The Resident Representative of the united Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Madam Angela Lusigi, has commended the women rice farmers of the Afadjato South District of the Volta Region for their enthusiasm to see their locality become a hub for rice farming in the country.
The Afadjato Women Rice Farmers Association, through the efforts of an NGO, Accelerated Rural Development Organisation (ARDO), has succeeded in obtaining support from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) UNDP small grants programme, which included capacity building and provision of combined harvester to facilitate their harvesting.
The UNDP has provided a rice processing plant, which has the capacity to mill 10 tonnes or 160 bags of rice a day, to boost rice production in the area.
The over 500 women farmers have taken advantage of the equipment to expand their farming activities, cultivating about 5,000 acres of rice in the district.
The commendation followed Madam Lusigi’s visit to some of the rice farms of the women in the district and a rice processing plant, where she was impressed about their achievements, especially their finished products.
“You are a great example. We have to tell your story. The rest of Ghana and the world need to know that when you put money in the hands of women and give them equipment, they can turn their life around,” she said.
She noted that although the farmers might still have challenges in terms of equipment, they needed to celebrate what they had achieved with their little resources.
“This is a story of hope for our regions, especially women groups around the country and so you need to share your experience with other women groups and also learn from them,” Madam Lusigi told the women farmers.
She gave an assurance that the UNDP would continue to offer the needed support to members of the association for them to grow the industry into a bigger one.
Madam Lusigi, however, noted that there was still a lot to be done in marketing the finished products and, therefore, advised the women not to focus on the local market, but to take advantage of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) to expand their rice businesses.
The leader of the association, Madam Irene Margaret Saku, showed appreciation for the support the women had enjoyed from the UNDP over the years, noting that the support created over 5,000 jobs for women, youth, persons with disabilities (PWDs) through the rice value chain.
She, however, said members of the association continued to face challenges with the land tenure system, explaining that most of the time, when they acquired lands for their farming, the lands were taken away from them by people with the financial muscle.
As a victim, she said her 10 acres of land was taken away from her by the landlords after she had prepared the land for planting.
“I would have harvested about 250 bags of rice if I had planted for the year. But I lost that opportunity and that has affected my finances,” she lamented and appealed to the district assembly and the chiefs to support women to get lands to sustain their businesses.
Madam Saku added that the association was still in need of equipment such as rice dryers, power tillers, transplanters and planters, as well as packaging and storage space.
Additionally, she said the association needed more combine harvesters because the only one they had was unable to harvest the over 5,000 acres within time, thereby affecting the farmers who were unable to get the harvester in time, resulting in the loss of their produce.
Madam Saku said the association was still limited to the local market and that all efforts to get the state to buy from them had not yielded positive results and called for support for a soft loan or revolving fund for farmers to support their expansion agenda.
A Chief of Ve Golokwati, Togbe Ayidzoe, acknowledged the challenges of women in acquiring land for farming and pledged to do his best to assist in better negotiations for them.