Stakeholder support is the pivot that upholds most industries. For the agric industry, this is no different.

The immense contribution of firms in and about the agric industry is a significant influence on the milestones chalked in recent years.

Through support for initiatives that are designed to improve the industry, some firms have earned the reputation for being pillars of support for Ghanaian agriculture.

At the second edition of the Women in Food and Agric Leadership Training Forum & Expo (WOFAGRIC 2020) held inKumasi from Thursday 6th to Friday 7th August, 2020under the theme: Transforming and Sustaining Women in Agriculture: The Role of Public, Private and Development Partners, the support of stakeholders was immense.

Backed by the partnership support of Absa Ghana and other sponsors, the two-day event projected the efforts and impact of women, young female ‘agripreneurs’, female students and women with disabilities for their role towards guaranteeing food security, poverty alleviation and job creation whiles building the capacity of participants.

The event equally focused on equipping agric-industry women with the capacity to improve production output while also assessing the impact women have in areas such as production, processing and marketing, policies, how farm related components of rural economy can contribute to income generation and employment and how women can annex the opportunities within the agric sector.

The premier bank Expressed support for the event in a message thus: “Absa Bank is pleased to be here today and most importantly, to be associated with the Woman in Food and Agriculture (WOFAGRIC) and Gold in the Soil Awards, aimed at bringing together influential women in agriculture to network.

We are excited that women who contribution greatly to the growth of agriculture in Ghana are being recognized. This programme provides a platform to highlight the achievements of women in agriculture and to build the capacity of the actors to improve their businesses significantly.

Absa has been in the country 100 years during which it has supported various industries within the economy. One of the areas that the bank focused on is agriculture by supporting agricultural projects.

Agribusiness is one of the sectors Absa Bank considers key to the growth of the bank in these times. Humans will always eat; both during and after Covid-19, food will continue to remain essential for our survival and economic growth. Our continent and the entire world will have to be fed. This means our partners in agribusiness will be counting on Absa to connect their dreams to financial resources and services in order to bring their possibility to life. We recognize that for women to lead in the development of agricultural value chains, it is important for them to understand the opportunities within the sector.

Absa’s ambition of making Africa proud has been reignited by the COVID pandemic and we can’t afford to let our stakeholders, especially business partners and shareholders down. Over the years, we have supported various programmes and projects in the agricultural value chain, and we keep exploring new opportunities to enable us do more.”

“The past four months has seen the Covid-19 pandemic disrupt business activities. Due to the closure of boarders, imports restrictions and exports have slowed down, thus creating challenges we did not anticipate. Despite these, there has been some bright spots. Local industries have risen to the occasion to venture into new areas thus growing their businesses. The request for local raw materials have increased creating business for local enterprises.

In 2018, Ghana imported approximately USD 14.9 Billion of various items. Commodities such as rice, sugar, wheat and poultry rice contributed over $1billion. The general slowdown in international trade creates opportunity for us to finance the local production of various commodities and we hope that you ready to go along with us.

Absa Bank is currently focusing on government priority Programs like the Planting for Food and Jobs, Rearing for Food and Jobs and Planting for Export and Rural Development to impact the economy. The Bank is particularly interested because these projects have direct impacts on smallholder farmers including women and young people.

Absa is establishing strong partnerships with development partners like IFAD, Mastercard Foundation and Rural Development Fund, to enable us reach out to

actors in the value chain. We are also focused on strengthening the capacities of smallholder farmers to help them increase their productivity and reduce postharvest losses to take advantage of the numerous opportunities arising during Covid-19. They have been linked to other actors like processors and buyers and financing is channeled through them to the smallholder farmers. This financial model strengthens food security and produces sufficient to feed the industries being established under the One District One Factory Programme.

It our hope that this year’s WOFAGRIC will indeed highlight the successes of women in Agriculture and encourage more women to venture into new opportunities in the value chains to increase their incomes. For you women who are already making strides in the various agricultural enterprises, we encourage you to continue pressing on to greater heights. We challenge you to compete with your male counterparts and we know you will shine.” The rousing statement featured in the events brochure concluded.

Despite their central importance to agriculture, which sees women produce a great chunk of our food, women farmers are sadly excluded from conversations that determine agricultural policies, while unfair laws and practices deprive them of their land, their rights, and their livelihoods. This motivated the support of Absa bank and other sponsors to plough resources and other logistical support for the event this year.

While emphasis on women in agriculture has largely focused on the Northern Region in recent years, the organizers have made a conscious rotation plan to have the event rolled out one region at a time. Having held the first edition in the Volta Region, this edition was a chance for the Ashanti Region to savour the impact of the event. The next edition slated for 2021 will be held in the Upper East Region, According to the organizers.

Absa Bank Ghana Limited is part of Absa Group Limited, an African financial services group that aims to be the pride of the continent. Absa Group Limited is listed on the JSE in South Africa and is one of Africa’s largest diversified financial services groups with a presence in 12 countries across the continent and around 42,000 employees.

The firm is committed to finding local solutions to uniquely local challenges and everything the bank does is focused on adding value. To this end, Absa offers its clients a range of retail, business, corporate and investment, and wealth management solutions.

William Nettey, Head of Agribusiness, Absa Bank took participants through a session dubbed:” Financing Your Agribusiness” at the event.

In the riveting session, Nettey delivered simple yet relevant tips on how to secure finance for agribusiness enterprises to improve capacity.

 He explained in his presentation that the banks involvement in the agric sector is operationally demonstrated through Term Loans (secured and unsecured STL/LTL), ESD (contract financing and invoice discounting), Trade Products (LCs, Guarantees, Overdrafts), Commercial Asset Financing, Project Financing, working with partners including risk mitigation companies – (GIRSAL, Ghana Exim, Rural Development Fund) and Collaboration with the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA)

Absa Ghana believes in possibility, in the actions of people who always find a way to get things done. It also believes in creating opportunities for all stakeholders, and to make their possibilities real although support for them   every step of the way. Over the past 6 years Absa revived lending to agricultural value chain of rice, maize and soya among others and under the USAID FINGAP Project which monitored lending by the bank. The bank was a clear leader among the banks in that Project.

Absa recognizes that the private sector is the mover of the economy and so the bank is deliberate in supporting agribusinesses through secured and unsecured facilities. We also collaborate with various stakeholders to provide the support that the private sector needs.

The banks seething commitment to agriculture was proclaimed earlier in the year when during the launch of the event, The Director of Business Banking, Absa Ghana, Grace Anim-Yeboah stated that: “We are introducing new strategies to help provide funding and support for women in the Agriculture sector to achieve more. As a bank, we believe in the significant value that agriculture presents to the nation and therefore look to support the initiative. The bank has over the years been supporting agribusinesses. With the transition into Absa Ghana, we are now better positioned to support SME agribusinesses especially women entrepreneurs. Products are being designed to meet the specific needs of agribusinesses. We want to make Agriculture great again and we can do it.”

In trademark fashion, organizers, Agrihouse Foundation combined advocacy and knowledge transfer to great effect by rallying key stakeholders who collectively set a lively agenda for increased support for women in agric.

A panel presentation on: Post Covid 19 and Beyond: “Assessing and understanding the challenges and opportunities for women in Agriculture” got the event on its way in the Ashanti Regional Capital, Kumasi while training sessions bothering on finance also addressed: “Identity – Access and Appraisal for obtaining credit or loan- Value Chain Optimizations”

 “How can women build long-term resilience in future crisis through sustainable mechanization and Technology?”, “Giving women farmers support to enhance their productivity and market the food they produce, through e-commerce channels”, “Effective ways for women in agriculture to increase their ability to produce food for their communities during Covid- 19 and beyond”, “How do we ensure that the primary drivers of the sector – the smallholder women farmers – are included and empowered, and their economic outcomes enhanced?” were some of the insightful  topics that helped bequeath  holistic knowledge to  participants.

The highlight of the event was an award presentation dubbed: Gold in the Soil Awards, where various deserving women farmers were recognized for their astounding contributions to the growth of agriculture in their community and the country at large.

The Gold in the soil award was spread across fifteen (15) categories that include; Passion for Farm Award, She Innovates Award, Super Woman Award, Women in Extension Services, Star woman Agripreneur Awards, Diamond in the Rough Awards, Feed to Food Award, She Operates Award, Change Champion Award, Royal Agro Award (Queen mothers), Lady of the Region Export Award, Climate Smart Women Project awards, “Princess Carla” Award, Development Partner Award and the most coveted, Gold in the Soil Award.

Activities for the two-day event included Gold in the Soil Award Viewing, a session dubbed: At the Table – Agri Power Women, an ‘Aspire to Be’ Mentorship Session, Training & Presentation on: Business opportunities for Women in Agribusiness, Competence Based / Soft Skills and Exhibitions.

Enthralling sessions dubbed: Gathering of the Royals Dialogue: Lead & Impact stories, Fire in My Heart; Grace in My Soul; Wave – Maker Talk, Gold in the Soil Documentary & Awards and Exhibitions complete the itinerary for the event.

Award nominees who clinched honours included: Passion for farm award- olivia Agyeiwaa (Plantain,pepper,yam,Maize,onions)

She innovates- Cecilia Anaba (Rice Cultivation and rice processing)

Outstanding Women in Extension – Francisca Asare Bediako (WIAD Director, Maize, cowpea, beans)

The Super woman Farmer Award- Yaa Kessewaa (Cocoa, plantain, cocoyam, cassava)

Diamond in the rough award- Ramatu Amadu (pepper,Maize,Okro)

Royal Agro Award- Nana Akua Nima Theresa (Cocoa,plantain)

Feed to foods Award – Akosua Tiwaah ( Poultry farmer)

Princess Carla Award- Rebbecca Aboagye ( Rice, Cocoa, plantain, Maize, yam, cassava)

The change Champion Award – Md. Portia Asumda ( Shea butter, Num oil, dawadawa and pabol rice)

Star Woman Agripreneur Award- Nana Pomaa Antepim ( Pig and rabbit rearing, Maize and plantain farming)

She operates- Joy Okrah (Soya bean, Maize, sorghum, sisamen and Fonio)

Climate Smart Women Project Award – Edith Akosa Wheatland (Poultry Farmer)

Development Partner Award- Canadian High Commission

Gold in the Soil Award- Cecilia Akoka (Maize, Pepper, plantain, tomatoes, cassava, yam, groundnut, Rice)

Lady of the region export- Nominees

Award recipients were drawn from all 43 districts in the Ashanti Region with Cecilia Akoka (Maize, Pepper, plantain, tomatoes, cassava, yam, groundnut, and Rice farmer) emerging the overall winner by clinching the coveted Gold in The Soil Award.

The initiative received sponsorship support from, The Embassy of Canada, Absa and Yara Ghana.

The partnership-support of Ministry of food and Agriculture (MOFA), Women in Agric Development (WIAD), and the National Farmers and Fishermen Award Winners Association of Ghana (NFFAWAG) was equally instrumental to the success of the initiative this year.