THE Executive Director of the Development Action Association (DAA), a smallholder farmer organisation, Mrs Lydia Sasu, has said that empowering rural women in the agriculture sector is crucial if Ghana wants to improve livelihoods and build resilient food systems.
She said currently there was no doubt that resilience of livelihoods and food systems depended on support to community groups to build capacities on production and processing of locally grown, safe and nutritious foods.
“This requires rural women’s empowerment in the agricultural sector and providing them with opportunities to thrive and build prosperous societies,” she stated during the interactive dialogue on “Targeting Hunger: South- South and Triangular cooperation for Transforming Agriculture” at the 74th UN General Assembly, in New York, USA.
A media release issued by DAA in Accra quoted Mrs Sasu as saying that existing policy frameworks did not adequately recognise the multiple roles that women farmers performed as producers, distributors and caregivers, and the challenges they faced and the great economic and social potential they represented.
“In the current development policy framework women’s potential is underutilised, their role in policy formulation remains ambiguous at best, with a significant gap in access to agricultural resources and rewards. Rural women farmers need to be involved at all levels to make their voices heard,” she said.
Women in agric
Mrs Sasu noted that in Ghana, women contributed largely to the agriculture sector and were responsible for 70 per cent of food crop production but reap minimal benefits from investments in the sector.
She said 52 per cent of the agricultural workforce were women with limited capacity to access and adopt improved agricultural technologies, thus most of them were poor.
In addition, she said 30 per cent of the country’s households were female-headed, with low income levels that made them vulnerable to economic shocks.
"Rural women farmers need to be involved at all levels to make their voices heard"
Mrs Sasu noted that rural women were often illiterate and unaware of policies that concerned them.
Therefore, any attempt to develop policy to help them can be done through the empowerment of associations and advocacy, so they can interact with the government to discuss their needs.
“For instance, we successfully advocated the Fisheries Law to be translated into local languages to ensure its equitable enforcement. Also, given the lack of appropriate technologies, women perform labour-intensive tasks with the use of outdated traditional farming tools. Modernised agriculture to reduce their work burden is essential,” she said.
South-South and Triangular cooperation in agriculture
To address the intertwined issues of poverty and hunger globally, ‘South-South and Triangular Cooperation in Agriculture’ has been identified to play a key role.
It can be leveraged to galvanise economic activity, create employment, improve incomes, spur innovation and stimulate self-reliance and entrepreneurship in developing countries, which are all essential ingredients for overcoming hunger in a sustainable manner.
A starting point can be to facilitate knowledge sharing in support of smallholders and family farmers, who are the backbone of the agriculture sector in developing countries but remain vulnerable to hunger and malnutrition.
This will also enable us to focus, inter alia, on women, who make up a substantial portion of agriculture labour force in small-scale and subsistence farming.
The policy interventions toward smallholders may concentrate on the following four areas: access and technical support, especially by facilitating learning to improve agricultural technologies and practices, including agro-ecological practices; access to agriculture finance and risk mitigation, including protection against price fluctuations, weather risk; and Market access and storage facilities among others.
It champions the well-being of rural farmers, especially women, to reduce poverty by empowering group members to be self-reliant and to participate fully in their own development.
In terms of enhancing local capacities, rural women were trained through the intervention of the DAA on what inputs should be used, and to find viable solutions to store and market their products.
These women received training to enhance their financial literacy and collectively leveraged access to credit facilities.
The DAA also extensively trained rural women to improve local pig production, for which one of the rural women won a national Best Farmer award. Now young adults and farmers in the area see an opportunity in farming, and positive effects are also evident on children’s well-being.