Posted by: rumnet | February 13, 2012

Northern Women Petition Government over Block Farming Project

Northern Women Petition Government over Block Farming Project

(published in the February edition of the advocate)  

By Joseph Ziem, Tamale

About 80% of the entire population of the Northern Region of Ghana is engaged in agriculture – mostly producing to feed their families while some are sold in the local market to cater for other needs at home. This is probably due to the fact that, a considerable amount of the total land area of the region estimated to be 70,383 square kilometers, is fertile for agricultural purposes.

For instance, in 2010 the region produced 110,430 metric tons of maize, rice 62,930, millet 50,290, sorghum 59,370, cassava 83,910 and yam 117,810, (Ghana, MoFA Report).

However, about 13 percent and 35 percent of the entire population is food insecure and likely food insecure respectively, according to a World Food Programme report in June 2011. Besides, an estimated 60% of the population lives on less than US$1.00 a day, a clear description of a society plagued by abject poverty and hunger in this 21st Century.

Thus, as the world marked International Day of Rural Women and World Food Day celebrations in October 15th and 16th respectively, women groups in the Northern Region who formed part of the over 50% of women engaged in agriculture were brought together in a forum by ActionAid-Ghana to be sensitized on some government policies in the agriculture sector, specifically the Block Farming Project.

The Block Farming Project began in 2009 afford individuals and groups the opportunity to cultivate several acres of crops such as rice, maize and soya beans as government provides them with assistance in the form of tractor services and fertilizer subsidies. After harvesting, the farmers are required to pay back the cost of tractor services and fertilizer either in cash or in kind (by giving out some number of bags of his farm produce).

The women who came from the Nanumba North and South Districts joined their counterparts in the Tamale Metropolis to also learn best farming practices and had the opportunity to meet some government officials to outline challenges confronting them in farming.     

The Northern Regional Programme Manager of ActionAid-Ghana, Abubakari Abdallah, in an address acknowledged the contributions of rural women to the growth and development of agriculture in the Northern Region and Ghana as a whole.

According to him, women’s contribution though meager, is meaningful and if given the requisite support by government and other stakeholders, they would help in eradicating poverty in rural homes where it is most endemic.

Mr. Abdallah noted that it was a major concern for the organization whose main objective was to seek the welfare of women who form part of the marginalized in society. Adding that, “The implementation of the Block Farming Project was faced with numerous challenges that affect women, but government was yet to address such concerns to make the project more meaningful for them.”

The Monitoring and Evaluation Officer of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA) in the Northern Region, Festus Aaron Langkuu, said women’s contribution to food production in the value chain system was stalled by their inability to get land for farming, adding that their access to land for farming was limited to a joint venture with a man or through their husbands.

He encouraged more women to go into the processing and marketing of farm produce since they could not get access to their own land.

But some of the women revealed that they did not have access to Agric Extension Officers in their communities to supervise them on their farming activities and appealed to the government to employ more of such experts to help them out.

The first International Day of Rural Women was observed on 15 October 2008. This new international day, established by the UN General Assembly in its resolution 62/136 of 18 December 2007, recognizes “the critical role and contribution of rural women, including indigenous women, in enhancing agricultural and rural development, improving food security and eradicating rural poverty.”  

Rural women play a critical role in the rural economies of both developed and developing countries. In most parts of the developing world, they participate in crop production and livestock care, provide food, water and fuel for their families, and engage in off-farm activities to diversify their families’ livelihoods. In addition, they carry out vital functions in caring for children, older persons and the sick.

The World Food Day on the other hand was proclaimed in 1979 by the Conference of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). It marks the date of the founding of FAO in 1945. The aim of the Day is to heighten public awareness of the world food problem and strengthen solidarity in the struggle against hunger, malnutrition and poverty. In 1980, the UN General Assembly endorsed observance of the Day in consideration of the fact that “food is a requisite for human survival and well-being and a fundamental human necessity” (resolution 35/70 of 5 December 1980).  It is observed on 16th October every year.

Indeed, price swings, upswings in particular, represent a major threat to food security in developing countries including Ghana. Hardest-hit are the poor. According to the World Bank, in 2010-2011 rising food costs will push nearly 70 million people in developing countries into extreme poverty.

Thus, “Food Prices – From Crisis To Stability” has been chosen as this year’s World Food Day theme to shed some light on this trend and what can be done to mitigate its impact on the most vulnerable.

Meanwhile, after deliberating on matters affecting the smallholder farmer and in particular the policies and programmes put in place by government to achieve food security as well as promote agricultural development in Ghana, the women in a communiqué called on MoFA, implementers of government agriculture programmes to intensify educational campaigns on the Block Farming Project to adequately educate and inform smallholder farmers especially women on the opportunities offered by the project and how they could equitably benefit from it.

The communiqué asked government to acquire land banks through the MoFA and allocate at least 70% of these lands to women. This in their view would provide adequate security of tenure to women farmers to increase their participation in the Block Farming Project, it said.

It observed that, the Block Farming Project as a strategy to increase women participation should expand the crops currently being produced to include more crops such as groundnuts and vegetables which many women farmers were cultivating.

The communiqué also entreated government to with immediate action; employ more Agric Extension Agents to enhance their availability to provide technical support to smallholder farmers, especially women.

The women called on the President of the Republic through the Northern Regional Minister to see to the immediate action on their demands in order to secure their increase contribution to food security in Ghana.

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