The sun is shining brightly, with a few clouds and a cool morning breeze. Azara Seidu is busy weeding her groundnut field with a hoe. The 28-year-old farmer says she expects a better harvest now that she has learned new farming techniques.
She explains, “The extension training I received recently where government extension staff trained selected women has been an eye-opener.”
Mrs. Seidu hails from Kpilgini village in the Mion district of northern Ghana. She used to get poor yields for her groundnut, maize, and soybean crops because she had inadequate knowledge of how to grow them.
She says: “I needed farming information to help increase my crops yield, but in the community where I attended group training meetings together with men, it was hard to understand because women always sit at the back and cannot ask questions.”
She explains that this arrangement is designed to avoid disrespecting the male participants.
But now, she says: “After attending a training where only women were invited, I grasped the farming techniques easily and I am now able to increase my yield from three bags of groundnuts per year to about ten bags.”
Mrs. Seidu is one of more than 100 women farmers in her area whose yields have increased tremendously because of the new training approach led by extension workers where women are trained separately from men.
She explains: “As women farmers, we camped for three days and attended intense training. In the past, we didn’t know many things about farming because we couldn’t speak with extension workers during trainings with men.”
She says that, in the past, her husband would not allow here to go to such distances to attend training.
But now that’s changed. She says: “He respects me because I contribute a lot to our home.”
Shani Abukari Aduwa is the director of agriculture in the Mion district. He says that women farmers in the district face cultural and traditional challenges that hinder them from accessing extension services.
Mr. Aduwa says that things are changing because of the Modernizing Agriculture project, which aims to improve crop production and ensure food security in Ghana. It was in this project that the Ministry of Agriculture decided to deliver extension training to women farmers separately from men.
He explains: “As part of the project, the Mion district trained 20 female extension service volunteers to offer extension service to Muslim women in our communities where women are not allowed to speak at forums where extension agents engage farmers.”
Mr. Aduwa says the female extension workers are helping women to deal with challenges such as inequalities in access to land and critical resources such as training.
He says women were generally intimidated at meetings with extension officers because of the presence of their husbands.
He explains: “They are unable to ask or speak on critical issues that affect their farming. When they meet with extension officers and ask them questions, most of the women will first look at their husbands for a signal of approval before they speak. Most often the husbands would not approve.”
Mr. Aduwa says that, because the women are not allowed to contribute freely during training meetings, they do not attend extension trainings at all. He adds: “The other critical issue is that the women are told to sit at the back and as a result they do not truly engage with extension staff during training.”
Mr. Aduwa says that having women delivery the extension trainings has helped a lot. It allows women farmers to ask questions freely, and to get responses from the extension officers.
Mrs. Seidu says that she now uses her knowledge to teach other women what she has learned. She says, “Women in this area are now able to increase crop yields because the new training approach is helping us a lot.”
This resource is undertaken with the financial support of the Government of Canada provided through Global Affairs Canada.
Photo: Azara Seidu is busy weeding her groundnut field with a hoe. Credit: Martina Bugriba.