International Women’s Day -Embracing equality of women in agribusiness
As we celebrate International Women’s Day (IWD), I doff my hat off to all women in agriculture who have continuously overcome barriers and positioned themselves as key drivers of economic growth.
Marking the day on the theme, “Embracing Equity”, it has become necessary to advance gender equality by raising continuous awareness about discrimination and creating a platform for equal opportunities for both men and women.
Although the role of women in agriculture is undeniably important to the economic development of our country, many of them continue to face challenges such as a lack of access to land for farming, a lack of collateral to access financing and inadequate basic tools and processing equipment.
Some of these challenges are a result of some misconceptions and one way of closing the gap would be to expose and discredit them.
Misconceptions about women in Agric - Women do not play significant roles in large-scale agriculture
There is a misconception that women engage only in small-scale agriculture and do not play a significant role in large-scale agriculture.
Over the years, women are now seen to be more involved in the entire agricultural value chain, from farming to production to marketing of the final produce; thus, the need for their contribution to the sector to receive the needed recognition to show that women have evolved from small-scale agriculture to large-scale farming. This will motivate more women to enter the sector.
As the fight towards gender parity continues to increase globally, we will begin to see a more prominent shift towards catering to women in agriculture.
Providing women with the necessary support in terms of the pre-requisite skills for production, processing and marketing will serve as a way of ensuring equality in the agricultural sector, putting them on par with their male counterparts.
In the past, it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than it was for a woman in agriculture to get access to lands for farming.
Although this is gradually changing, many women still face this challenge.
To sustain the agricultural sector, it is imperative that women be granted land as easily as it is for men to access farmlands.
In recent times, we have seen that in the fight for gender parity, there are a plethora of seminars and workshops for women in agriculture.
But when it comes to hands-on training where women can implement what has been taught in the seminars on the farm, women are found to be lacking in that regard.
Opportunities such as hands-on practical training must be made available to enable female farmers to stay abreast of what needs to be done on the farm or in their various agribusinesses for wealth creation.
Female farmers find it difficult to access funding because of a lack of collateral. When a woman wants to start or expand her agribusiness, the chances of securing a loan are heavily stacked against her as compared to her male counterparts.
As we search for measures to put in place to ensure equality between men and women in accessing finance, the financial ecosystem should be redesigned to provide opportunities for women to access funding without being asked to present collateral, especially in instances where they may not have any.
...Practical story of 2 successful women in agribusiness
That notwithstanding, it is worth highlighting the remarkable contributions and or achievements of two women in the agriculture sector, as well as some challenges still facing them.
Edith Wheatland Akorsa
The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Rockland Farms Company Limited, Edith Wheatland Akorsa, operates a 100,000-capacity integrated poultry farm located in the Ashanti Region.
Established in 2013, the company has two subsidiaries – Eco Feeding Company and Rockland Meats. Rockland Meats is into the production, processing and distribution of locally produced chicken, which is packaged under the brand name Akoko Tasty.
Together, the companies have over 150 workers, which included trained broiler out-growers that support the Rockland Farm’s supply chains, boosting its production capacity to more than 200,000 birds per cycle.
Rockland Farms provides training and other support to 3000 maize out-growers (two acres average) who supply maize to feed the farm.
Madam Akorsa attributed the growth of her company to funding from the Agricultural Development Bank (ADB) PLC in 2015, when the company was on an 8,500-capacity farm with seven workers.
“Through ADB’s support, the company met its financing obligations enabling it to grow to over 100,000 capacity today with over 30 staff,” she added.
Describing the poultry sector and gender, the CEO stated that the sector was traditionally male-dominated and was not accepting of women leading in most of the segments along the value chain.
Janet Adade, owner of Elsjyne Enterprise, an agribusiness venture in the Oti Region.
She is a rice and cocoa farmer, who also processes, packages and markets her produce. She is also into mechanisation and provides machinery and training for about 2,000 women farmers.
Madam Adade began farming in 2010 when she decided to relocate to the Oti Region from the Greater Accra Region.
Her first challenge as a woman venturing into agribusiness was her being prevented from farming on her father’s land because she is a woman and not having the right to do so since women do not inherit in their families.
She said there was a need for sensitisation and education of women for a renewal of minds for them to know that they were enough and capable to do what their male counterparts were doing and more.
On the issue of access to financing, Janet mentioned that it was still a struggle as the majority of women did not have adequate resources to access loans or facilities to expand their businesses and most often than not, men are prioritised.
While times are changing and women seem to be given more opportunities than they had before paving the way for equality, the agricultural sector still remains a male-dominated sector with women facing some of the challenges, including those stated above.
Therefore, as we continue to celebrate International Women’s Day, let us all rise together to promote women’s equality within the agricultural sector and all other sectors.