By Lukeman Adams
Humanist Service Corps Volunteer
I have always imagined a society with equal gender populations engaged in agriculture or maybe more females engaged in agriculture than males. August 17, 2016 was a realization day for my dream. This happened when I visited a farming community called Juasheyili with Bijiba Simon of Songtaba, our partner organization and an internship student for two official duties. First to deliver logistics for the second phase of an existing agricultural project Songtaba and Action Aid Ghana is executing (women’s right to sustainable livelihood project). Second for Simon to formally introduce me to the community and a women farmers group there.
My aim, and for that matter the Humanist Service Corps’ (HSC) aim, is deeply rooted in Songtaba’s objective of providing decent living standards for all women in Northern Region and Ghana, especially the most vulnerable such as the alleged witches in Ghana’s camps for alleged witches and the women farmer groups on Songtaba’s list of targeted communities. I believe this aim can be achieved through agriculture and I am on the course of bring this into a reality.
While in Juasheyili, I conducted a simple survey which revealed interesting information to me as a person interested in agriculture and agribusiness. Just like many other communities, the female population is more than the male population, but the interesting thing is that in Juasheyili more than 50% of the farmer population is also women. This is unlike many Ghanaian communities. Guess what? There are many communities like Juasheyili on my list of communities that I will be working with.
However bad the road network (Juasheyili has perhaps the ugliest road network in Nanumba North District) and limited agricultural inputs, by inputs I mean machines such as tractors, plows harvesters, agrochemicals etc. Juasheyili is still one of the communities that the district depends on for agricultural commodities. This community has a population of over 1,500 with about 60% being women. Unfortunately, while women farmers are the majority in the community, they remain at a significant disadvantage when compared to the men. Every adult in this community is engaged in farming but the whole community depends on only one old tractor. Access to services of this one tractor, especially for women farmers, is woefully inadequate. Skills of the tractor operators are also significantly limited. So farmers, including women even when they are pregnant, resort to indigenous methods of land preparation like the use of hoes and cutlasses.
Proportionally, there are more female farmers than male farmers. Female farmers cultivate more crops, mostly vegetables, cereals, and legumes, but on relatively smaller scale than male farmers who cultivate mostly roots, tuber crops, and grain. Both males and females face similar challenges in acquiring tractors services for land tillage, but men enjoy easier and earlier access partly because men cultivate bigger areas of land and have more money to pay for their services than women. As investors who are concerned with high daily income, tractor operators pay more attention to male farmers who can readily pay for their services.
There is no doubt that women farmers in Juasheyili face significant obstacles, but there is hope. Land accessibility for women in Juasheyili is not really a problem as women interested in farming get plots of land whenever needed. I have found the women surprisingly willing to adapt to new and innovative methods of farming and this is evident in their adoption of composting as a means of supplementing soil fertility. Their enthusiasm is inspiring and their knowledge of farming is enough foundation for transformations towards modern trends in agriculture. Based on these certainties, I think there is no better avenue for economic empowerment for these women than investing in the challenges that confront them in farming.
I designed a plan to put these women into groups of 15 and train them on community based savings aimed at accumulating their individual resources to be able to easily and conveniently pay for tractor services. If a group of 15 women start their savings early with as low as GHS 4 a week, in six months each woman would have contributed GHS 60, enough to plow one acre of land. And while in these cooperatives they again access to agricultural loans to expand their businesses.
This is what we (HSC & Songtaba) do. We guide communities and offer support for them to improve their own lives. It is our contribution to creating a better world.
Lukeman Adams is a Northerner from Bole who has long believed in helping those around him. While pursuing a BS in Agricultural Technology from the University for Development Studies and a diploma in Human Resource Development from Gate Management College, Lukeman helped his home community establish a cooperative savings group. This experience led Lukeman to do something audacious for his year of national service. He approached a mentor at GCB Bank in Bimbilla and promised to bring in 1,000 farmers for small business loans. After surpassing that goal and stewarding high rates of repayment, Lukeman was invited to stay on. Never one to be idle, Lukeman started a poultry farm while working at the bank. Lukeman now employs four people at Harl Farms and hopes to employ more in the near future.