The role of training, mentorship, and knowledge sharing among agriculturists is integral. These efforts lead to holistic mental and technical capacity building among actors, leading to higher productivity within the agric value chain. The thoughts were well-articulated by the West Africa Regional Director of YARA, Mr. Danquah Addo-Yobo, in a welcome message recently delivered on his behalf, at the  3rd Women in Food and Agricultural Leadership Training Forum (WOFAGRIC) and the Gold in the Soil Awards, organized by Agrihouse Foundation in Bolgatanga in the Upper East Region.

Exploring the theme of the 2-day event, “Surviving, Thriving and Making Waves beyond the Pandemic,” the regional director said that for women in agriculture to survive, thrive and make waves beyond the pandemic in the agricultural sector, deliberate policy actions needed to be in place to mitigate the challenges they face. He was therefore glad that, the annual event did not only seek to celebrate agri-women who were shining exceptionally in their roles, but also, the event served as a training and mentoring platform that facilitated knowledge sharing, enabling the women to build on their understanding within the agric sector.

This year, as part of the capacity building training and mentoring sessions, the agric-women were taken through topics such as:- How Agri-women can make the most out of the pandemic; how to keep proper accounting and records in farming and co-operative management/ funding opportunities, and how to access loans and funding.

Others included:- best practices and skills to adopt in farm management; and simple steps to develop a business plan; practical ways of overcoming challenges among agribusiness women; how to improve and increase markets, through digital and technological innovation; how women agribusinesses can be grown and connected to a world of opportunities. The rest are:- Farming for Export, Promotion and Development; enhancing access to finance and promoting quality standards within agricultural spaces.

He was particularly pleased that YARA representatives were selected to share knowledge on, “Best Practices and Skills to adopt in Farm Management,” considering the emphasis Yara places on sharing knowledge and building capacity within the agricultural sector. “Yara grows knowledge to responsibly feed the world and protect the planet, to fulfill our vision of a collaborative society, a world without hunger and a planet respected,” he stressed.

To meet these commitments, he said Yara have taken the lead in developing digital farming tools for precision farming and work closely with partners throughout the whole food value chain to develop more climate-friendly crop nutrition solutions. In addition, the globe company has committed to working towards sustainable mineral fertilizer production; fostering an open culture of diversity and inclusion within its organization. Such efforts promote the safety and integrity of employees, contractors, business partners, and society.

Mr. Addo-Yobo therefore urge the women to participate actively in the sessions; ask questions and even make suggestions. This, he said, would help them put the knowledge gained into practice and share with others who did not have an opportunity to be at the event. He further used the opportunity to encourage the women to keep working hard and scaling up their efforts. He said, even in the mist of the COVID-19 Pandemic, women farmers in the country played major roles in ensuring that the country’s agricultural sector saw a healthy growth of 2.5 percent, according the Ghana Statistical Service (GSS). “However, women continue to face challenges such as, “gender-based disparities in terms of access to resources and services, influencing decision-making, unfair land tenure systems and unbalanced economic opportunities,” he added.

He said agencies like Women in Agriculture and Ministry of Food and Agriculture must work to ensure equal access to capital, capacity building and other essential linkages in the sector.  Touching on YARA’S association with WOFAGRIC & Gold in the Soil Awards, he said YARA recognizes the crucial roles women play in various areas of the agricultural value chain, even as they continue to take responsibility for their family’s welfare, health, education, food and nutrition. He said Yara Ghana has been supportive of the event from the onset and will continue to be a part of WOFAGRIC and Gold in the Soil Awards because the events seek to improve the capacities and highlight the efforts of our gallant women farmers.

Third WOFAGRIC and Gold in the Soil Awards

This year, the 2-days event helped to explore ways to enhance women’s resilience and recovery from the effects of the pandemic, while enabling women in agribusiness to develop, improve and sustain new agricultural practices, as well as develop their business within this pandemic era and beyond.  Appropriately, the theme was, “Surviving, Thriving and Making Waves beyond the Pandemic.”

The second part of the event, the ‘Gold in the Soil Awards,’ is an awards scheme dedicated to strengthening and projecting a paradigm shift of celebrating women farmers, processors, marketers and women who are playing a role within the agricultural value chain, including women into Transportation, packaging, Technology, input dealers, etc. The Awards moves from Region to Region, yearly, to search for these extraordinary women who contribute significantly to putting food on our tables daily. Their stories are shared in a documentary series produced by Agrihouse Foundation. This year, the Awards Scheme received 131 nominations from both Upper East and Upper West Region; the first time nominations were opened in such a way, “to allow more women from culturally diverse backgrounds an opportunity to participate in the awards scheme,” the Executive Director of Agrihouse Foundation, Ms. Alberta Nana Akyaa Akosa, noted.

During the assessments and breakdown of entries received, the Foundation realised that 50% of the entries were from women farmers, farming between 10-65 acres of maize, yam, groundnut, soya beans, vegetables, Bambara beans, millet and sorghum. 32% of the women were largely into Processing, Packaging and marketing of Shea, Neem, Moringa, Boabab, Dawada, groundnut, oils, etc. 15% were into distribution and marketing of Input (seeds, fertilizers, etc) and about 3% of these women were into Tractor and Equipment operating and hiring. Furthermore, the majority of women farmers who submitted entries were between ages 25-65years, and have been operating their businesses within a period of 2 to 40years, “This for us is a positive signal. It is great to know we have very young women in the Upper East and West Regions, who are taking Agric seriously and contributing to enhancing nutrition and changing livelihoods,” Ms. Akosa said.

At the end of the assessments and breakdown, out of 131 nomination, 45 women were shortlisted and documented on video telling their stories as agri-women. The number was further shortlisted to 14 agri-women who received the Gold in the Soil Awards.

Portia Wins the Ultimate Gold in the Soil Award

Madam Portia Asumda, was crowned the ultimate ‘Gold in the Soil Awards,’ Winner this year. The thirty-eight years old farmer hails from Zangeyire in the Upper East Region, and has been farming for the past eight years. She is into shea-processing and crop production, and rearing of livestock. In crop production, she farms twenty acres of land, of which she uses ten acres for maize production; two acres for Guinea corn; three acres for groundnut; and two acres for rice. She rears about two hundreds ruminants; one hundred and twenty cows; and five hundred guinea fowls. She works with about two thousand agri-women across upper-east, west and the Tansi district. Under her leadership and coordination, they are able to process their sheabutter, which for some years now; they have had opportunity to start exporting to countries like the USA and Canada. They export up to forty tonnes of sheabutter.

Touching on challenges, she said transportation and the absence of a farm tractor makes it difficult for them to transport their harvest and plough their farmlands. “When we hire a tractor to come and plough our land, one plot is one hundred and fifty Ghana cedis. So ploughing all twenty acres is very expensive and is a problem,” she stated.

She said a “Motor King,” the tricycle they use to transport food from the farm would considerably solves their transportation challenges, and therefore pleaded with Agrihouse Foundation and sponsors to provide the farm with one. Emerging as the ultimate Gold in the Soil Award winner, Portia Asumda, took home a brand new tricycle to aid with transportation on her farm, just like she requested for. She was awarded a Gold in the Soil Award plague and other incentives, including, bottles of fertilizer provided by Yara Ghana, an irrigation pump, provided and to be installed on her farm by Interplast. She received a certificate of honor, a full piece of cloth and branded T-shirts from sponsors. The rest of the winners in the various categories are as follows:

The Passion for Farm Award— Portia Gban, from Upper West Region. The award recognizes an individual woman who is excited and passionately about agribusiness and contributing to the growth of her community, creating jobs, mentoring girls in the community and supporting them to take up agric, either small scale and large scale.

She Innovates Award— Gafaratu Fuseini, from Upper East Region. This award goes to a woman who has or is working with the power of innovation and adding value to her agro business. She Identified a challenge within the community and the value chain and found a solution through innovation.

Climate Smart Women Project Award— Memuna Abdul Rahaman, from Upper West Region. This award provides recognition for the efforts of a group of women or a woman-led organization, implementing an outstanding project in agriculture by adopting a climate smart approach and practices that supports in the transformation, development and is sustainably increasing agricultural productivity in her community.

Outstanding Woman in Extension Services Award— Leuzumah Rashida, from Upper West Region. This award provides recognition to women, either in the public or private sector, contributing effortlessly through training, capacity building, advocacy, to encourage the adaptation of best practices by farmers, thereby contributing significantly to the empowerment and socio-economic development of the society and the country as a whole.

Super Woman Farmer Award— Alima Wahabu, from Upper East Region. This special category goes to a physically challenged woman, whose role, works and passion for agriculture, is contributing largely to community development, food security, poverty alleviation, job creation and economic growth in the Agric sector.

Royal Agro Award— Ayiesheitu Mahamadu Asaki, from Upper East Region. Through this award, we identify a traditional leader (Queen mother), who is into agriculture herself and her personal commitment to see women in agriculture in her community develop and thrive, is helping them in all ways possible through access to land, training, social impact programs and advocacy.

Diamond in the Rough Award— Saantuma Sala, from Upper West Region. This award goes to a generational role model, making waves at the background within her community, an unsung heroine, who has indeed mentored and made great strides for her family, her people and the community as a whole.

Feed to Foods Award— Genevive Akugu, from Upper East Region. This is to a woman with great determination and integrity who has continuously demonstrated a positive role in poultry and livestock and has an unwavering commitment to succeed in this sector.

Change Champion Award— Asieme Elsie Azelikumah, from Upper East Region. This category goes to the professional corporate woman, whose ongoing effort, passion for her job, contribution and dedication to her work in the agro space, is contributing significantly to corporate internal change, whiles making a national impact.

Development Partner Award—Canadian High Commission. This award recognizes the efforts of an International organization, whose works centres on agriculture and in particular, towards the development of women in the community, encouraging to adopt best practices, whiles adding value.

Lady of the Export Region Award— Anita Sutha, from Upper West Region. This category recognizes and rewards the region’s most successful and innovative woman exporter, with regards to the size of the business and the export sales.

Star Woman Agripreneur Award— Mavis Alahire Aboko, from Upper East region. This special recognition goes out to an outstanding agribusiness beginning young lady, in any field of agriculture. This young lady should be seen to be excelling (ie, efficiency in service delivery, income performance,) in her field and already a great role model, mentoring other young girls in her community.

She operates Award— Joy okrah, from Upper West Region. This Award recognises an exceptional female into operation management and maintenance of tractor services. She should be earning income from this trade and imparted her community with her skill.

Princess Carla Award— Hawawu Gbahara, from Upper West Region. This award recognizes the efforts of a dedicated woman, whose works and role affects communities positively; touching lives, mentoring, role modelling, advising, counselling and enhancing networks for other women, both young and old.

WOFAGRIC and Gold in the soil Awards, this year, was in partnership with Canadian High Commission, ABSA Ghana and YARA, INTERPLAST, OCP AFRICA, PEG AFRICA, LUMINANT ELECTRICALS AND RDF GHANA. Collaborating Institution included, the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA), Women in Agriculture Development (WIAD) and the National Farmers and Fishermen Award Winners Association (NFFAWAG).