Accra, July 28, GNA - Mrs Beatrice Duncan, Rights Protection and Promotion Officer of UNICEF, on Wednesday said Ghana's economy could collapse if women who played the prominent role in agriculture were not given the needed support to improve upon their food production to ensure food security.
She said since agriculture constituted the backbone of the economy and women in turn were the main pillars of the sector, it was necessary for the Government to empower them to be able to expand food production to compete favourably with the demands of the global market. She said the over-dependency on cash crop production should give way to support for food crop production for both local consumption and export.
Mrs Duncan said this at a press conference organised by ABANTU for Development, a gender activist group that has been designing a comprehensive Women's Manifesto to address key concerns and demands of women for Ghana.
The issue for discussion was on the section of the manifesto that covered Women's Economic Empowerment.
Mrs Duncan said research had established that women constituted an estimated 52 per cent of the agricultural labour force, with a contribution of between 55 to 60 per cent to total output. They account for 30 per cent of cocoa farmers and 70 per cent of food crop growers and 90 per cent of the labour force in the marketing of farm produce.
She argued that removing the barriers to female participation in the agricultural sector in order to sustain them, as the bedrock of economic growth was, therefore, a question of logic. Mrs Duncan noted that in spite of the massive role women played in agriculture, they continued to face legal, economic, social and educational as well as institutional barriers that hindered their improvement and development.
Economically women are faced with limited access to credit, land and other extension services that could be useful for expansion. She noted that after 19 years of the existence of the Law on Interstate Succession, lack of knowledge inhibited the ability of women to enforce their entitlements as right holders of lands after the death of their husbands.
"Most communities continue to distribute property on the bisis of customary laws which discriminate against women and children," she said. Mrs Duncan called for urgent implementation of extensive awareness campaigns on laws affecting women especially their property rights to ensure land security for maximum production.
She said though the Ministry of Women and Children's Affairs (MOWAC) had been supporting women through its micro-financing programme, a lot more was needed to fully encourage bulk food crop production and marketing of produce.
She stated that extension services in general in the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA) had suffered from weak research and extension links, dispersed responsibilities and poor logistics, making it difficult to satisfy the total needs of farmers. She, therefore, called on the Government to ensure total support for women and provide level grounds for both men and women to access requisite financial resources to fairly develop and expand. "It is only through fair recognition and economic empowerment of women that the nation's economy can thrive," she said. 28 July 04