As we celebrate International Women’s Day (IWD), I doff my hat off to all women in Agriculture who have continuously overcome barriers and positioned themselves as key drivers of economic growth.
Marking the day with the theme, “Embracing Equity,” it has become necessary to advance gender equality by raising continuous awareness about discrimination and creating a platform for equal opportunities for both men and women.
Although the role of women in agriculture is undeniably important to the economic development of our country, many of them continue to face challenges such as lack of access to land for farming, lack of collateral to access financing, inadequate basic tools and processing equipment.
Some of these challenges are as a result of some misconceptions and one way of closing the gap would be to expose and discredit them.
Misconceptions about women in Agric - Women do not play significant roles in large- scale agriculture
There is a misconception that women engage only in small-scale agriculture and do not play a significant role in large-scale agriculture. Over the years, women are now seen to be more involved in the entire agricultural value chain, from farming to production to marketing of the final produce, thus the need for their contribution to the sector to receive the needed recognition to show that women have evolved from small-scale agriculture to large-scale farming just like their male counterparts. This will go a long way toward motivating more women to enter the industry.
Women are not a profitable consumer market
Because of the fight towards gender equality, companies within the various stages of the value chain have started engaging female farmers to provide them with input and resources to be at par with their male counterparts. As the fight towards gender parity continues to increase globally, we will begin to see a more prominent shift toward catering to women in agric.
Providing women with the necessary support in terms of the prerequisite skills for production, processing and marketing will serve as a way of ensuring equality in the agricultural sector, putting them at par with their male counterparts.
In the past, it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than it was for a woman in agric to get access to lands for farming. Although this is gradually changing, many women still face this challenge. To sustain the agricultural sector, it is imperative that women be granted land as easily as it is for men to access farmlands.
Knowledge they say is power. However, I believe that power lies in knowing how to apply knowledge. We have seen that in the fight for gender parity, there are plethora of seminars and workshops for women in Agric. But when it comes to hands on training where women can implement what has been taught in the seminars on the farm, women are found to be lacking in that regard. Opportunities such as hands-on practical training must be made available to enable female farmers to stay abreast of what needs to be done on the farm or in their various agribusinesses for wealth creation.
Female farmers find it difficult accessing funding because of lack of collateral. When a woman wants to start or expand her Agribusiness, the chances of securing a loan are heavily stacked against her as compared to her male counterparts. As we search for measures to put in place to ensure equality between men and women in accessing finance, the financial ecosystem should be redesigned to provide opportunities for women to access funding without being asked to present collateral, especially in instances where they may not have any.
The practical story of two successful women in agribusiness
That notwithstanding, it is worth highlighting the remarkable contributions and or achievements of 2 women in the Agriculture sector as well as some challenges still facing them.
- Edith Wheatland Akorsa
Edith Wheatland Akorsa, CEO of Rockland Farms Company Limited operates a 100,000 capacity integrated poultry farm located in the Ashanti region of Ghana. Established in 2013, The company has two subsidiaries – Eco Feeding Company and Rockland Meats. Rockland Meats is into the production, processing, and distribution of locally produced chicken, which is packaged under the brand name Akoko Tasty. Together the companies have over 150 workers, which included trained broiler out-growers that support Rockland Farm’s supply chains, boosting its production capacity to more than 200,000 birds per cycle. Rockland Farms provides training and other support to 3000 maize out growers (2 acres average) who supply maize to feed the farm. Edith attributed the growth of Rockland Farms Company to funding from the Agricultural Development Bank (ADB) PLC in 2015 and at the time, the company was an 8500 capacity farm with seven workers. “Through ADB’s support, the company met its financing obligations enabling it to grow to over 100,000 capacity today with over 30 staff,” she added. Describing the poultry sector and gender, the CEO of Rockland Farms Company, stated that the sector is traditionally male dominated and is not accepting of women leading in most of the segments along the value chain. However, she had observed that over the years, there has been a certain level of acceptance and getting support as a woman entrepreneur is better and easier now than it used to be. She also added that the general work environment in the poultry sector is improving and economic as well as leadership opportunities for women are opening up more speedily. Edith stated that support from males in the sector is also more accessible now than before. She noted that there was the need for the reorientation of women to leverage the wind of change blowing through capacity building and self-confidence to achieve their potential.
Janet Adade, owner of Elsjyne Enterprise, an Agribusiness venture in the Oti Region. She is a rice and cocoa farmer who also processes, packages and markets her produce. She is also into mechanization and provides machinery and training for about 2000 women farmers. Janet Adade began farming in 2010 when she decided to relocate to the Oti Region from the Greater Accra Region. Her first challenge she stated as a woman venturing into Agribusiness was her being prevented to farm on her father’s land just by being a woman and not having the right to do so because women do not inherit in their family. Janet mentioned that she had observed that, although over the years, many organizations have been established to support women in Agribusiness, most women belittle themselves into thinking that they are still not good enough to be at par with their male counterparts and think that their male counterparts should receive these grants. She said there was the need for sensitization and education of women for a renewal of minds for them to know that they are enough and capable to do what their male counterparts are doing and more. On the issue of access to financing, Janet mentioned that it was still a struggle as majority of women did not have adequate resources to access loans or facilities to expand their businesses and most often than not, men are prioritized. “If women are given the same opportunities as men, it will pave the way for female farmers to increase production 20-30 times more.”
While times are changing and women seem to be given more opportunities than they were before paving the way for equality, the Agricultural sector still remains a male dominated sector with women still facing some of the challenges, including those stated above.
Therefore, as we celebrate International Women’s Day, let us all rise together to promote women’s equality within the Agricultural sector and all other sectors.