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Wed, Jun

SHINE ON, LADY FARMER: WOFAGRIC 2019 IS POISED TO REVERSE THE “UNSUNG HERO STATUS” OF WOMEN IN AGRICULTURE

Business & Economy

A recent Ghana News Agency report captured a story of the precarious conditions under which women work in agriculture.

A recent Ghana News Agency report captured a story of the precarious conditions under which women work in agriculture.

“Fear gripped the Napila community in the Bimbilla District of the Northern Region when news broke of a couple who went to the farm and kept their sleeping baby under a neem tree while they worked, but could not find the child upon their return,” the story said.

“It has been three months since the incident and the couple’s hopes of ever finding their baby are diminishing by the day. Leaving a child in the shade under a tree to enable a mother to work on a farm is a common practice in that community but that has ceased since the incident.”

A crucial role

This is just one of many challenges facing women in our rural areas. And yet, despite the difficulties, women have continually shone bright in the local agricultural sector. Indeed, women make up of over half of Ghana’s agricultural workforce and produce 70 per cent of the country’s food stock, according to a SEND-Ghana study.

It is not uncommon to see a woman with her baby strapped to her back, painstakingly tending her farm. Ninety-five per cent of women in rural areas are involved in agro-processing and 85 per cent in food distribution. Their contributions vary widely, depending on the particular role or the crop under cultivation.

Besides agricultural activities, female smallholders are heavily engaged in domestic and reproductive tasks which are crucial to maintaining communities. However, these are usually regarded as an extension of household duties, and hence remain hidden economically.

The role of female smallholders in food production makes many of them repositories of knowledge of the cultivation, processing and preservation of nutritious and locally adapted crop varieties. But at the same time, climate change and environmental degradation are jeopardising access to land, particularly for women smallholder farmers.

It is this enduring narrative that has inspired the push by Agrihouse Foundation and supporting partners to reverse women in agriculture’s “unsung hero” status. They are now poised to roll out the maiden edition of the Women in Food and Agricultural Leadership Forum and Expo (WOFAGRIC 2019) and Gold in the Soil Awards next month (June 12-13) at the Chances Hotel in Ho, Volta Region.

Projecting facts

Agrihouse Foundation says the project concept focuses on equipping women in the industry with the capacity to improve output. It will also assess how women can rightfully take their place and tap in to opportunities in agriculture.

While the recent emphasis on women in agriculture has focused largely on the Northern Region, the organisers see other parts of Ghana, including Volta, as “unsung heroes” despite the impact of their industrious women in the agricultural value chain.

They are confident that WOFAGRIC and the Gold in the Soil Awards will pay a critical role in projecting women in agriculture in every region where the organisation works.

The objective is to create a sustainable platform for women in agriculture to have a voice, share ideas, train and empower each other, discuss matters pertinent to women, and showcase work, products and services by women in agriculture. The event will focus on female smallholders, achievers and beginner agribusinesses.

Empowerment to export

Activities lined up for the maiden edition of the forum include:
⦁ empowerment workshops
⦁ focused training for women seeking to venture into agriculture
⦁ leadership training
⦁ mentorship and guidance dialogue
⦁ panel discussions on issues affecting women in agribusiness
⦁ documentary screening
⦁ Gold in the Soil Awards ceremony.

Discussions will cover:
1. how to start and manage production;
2. the essence of marketing and branding;
3. how women can use farming and agribusiness to meet Ghana’s economic, social and environmental challenges;
4. climate-smart approaches;
5. farming for export, promotion and development.

Superwoman

WOFAGRIC has three main segments:
a) Exhibition on production, value-added products, improved technology and everything agriculture
This will bring together all actors with potential to stimulate increased staple crop productivity among smallholder farmers, including women. It will focus on innovation, bringing together buyers and sellers of the latest technology, products and services to make your business successful.

b) WOFAGRIC Mentorship Dialogue, workshops and conference
This will take place alongside the exhibition to build capacity among women farmers, entrepreneurs and women in agriculture. It will provide a platform to exchange best practice and share valuable lessons learned in overcoming challenges. It also seeks to facilitate dialogue between female actors in agribusiness.

c) The WOFAGRIC (Gold in the Soil) Awards
This will recognise and reward outstanding women in agriculture. A documentary on the impact of these women will be produced and aired on TV and social media platforms to showcase and celebrate their work.

There will be 14 categories of award:

1. Passion for the Farm: This recognises those who have achieved excellence in their field or made an extraordinary contribution to agribusiness. It targets deserving women who are farming (at production level) in their own right or in a partnership. They should have made an essential contribution/s to the success and profitability of the farm, dovetailing into job creation and improving the economy.

2. She-innovates: Looks out for a woman who has assessed a community in relation to farming, identified challenges, seen opportunity in diversification and made a success story out of that business idea by adding value through innovation or invention.

3. Climate-Smart Women: This will provide recognition for the efforts of a group of women or woman-led organisation implementing an outstanding project by adopting climate-smart practices which support sustainable increases in productivity for the community. The project must be solving a real challenge and creating tangible results.

4. Woman in Extension Services: Recognises a woman contributing selflessly through training, capacity-building and advocacy to encourage farmers’ adoption of best practice, thereby contributing significantly to social/economic empowerment and development.

5. The Super Woman Award: This special category is for a physically challenged woman whose work and passion for agriculture are contributing significantly to community development, food security, poverty alleviation, job creation and economic growth.

6. Star in Agriculture (Woman Agripreneur): This special recognition goes to a young woman who has made great achievements in agribusiness, inspiring her community and putting Ghana on the map.

7. Royal Agro: We identify a traditional leader (queen mother) who engages in agriculture in her own right and whose commitment to see women in her community thrive is helping them, through access to land, training, social impact programmes and advocacy.

8. Diamond in the Rough: This will unearth a promising woman, leading the agro space in her own way, though not seen or recognised, but with the potential to shine in agriculture/agribusiness.

9. Feed to Food Livestock, Poultry and Fisheries Award: This is for a woman with determination and integrity who has continuously played a positive role in livestock, poultry or fisheries and has an unwavering commitment to succeed. The person should have made a series of contributions with long-lasting benefit to the sector.

10. The Change Champion: This category goes to a professional whose ongoing effort, passion for her job, contribution and dedication to work in the agro space are contributing significantly to corporate internal change while making a national impact.

11. Lady of the Region Export Award: This category recognises the region’s most successful and innovative woman exporter, regardless of the size of business or export sales.

12. Development Partner Award: Acknowledges efforts by an international and local organisation whose work is geared towards encouraging women in the community to adopt best practice while adding value.

13. Princess Carla Award: To reward a dedicated woman who employs the highest standards in her agribusiness and who, in her on way, engages, inspires and trains other women to take up agriculture as a business and use best practice to enhance productivity.

14. Gold in the Soil Award: This ‒ the highest WOFAGRIC accolade ‒ acknowledges the exceptional achievements of a woman producing along the entire value chain. It will also measure and recognise the impact of her establishment on her community.

The event is expected to move to a different region every year so that all women can leverage the platform. It is a collaboration between Agrihouse Foundation, Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Women in Food and Agriculture Development (WIAD), National Farmers and Fishermen Award-Winners’ Association and the Volta Regional Co-ordinating Council.

WOFAGRIC 2019 and Gold in the Soil Awards are sponsored by Agricultural Development Bank, Yara Ghana Ltd and Interplast.

Agrihouse’s media partners include the Daily Statesman, AgricinGhana, Goldstreet Business and Ghanaweb

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