An initiative to assist smallholder women farmers to be able to farm during the long dry season (October to mid-May) in some communities in the Upper West Region has taken off.
So far, 335 women have benefited from the initiative christened: ‘Water for Resilience Project’.
It is being implemented by the Centre for Indigenous Knowledge for Development (CIKOD), a non-governmental organisation focused on promoting sustainable agriculture.
It currently has 17 dry season vegetable gardens under cultivation.
The Deputy Executive Director of CIKOD, Mr Daniel Faabelangne Banuoku, said in an interview on April 18 that the project had supported nine women groups in eight communities in the Lawra Municipality and Nandom District.
He said all the gardens under the project had boreholes and hand-dug wells.
“We cannot just be providing them with water, so we decided to engage them in vegetable production during the long dry season. Most of them would have been down south, so in a way it is helping to curb female urban migration,” he said.
He said strategically, the farmers produced green pepper, chili and pumpkin.
“We want them to have good food to eat but we also want them to earn income so they produce the pepper for the market and the pumpkin for consumption at home so they can have green throughout the year,” he said.
Under the project, the gardens that started organic vegetable production in 2015 were in two communities in Kalsagri-Pavuu and Tanchara in the Lawra Municipality, and Brutu in the Nandom District.
The women are producing the vegetables together in a chain-link fenced area with galvanised round pipes.
To demonstrate their commitment to earning a living, they helped with the fencing and prepared the land by themselves, while CIKOD provided garden kits such as watering
cans, trowel, shovel, spade, rake, wheelbarrow and garden toolbox.
They also put up their own place of convenience at the site to meet the criteria to qualify for organic certification to produce healthy vegetables.
The Agroecology and Ecological WASH Manager of CIKOD, Mr Mathias Mwinlabagna Jatoe, said the project to provide water for productive use and sanitation for the communities was initiated as way to provide women in the area with some source of livelihood activity during the long dry season.
“They cultivate their food crops during the main farming season after which they are left idle during the dry season. So the project targeted vulnerable women (widows with children etc.) in these communities to produce vegetables for consumption and for sale to supplement their needs, and to make up for the shortfall,” he said.
He said schools within the communities were included in the project and eight school gardens had been fenced and had started producing vegetables.
“These women are trained on how to manage pests and diseases. Their initial produce were sold to some hospitality businesses in the region. Marketing is an issue CIKOD is dealing with,” he stated.
He said dry season farming had the potential to improve the income and nutrition of smallholder farmers, especially women.
“The government should replicate such interventions for more smallholder women farmers and also be ready to support them with access to markets for their produce,” he added.