Protracted calls by stakeholders for a platform that espouses the immense contribution of women in agriculture led Agrihouse Foundation and her partners to rollout the maiden Women in Food and Agricultural Leadership Forum & Expo (WOFAGRIC) and Gold in the Soil in Ho, Volta Region.
In trademark fashion, the organizers combined advocacy and exposure to great effect by rallying key stakeholders who collectively set a lively agenda for increased support for women in agric.
In her opening address, at the event held from 12th _13th June 2019 Alberta Nana Akyaa Akosa, Executive Director of Agrihouse Foundation, called for affirmative action as a potent tool that will see women thrive.
“Practicable affirmative action is by far one of the surest ways of safeguarding the interest of women in agriculture.
Instead of intermittent interventions, a solid affirmative action roadmap will go a long way to ensure that concrete success is achieved in efforts to improve the lot of women who have committed themselves to working hard to feed the country through the noble art of farming.
Networks operating in rural areas, especially rural women’s organizations are crucial to the conception of development programs. These organizations must partner in crafting any policies for women farmers as experience has shown that contributions from such actors are often invaluable.

A number of other changes will strengthen women’s contributions to agricultural production and sustainability. These include support for investment in rural areas in order to improve women’s living and working conditions; giving priority to technological development policies targeting rural and farm women’s needs and recognizing their knowledge, skills and experience in the production of food and the conservation of biodiversity; and assessing the negative effects and risks of farming practices and technology, including pesticides on women’s health, and taking measures to reduce use and exposure. She touted.

Held under the theme: Women! Key partners in shaping Agriculture, the event paid tribute to the efforts and contribution of women, young female ‘agripreneurs’, female students and women with disabilities for their role towards ensuring food security, poverty alleviation, employment creation and ultimately helping the economy.
Buoyed by huge pre-vent publicity, the event transcended projected attendance of 500 by recording about 825 attendees. Participants drawn from Volta Region, Ashanti Region and the Northern Region, which included farmers, stakeholders and exhibitors, were educated on several topics by experts and facilitators in various agricultural fields. The event recognized, empowered and encouraged participants through empowerment sessions, exhibitions, and mentorship and training sessions.

 

Industry stalwarts, Madam Gifty Lamptey, CEO of Sidalco; Madam Dorothy Effa, AGRA, Madam Josephine Ecklu, Agribusiness Policy Advisor, Netherlands Embassy, all took turns to bare their thoughts on the importance of women in the agricultural sector, the need for them to be recognized and empowered and why it is paramount to encourage other women to take up agriculture.

 

In her address, Madam Lamptey said she believed that the economic success of the nation can be achieved if women are empowered to express their full capabilities. “We know that to develop with pride, Africa must feed itself. According to statistics, Africa’s food import bill stands at US $35 billion per year and is estimated to grow to US $110 billion per year by 2025. This has negative consequences on macroeconomic and fiscal stability. We must rise up quickly and unlock the full potential of our agribusiness to combat this trend, but of course, this cannot be achieved if women who constitute over 50% of our population are sidelined.”, she said.

Participants were noticeably thrilled by the experience and expressed their desire to be part of next year’s event.
The Volta Regional Minister, Dr. Archibald Yao Letsa expressed his gratitude to the organizers of the event. He noted that the region has made significant strides in the Agricultural sector and acknowledged the immense contribution of women to the growth of that sector in the region “I am happy to place on record the remarkable role women in the Volta and Oti Regions are playing in this enterprise” he said. He also stated that a total of 78,753 farmers participated in the Planting for Food and Jobs program (PFJ), of which 21,098 were women.”
The Minister in his speech pledged his support and that of the Ministry to the organizers of the event, and also expressed his joy at the initiative, stating that it came at a time when government was geared toward the production of abundant food which would lead to job creation and employment for generations yet unborn.

Assistant Director of Women in Agricultural Development (WIAD), Naa Oyoe Sackey, and the Chairman of National Farmers & Fishermen Award Winners’ Association of Ghana (NFFAWAG), Narh Korboe Nene Davies, both stressed on the fact that the contribution of women in the agricultural sector cannot be underestimated because they play a very important role from weeding, planting, harvesting, processing and marketing the agricultural produce, hence their efforts should be recognized and promoted and their works expanded.

CEO of Sidalco, Madam Gifty Lamptey; Managing Director, YARA Ghana Limited, Mr. Danquah Addo- Yobo; Irrigation Services Manager, Interplast, Mr. Haidar Malhas; and Head, Marketing and Communications, Agricultural development Bank (ADB), Mr. Solomon Adu Atefoe, sponsors of the event, gave brief remarks stating the importance of empowering women farmers, considering the increased emphasis on gender equality and women empowerment in all sectors. “Women farmers are paid less than men and often lag behind in access to education, training technologies and mobility. They also work longer days than men, taking both paid and unpaid work into consideration. Much of their work remains unrecognized because it is not remunerated and confined to the domestic sphere. Ensuring effective participation and equal opportunities for all women in the Agricultural sector will enable women realize their undisputable and inseparable rights and equipping them with all the training and skills needed in succeeding in their industry. If women are given the opportunity to realize their full potential all stand to benefit” Mr Haidar Malhas said.

High commission of Canada to Ghana, a Development and Supporting Partner of the event, represented by its 1st Secretary, Marie Claude Harvey, expressed their pleasure at being a part of the initiative and hoped that the event would be the first of many to come. She also stated that “women are key agents of change” and hoped that they would be able to improve their entrepreneurial skills. “It is a pleasure for me to open this forum alongside the other organizing partners. By taking the time to look at the agriculture sector through a gender equality lens, we are confident that the different stakeholders present here will be able to identify opportunities to improve the agriculture sector productivity and promote growth that works for everyone in Ghana.”

The event also included an empowerment talk session: “Fire in my Heart; Grace in my Soul” from speakers like Madam Naa Oyoe Sackey, Mama Ayipe Ama III and Madam Gifty Lamptey, CEO of Sidalco, who empowered participants by sharing their stories on their road to success, challenges they faced, their drives and passions. This was followed by panel presentation and training sessions where participants were educated on topics like How to start and Manage an Agribusiness, Climate Smart Agriculture Approach and practices, Appropriate use of Agrochemicals and Products, financial Management and the essence of marketing and branding in Agribusiness, by experts.

Day-one of the events climaxed after a job creation segment by Ligaya Diaz, Chief of Party for the Assist in the management of Poultry and Layer Industries with feed improvements and efficiency strategies in Ghana (AMPLIFIES) and Mr Kofi Vinyo. Madam Ligaya, demonstrated basic value addition techniques that women and young girls can employ, so that they can become self-sufficient entrepreneurs, whilst Mr. Vinyo, CEO of Kofi Vinyo and Company Limited, a timber processing firm trained the participants on the processing of tiger nut powder. The training session is to help participants provide jobs and also assist them on carving a niche for themselves in agribusiness.

Day-two featured a mentorship program where participants were split into five groups, with an expert leading the dialogue on the facilitation between various actors in the agribusiness space among women to help build capacity of women farmers, entrepreneurs and women in agriculture. Representatives from Agrislove- Elorm Goh; Interplast- Elizabeth Owusu Gyebi; Yara- Barbara Humphrey Ackumey; Rockland- Edith Akosa Wheatland; OAK Foundation- Portia Agyei Yeboah; USDA AMPLIFIES- Comfort Acheampong, all headed the groups.
Mr. Nutsukpo Delali, Agric Director, Department of Agriculture, Ministry of Food and Agriculture, also made a presentation on Climate Smart Agriculture Approach and Practices (Gender & Climate Smart Agriculture), where he guided participants on actions, they need to perform in order to transform the agricultural systems to effectively support development and ensure food security.

The highlight of the event was the award presentation, where various deserving women farmers were awarded for their astounding contributions to the growth of agriculture in their community and the country.
The Gold in the Soil awards got over 80 nominations in all categories; nominees were subsequently shortlisted after the organizing committee visited each of their farms. Out of the shortlisted nominees, winners were selected through a scrutinized process by a group of mentors.

The Gold In The Soil Award Recipients include: Eunice Nuku – She Innovates award; Gladys Doe – Passion for the Farm award; Mama Ayipe – Royal Agro award; Edith Akosa Wheatland – Change Champion 1; Benedicta Tamakloe – Change Champion 2; Janet Adade – Princess Carla award; Beatrice Agbonu – Super Woman award; Canadian High Commission – Development Partner award; Theresa Ama Agbovi – Diamond in the Rough award; Eva Atsisogbe – Feed to Food award; Rosalin Delali – Lady of the Region Export award; Mary Donor – Star in Ag award and the most coveted Gold in the soil award, won by Madam Connie Nyador.
The event is expected to move to a different region every year, to offer women farmers in the country an equal chance to be recognized and empowered.

The two-day event was sponsored by Agricultural Development Bank (ADB), YARA Ghana, Interplast and Sidalco in partnership with the Canadian High Commission to Ghana, Women in Agricultural Development (WIAD), National Farmers & Fishermen Award Winners’ Association and AGRA, and International partners Brazilian Embassy, Embassy of Israel, USAID’s ADVANCE PROJECT, Netherlands Embassy and USAD AMPLIFIES.

Organizing partners included, Women in Agricultural Development (WIAD), National Farmers & Fishermen Award Winners’ Association and Alliance for Green revolution for Africa (AGRA), and International partners Brazilian Embassy, Embassy of Israel, USAID’s ADVANCE PROJECT, Netherlands Embassy and USAD AMPLIFIES.