhance the contribution of women to agriculture.
She said that women in agriculture are important to the entire agriculture value chain and should be enabled to benefit more equally from the allocation of resources.
To this end, WIAD also carries out new product / recipe development and sensory evaluation on new crops.
“We have given a lot of women businesses in the sector. Soybean for example has been promoted so much and some have added it to gari.
They are self-reliant now. Some have improved packaging while others use new crop variety such as orange flesh sweet potato to do bread, drinks, etc.,” she stated.
She said WIAD tries to give women in agric opportunities in skill training, mentoring and entrepreneurship.
Nevertheless, its own challenges of limited funding, inadequate human resource and logistics limit them.
“Women in agric are important to the entire value chain. We are in production and post-production, and so I think we should look at the prospects and see how best we can get good business out of agric.
It may not be easy due to lack of funding but with determination and right technology we can make it,” she urged.