Women in Law and Development in Africa (WiLDAF-Ghana), a Pan -African women rights network, and Farmers Organisation Network in Ghana (FONG) have launched a project that seeks to reduce poverty among women farmers in rural areas.
The four- year scheme, christened "Women Farmers against Poverty in Africa", aims at contributing to poverty reduction among women through raising awareness on human and legal rights, reduction of violence against women, promotion of women's access to ownership and control over land, advocate mainstreaming gender in agriculture and food policy programmes in Ghana as well as connecting women farmers to market through Information and Communication Technology.
The Project, funded by the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is being implemented in Ghana, Burkina Faso, Togo, Liberia and Benin.
Beneficiaries of the project include women farmers, traditional authorities, co-coordinators of rural women organisations and state actors.
In an address at the launch of the project in Accra recently the Minister for Women and Children's Affairs, Hon. Juliana Azumah- Mensah, commended the originators of the project, saying it was very crucial for the empowerment of rural women who contributed so much to both national and local economies but were not recognized and targeted in the design of projects and programmes.
The government, she said, regarded the development of agriculture and rural sectors as key to economic and sustainable development of the country. "In this vein, it has been recognised and acknowledged that rural women in households' economic units are responsible for almost 70% of household production and therefore food security," she adds.
She emphasised that government was committed to promoting the empowerment of rural women since it was convinced that poverty alleviation would not be achieved unless there was some support and empowerment for women.
"The empowerment of rural women is thus regarded as a potential for poverty and hunger eradication, sustainable development and accelerated progress towards achieving internationally agreed development goals including the Millennium Development Goals by 2015," she explained. The Minister assured that her outfit was willing to assist with the implementation of the projects.
Launching the Project, Mrs Eunice Adams, Director of Women in Agricultural Development at the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA), indicated that 80% of Africans depended on agriculture either directly or indirectly, and most of these were through small farms which were less than two hectares.
According to her, Ghana's story was not different because the percentage of Ghanaians living in rural areas varied from region to region. On the average, however, 68% lived in rural areas and most of them are engaged either directly or indirectly in Agriculture, which contributed 30% of the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
She lamented the variety of constraints women farmers faced and which limited their capacity to contribute effectively to agricultural production thereby taking advantage of new opportunities arising from improvement in the rural economy. These constraints, she observed, had negative impacts on their rights status, agricultural productivity and earnings and invariably resulted in food and nutrition insecurity for the rural household.
To address the constraints, Mrs Adams disclosed that government, through the Ministry of food and Agriculture, had embarked on a number of interventions through the Food and Agriculture Sector Development Policy (FASDEP) and the Medium Term Agriculture Sector Investment Plan (METASIP)
"Alongside these, there are other policy interventions of Youth in Agriculture, Fertilizer Subsidy Programme, establishment of Agriculture Mechanization Centres (AMSECs) and gender mainstreaming of MoFA's policies and programmes."
While pledging her support for the project, the Director cautioned that "if there is not very robust monitoring and evaluation system a lot of activities will be carried out, a lot of money will be spent but the lot of the women farmers may not change after the four years."