By Linda Dede Nyanya Godji
According to a World Bank study, women make up about 60% of the informal sector and provide about 70% of total agricultural labour. But women face many challenges when it comes to accessing and owning farmland. In Ghana, customary lands, which account for an estimated 80% of the country, are managed by traditional authorities and governed under cultural lineages and inheritance systems.
In Northern Ghana, for instance, women face many challenges accessing and owning land. This is largely attributed to the patrilineal system of inheritance, which gives men exclusive rights to land, with women accessing land mainly through male members of the family. Women’s access to land is, therefore, tied to their marriage and husband’s lineage.
In an interview with Farm Radio International, the Chief of Sobugu (with palace located at Gizaa Gundaa) in the Kumbungu District of the Northern region, John Mahama, disclosed how he was using his position to help women farmers to access to farmlands.
“As a Chief, I have distributed portions of my land to women who have not received land from their husbands. Some people have grandchildren and they do not have enough land to support the entire family. When they approach me during the farming season, I get them land, but not permanent land, just for the year. Next year if you are not strong to farm it, I can give it to another woman to farm free of charge,” he stated.
He explained further why most women do not inherit lands and noted that the onus falls on their chiefs to support them. “In an extended family, you can have a father’s wives and his children’s wives but the father is the one who has the land and gives it to his wives. If a farmer doesn’t have lands to give to his wife, she must support the mother in law to farm. But if a woman is capable of farming, she should see a chief who has enough lands to support them to farm,” he added.
Chief Mahama believes that women are in the position to change the fortunes of any individual and families when given the chance and support.
“Even before I became a chief, I have been an Assembly man for three consecutive times and throughout the journey, it was mainly the women in my community that helped me. That also contributed to the reason, I have pledged to support any women in my community to need farmlands to farm on. “
According to him, other chiefs in other communities he knows were also supporting women in their jurisdiction. He therefore urged traditional authorities in the country to prioritise supporting women in agriculture.
He observed that “it is even gratifying seeing yourself as part of the success stories of women farmers”.
He has even gone further to build a warehouse where farmers in his locality can easily access farm inputs such as fertilisers etc.