The recent launch of the 3rd Women in Food and Agriculture Leadership Training Forum & The Gold in the Soil Awards, brought together guests and dignitaries, who like Agrihouse Foundation, have the agricultural sector at heart, and want to see it flourish in growth and productivity. They included, Nana Hemaa Adowa Awinor, who served as Chairperson for the event; Madam Fatima Alimohammed, Agribusiness Chairperson of Association of Ghana Industries, who was the guest speaker.

Organizing partners and sponsor organizations, were made up of the Canadian high Commission, represented by Deputy Director of Operations at Stephanie Brunet; Mrs. Grace Amin-Yeboah, head of Business Banking at ABSA; Mr. Addo Danquah-Yobo, West-Africa Regional Director of YARA Ghana. Others included, personalities from Women in Agriculture Development (WIAD); the Department of Policy Planning Monitoring & Evaluation, both under the Ministry of Food and Agriculture; and the National Farmers and Fishermen Award Winners Association of Ghana (NFFAWAG).

The day also brought together a number of Queen Mothers and Agri-women from Women’s Small Livestock Breeders Association, as well as, Women in Poultry Value Chain; Yonkodo Farmers Group; Mrs. Mabel Kudzo, 2nd National Best Farmer in 2017; Madam Evelyn Aditsey, Director of at ACDI/VOCA, and Agrihouse Foundation, Gold in the Soil Award Nominees; Madam Cecelia Akoka, Cattle, Oranges, Plantain and Yam Farmer from Nkwaakwa District; Madam Yaa Kesewa, Cassava and Maize Farmer, from Ofoase District; Madam Nana Pomaa, Rabbit and Grasscutter Farmer, from Morso District; and Madam Ramatu Amadu, Pepper and maize Farmer, from Nkwaakwa District.

Most importantly, the launch of the 3rd WOFAGRIC & Gold in the Soil Awards gave the women an uninterrupted platform to share their impact stories through their efforts in the agricultural sector; highlighting challenges, but also how they continue to forge forward.

Agri-Women Stories & Challenges

Madam Rebecca Aboagye of Yonkodo Farmers Group revealed that the covid-19 period has been very challenging for the about 30 thousand women farmers she works, which concerns like access to transport, working capital, ready market, post-harvest losses and farming machinery and equipment being on top of their list. But their love for farming, specifically has kept them going and has been their biggest motivation. She noted that access to funds will solve much of their challenges because they were a dedicated and hardworking group of women farmers who are ready to make good use of the support they receive. But presently, the group had little support, and even in spite of their challenges, they are not ready to give up on agriculture— because, beyond striving to find market for their crops, they also donate to the prisons, charity home and families in need in their communities, which is a good thing.

Agrihouse Foundation, Madam Rebecca Aboagye noted, is the only organization that continues to stand with them, and therefore thanked the organization for recently organizing the Agri-Woman Market Place; a directly marketplace event which helped her and a number of colleagues sell of much of their produces, “But we need money, government support; farm machines, and wellington boots for our farming activities,” she pleaded, “Because of the pandemic we lost about 360 archers of rice; 160 archers of cabbage and carrots; 260 archers of plantains. We have recently started planting about 30,000 archers of food crops, and we need help to continue working” she bemoaned.

Also stressing on the need for funding for women in agric, Mrs. Mabel Kodzo was a clear example of an agric-woman who will do so much when she receives maximum financial backing for her efforts. The 2nd National Best Farmer in 2017, noted that, even as a child psychologist, farming was a big passion of hers; so, she later in her career, she went back to school to study agronomy, which helped her to start cultivating her farm in the Oti Region. Mrs. Mabel Kodzo is a proud owner of about 2,230 archers of farmland; about 1000 archers being brown rice, and the rest, other food crops. She works with 3,000 women, in 13 districts of the oti region. Touching on her experiences with trying to access funds for her farming projects, she said until the pandemic, she was trying on her own, but within this short period, she has suffered a number of losses that caused her to lose money, “to start with, the rains did not come early, and I also started feeling sick,” she revealed, “The doctor stopped me from going into the farm. For a while I didn’t know how to overcome this situation, because the women I worked with looked up to me and most of them were becoming very afraid to go back to work of the farm as well because of covid-19” she explained.

When her husband stepped in to help her manage the farm and her health was starting to get better, she finally thought the worst had passed. But unfortunately, that wasn’t the case, “Just when we were ready to harvest our 1000 archers of rice, 3000 cows belonging to Fulani herdsmen intruded our farmers and destroyed our rice crops,” Mrs. Kodzo revealed. As a result of these huge losses, she also now has to depend on bank support when prior to the pandemic it wasn’t the case, “the banks make all kinds of promises and assurances in the media to poultry farmers, but ones you get there, it’s a different story. They are not willing to lend to you because they know the risks associated with poultry farming” she said. Presently, even though, according to her, she’s being able to pick up again in the areas of poultry and animal husbandry, and hopes to go back to rice production soon, that will require financial support which she currently doesn’t have, “I am helping a lot of the young ladies stay on the farms in oti region. I don’t want this setback to be the reason any of them will migrate to Accra to become Kayayei. We need help” she said.

Madam Gafaratu Fusseini, CEO of Queen Gaf Enterprise, who came from Tamale in the Northern region to participate in the event, noted that, a few months into the pandemic, she realized that the public was more focused on buying sanitizing products like hand sanitizers, paper towels, and t-rolls. Thus, she had to quickly adjusted her business activities to align with the times. She went into the production of sanitizing products, after making enquiries from the Food and Drugs Authority. Producing sanitizing products has been quite successful, she said during the session. She was able to depend on some plants like allo vera to help in the production of her sanitizing products. She has since gone back to crop production, but because of her innovative thinking in these times, she now has an added business, and was thankful to Agrihouse for creating the Agri-Woman platform that helps agri-women like her showcase their services and products.

Agri-Interventions for Women Farmers

For her part, Madam Evelyn Aditsey, of the United States Department of Agriculture, Ghana Poultry Project, noted that the spread of covid-19 took many of their beneficiaries by surprise, and as quickly as possible, the organization had to find alternative ways to continue engaging with them, in line with their activities and program, “we resorted to a horizontal kind of assistance, where we conduct our trainings through zoom, and other online platforms,” she said. But unfortunately, not all their beneficiaries are conversant with using electronic media, so that has been one of their challenges. She also revealed that within the agric value chain, animal farmers have been affected most by the covid-19 pandemic. Thus, regarding funding, the organization secured some financial support for their beneficiaries, to help them get back to work. She was happy to state that, even with all the challenges of the period, the agri-women made judiciously use of the funds, and have been able to pay back their loans.

In her presentation, which happened after listening to the women farmers deliberate on their challenges in accessing funds towards their agricultural projects, the Head of Business Banking at ABSA Ghana, Mrs. Grace Amin Yeboah, noted that, it was time for Corporate Ghana to step when it comes to funding agricultural initiatives in the country, even though the agric sector is frost with challenges, “but where there are challenges, we need to find alternative ways of dealing,” she said. She said banks can come together with agricultural institutions to create different structures and interventions that help agricultural initiatives to grow in the country. She noted that such collaborations have a high chance of succeeding because women largely pay their banks loans, and Agrihouse Foundation, through WOFAGRIC is shedding light on small scale farmers, who are mostly women— but according to research contributes up to about 80 percent of all agricultural produces grown in the country, “so what can we begin to do differently to fashion solutions for our our women farmers?” she asked. According to her, ABSA Ghana has been working on a number of solutions in this regard, “we have created a women’s solution called EMERGE; a banking solution that looks at the totality of the woman agripreneurs need. The whole idea is to bridge the financial gab between women led and men led SME’s.”

She said this solution by ABSA Ghana is looking at how to facilitate business growth for women, to increase employment and reduce poverty, in line with MDG number 5, which is to empower women and achieve gender quality. The solution also creates developmental and networking opportunities for business women, access to market and discount on banking facilities, free financial and business advisory services, international travelling opportunities and organizing coding bootcamps for children of women-farmers.

She noted that, in order for agri-women to fully enjoy the benefits of this solution, they must ensure they are practicing best business practices such as proper bookkeeping, “We have also partnered with the Mastercard Foundation to actually provide financial support, and the plan is to lend out a hundred million dollars, equivalent in cedis, over the next five years. We hope to impact at least 5000 SME’s,” she revealed, emphasizing that, Undoubtedly, financial interventions like this will help agri-women groups like Women’s Small Livestock Breeders, Women in Poultry Value Chain, Yonkodo farmers Group, and the many more women agripreneurs who were present at the launch.

On his part, the West-Africa Regional Director of Yara Ghana, Mr. Addo Danquah-Yobo, said Yara Ghana is also well placed to contribute significantly to the issues about fertilizer supply for farmers in the country, with emphasis on women farmers, considering the climate and environmentally smart nutrition solutions the organization provides, as well as the several digital offerings that it will be rolling out soon to support small holder farmers to be more productive, profitable and resilient.

He said, now more than ever, there is a need to rethink and find sustainable approaches to doing business during and beyond COVID-19. He therefore praised Agrihouse for the theme for WOFAGRIC, which he said was very appropriate, “Women in Agric: Surviving, Thriving, and Making Waves beyond the Pandemic.”

He said Yara globally is also engaging partners in the Food Chain to ensure that everyone everywhere has enough good-quality food to lead a healthy life by improving the productivity and incomes of small-scale farmers by promoting equal access to land, technology and markets, sustainable food production systems and resilient agricultural practices as part of the UN SDG Goal 2.

Mr. Addo Danquah-Yobo therefore urged the agri-women to set high ambitions and targets for themselves, and work at meeting them. He said it is not enough to be a woman farmer, and even though the COVId-19 has intensified a lot of challenges women face in the sector, it has also inspired some new opportunities. He therefore encouraged the women to focus more on the new opportunities and use this COVID-19 period to build resilience that will improve their activities in the long term.

He said corporate Ghana must also do more for women farmers to ensure gender equality in the sector. He therefore used the opportunity to commend the women for their hard throughout the years and praised Agrihoiuse Foundation for pushing a platform like WOFAGRIC & Gold in the Soil Award, that continues to celebrate, educate, train and highlight the challenges of women in the agric sector. He said YARA Ghana, like Agrihouse Foundation is committed to the development and achievements of women, thus, YARA Ghana will continue to support WOFAGRIC & Gold in the Soil Awards for many years.

“Yara Ghana is passionate about women achievers; our human resource manager for West African is a woman; our best distributor is a woman, one of our best field agronomists is a woman, based in northern Ghana,” he noted, “Yara Ghana is looking forward to the day when the national best farmer, best exporter, best processor, will be women farmers” he said.

Well-Wishes from Partners

In a speech read on his behalf, the Upper east Regional Director of Agriculture, Mr. Francis Ennor, of the total estimated farmer population in the region, 49% are women farmers.

He said the region has therefore in recent times, organized and strengthened women capacities in the areas of agribusiness and marketing, “the region organized a regional agribusiness partnership platform which brought together processors, aggregators, marketers, financial institutions, input dealers and services providers,” he outlined.

He thanked Foundation for choosing the Upper East Region to host this year’s two-days event, “the Upper East Region is more than prepared to for the project and would therefore accord it all the necessary technical support it desires to succeed” he assured.

For his part, the Regional Director of the Upper West Region, noted that empowering women farmers is the way to ending hunger and poverty.

He said, according to a FAO report, if 43 % of the agricultural labour force in developing countries were women and had the same access to resources as men farmers, this could increase production in developing countries by 20-30% and potentially reduce the number of hungry people in the world by 100 to 150 million people.

He therefore described WOFAGRIC & Gold in the Soil Awards as a laudable idea, and commended Agrihouse for pushing it, “when this is done, it will build life-long resilience to mitigate the effects of any pandemic occurrence on women farmers,” he said.

The Chairman of the National Farmers and Fishermen Award Winners Association (NFFAWAG), in his speech, praised the agri-women for working tirelessly throughout this period of COVID-19, feeding Ghanaians with fruits and vegetables that help to our immune systems as required in these times.

“it the midst of the challenges, COVID-19 has also brought out opportunities in the agricultural value chain, in areas of production, distribution, processing, sales and branding, which our distinguished women in agric are taking advantage of” he added. He said NFFAWAG is looking forward to a successful main event in June and thanked Agihouse Foundation for the opportunity to be part of it.

The Department of Policy Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, also in a speech, noted that because the Ministry is committed to public private partnerships, that is why in the past four years it has been engaging Agrihouse Foundation in all of its activities, “we see the practical and corroborative impacts the Foundation is making in the agric sector and we are very comfortable to call ourselves partners,” he said.

He said the two organizations have over the years been effectively collaborating in the planning and the execution of the National Farmers Day Celebration, “I can confidently say that we have been doing a great job and we look forward to more fruitful engagements in that area” he added.

He thanked Agrihouse for the opportunity to be part of the planning committee of WOFAGRIC and called for more support for the Foundation, “Let me use this opportunity to note how praise worthy it is that Canadian High Commission is standing with Agrihouse as a main organizing partner. On behalf of Agrihouse, I will call on other institutions to come on board to support the various interventional agri-projects the organization is championing,” he said.

The Beauty of WOFAGRIC & Gold in the Soil Awards 2021

The theme for this year’s 2-day event is ‘WOMEN IN AGRIC – SURVIVING, THRIVING & MAKING WAVES, BEYOND THE PANDEMIC’ and is scheduled to take place in June, in Bolgatanga, the Upper East Region of Ghana. According to the Executive Director of Agrihouse Foundation, Ms. Alberta Nana Akyaa Akosa, this year, Agrihouse is receiving nominations for the Gold in the Soil Awards, from both Upper East and Upper West Region, “this is the first time the Foundation is opening up nominations in such a way,” she said, “to allow more women from culturally diverse backgrounds an opportunity to participate in the awards scheme.

2019 & 202o Impacts of WOFAGRIC & Gold in the Soil Awards

Since 2019, WOFAGRIC has helped shape and build more career women in the field of agriculture in their various rural areas and communities, continuously being a source of women empowerment. In 2019, almost a quarter of the nominees for the Gold in the Soil Awards made entries into the National Best Farmers Award Scheme at district, regional and national levels with about 7 of them winning laurels at the district and regional levels whist 2 of them picked up awards at the National awards. In 2020, even though held under strict COVID-19 protocols at the end of the tw0-day event, 25 % of women who were not into agribusiness but attended the program had decided to start up their own agri-projects, as a result of the competence based training and soft skills, they had acquired; about 900 women were groomed to take up leadership roles and build their capacities, to drive them towards growth and expansion of their agribusinesses.

The Gold in the Soil Awards

The Gold in the Soil Awards seeks to recognize and celebrate pioneering women and trailblazers who push the boundaries along the agribusiness value chain, especially, in our communities, districts and regional levels, within and across the country. The awards is made up of 15 categories, including: Passion for the Farm Awards, She-Innovates Award, Climate-Smart Women Project Award, Outstanding Woman in Extension Services Award, The Super Woman Farmer Award, Star Woman Agripreneur Award (Woman Agripreneur Award), Royal Agro Award, Diamond in the Rough Award, Feed to Food Awards – (Poultry, Livestock & Fisheries), The Change Champion Award, Lady of The Region Export Award, Development Partner Award, Princess Carla Award, Gold in the Soil Award, and She-Operate s Award.