Women farmers have been urged to take advantage of the various Government initiatives in agriculture to contribute their quota to food security in the country.
Mr Sagre Bambangi, Deputy Minister of Food and Agriculture in charge of Annual Crops, who made the call, said all the agricultural initiatives of the government, including the “Rearing for Food and Jobs (RFJ)”, and the “Planting for Food and Jobs”, were all geared towards the realisation of an all year round food production for everybody in the country.
He said such initiatives had been rolled out for all Ghanaians, irrespective of their political party affiliations and so all farmers, including women farmers, could access it and be part of the programmes.
Mr Bambangi was responding to allegations raised in a Communique issued by the National Women Farmers Movement, an advocacy group of smallholder women farmers from nine regions of Ghana, at the end of their three-day annual women farmers’ conference held in Accra, in collaboration with Actionaid Ghana.
The Communique alleged that the identification of beneficiaries under the Rearing for Food and Jobs programme had taken a partisan face, depriving some women farmers from receiving such support.
The women farmers were from the Upper East, Upper West, Northern, North East, Bono, Ahafo, Bono East, Volta and Oti Regions.
The theme for the conference was: “Building Resilient Livelihoods for Women and Smallholder farmers through Agroecology”, and it was organised as part of activities towards Promoting Opportunities for Women’s Empowerment and Rights (POWER).
The conference served as a learning and experience sharing opportunity among women farmers, civil society organisations and government.
It also discussed findings of the research report on the operationalisation of the Ghana Climate Change Adaptation Strategy and Policy.
The Communique, read by Madam Veronica Gbande, National Chairperson of the National Smallholder Women Farmers Movement, also noted that, most smallholder women farmers inability to meet the housing requirements under the RFJ programme had resulted in less than 40 per cent of the beneficiaries being women.
It said for example, in the Upper West Region, only 14 per cent of the beneficiaries under the Sheep Module were women.
The Communique referred to the “heavy reliance on synthetic agrochemicals and hybrid seeds that had been integrated into the Planting for Food and Jobs, as against the promotion of agro-ecological practices such as organic fertilizers and farmer-managed seed systems” as not too good.
It therefore, called on government to strictly ensure that at least 40 per cent of the beneficiaries under the PFJ were women, and support those who did not meet the housing requirement by providing them animal pens.
The Government should also promote agro-ecological practices such as organic fertilizers and farmer-managed seed systems, minimising the importation of synthetic agrochemicals that have negative impacts on the environment and human health, it said.
“We strongly call for a national policy that promotes agroecology instead of subsidizing chemical fertilisers”.
While commending government for the on-going construction of warehouses, that is, the buffer stock facilities to reduce post-harvest loses, the communique demanded a national programme on standard measurement for farm produce to reduce exploitation of smallholder women farmers from middle buyers.
The communique acknowledged the inclusion of women-friendly crops like groundnut, cowpea and soya bean, under the Planting for Food and Jobs programme, but said such seeds of those crops were not made available in the last planting season.
“We therefore, call for support to women farmers to produce and make the seeds locally available”, the Communique stated.
In relation to the “Planting for Export and Rural Development” programme, smallholder women farmers should be supported to have secured access to land in order for them to take full advantage of the programme, the Communique said.
Earlier in a speech, Ms Grace Afra, President of Smallholder Farmers Movement in Bono Region, said climate change impact required the need for change in farming practices to ensure resilient farming so that smallholder farmers could continue to contribute to the rural economy.
In a fraternal message from partners, Ms Hamida Harrison, Mobilisation Manager of ABANTU for Development, said women farmers play critical role in food production and so Government should assist them to source for funding to boost their farming activities
Mr Edwin Baffour, Communication Director, Food Sovereignty, emphasised the need for government to promote agroecology and organic farming due to the high demand of organic products on the international market.