Women farmers at Nyariga in the Bolgatanga Municipality of the Upper East Region are appealing for government’s support to enhance their entrepreneurial skills to boost production and drive rural development.
The women, some of whom are into pepper, tomato, and rice farming, said they had challenges with equipment, rain inconsistency, fertilizer, access to credit and market, and earned less than $2.15 per day, below the extreme poverty line.
Climate change is also having a toll on their work and the crops, as it leads to extreme weather conditions, including high temperatures, which affect their health, inhibiting their ability to perform to their maximum potentials.
These issues gained prominence when the Ghana News Agency (GNA) visited the community to interact with the women on their success stories and challenges as the world celebrates the socio-economic, cultural, and political achievements of women.
March, every year, is set aside to celebrate women, globally, serving as a focal point for women’s rights movement, bringing attention to issues such as gender equality, reproductive rights, violence and abuse.
Madam Felicia Atanga-Aleyorige, a 38-year-old farmer, who works on a pepper farm at the Nyariga Community, said she had worked for four years, which had been her source of income to cater for herself and her family.
Previously, she and the other women on the farm engaged in rice and tomato cultivation but the tomatoes did not always do well in the Sudan Savannah climatic conditions, which was exacerbated by the lack of proper irrigation system.
“The harsh climatic conditions in this region are not always conducive to growing tomatoes, pepper and other crops,” she said.
“The changing climate is having an impact on our work. We are aware of the effects of deforestation on weather patterns, and that is why we are calling for the reforestation of Nyariga to minimise the effects of climate change.”
Madam Atanga-Aleyorige indicated that in planting trees to mitigate the effects of the changing climate, the authorities must provide the communities with seedlings of fruit-bearing trees, which they could harvest upon maturity and sell to make some income.
“This will entice us to protect these trees,” she noted.
Touching on how much they earn, Madam Atanga-Aleyorige said each labourer (10 women on the farm) was paid 20 cedis a day, which was below the World Bank’s international poverty line.
“As women labourers, we sacrifice a lot to ensure the welfare of our families. The payment is not good enough, but we have no choice,’’ she said.
“We’re paid 20 cedis per day for the work including plucking the pepper during harvest. About six women can pluck six big bags per day starting from 0700 hours to 17 hours, when harvest is good.”
“I wish I could be paid 50 cedis daily to enable me to take good care of myself, support my husband for the upkeep of our home and the education of our three children, and even save some money for future purposes.”
According to the ILO’s estimates, about 22 per cent of the agricultural workforce in Ghana are women.
Madam Atanga-Aliyorige expressed the hope that the Government, through the Bongo Nyariga Assembly, would provide some financial support to cultivate her own crops, in addition to access to irrigation facilities, saying she already had the land and willing to be an entrepreneur to enhance food security.
Mr Yahaya Abarika, the owner of the about 15-acre pepper farm, said dry season farming had become a challenge since the Irrigation Company of Upper East Region (ICOUR) was unable to supply water to farmers on regular basis.
ICOUR is a government establishment mandated to promote food crop production by small scale farmers within organised and managed irrigation schemes.
“It is my wish to pay my workers more, however, we the farmers have low bargaining power during the sale of our farm produce, affecting our profit,” he said.
“The buyers (middlemen) determine the price. A 100-kilogramme bag of pepper, sold for Ghc750.00, can be bought at GHc200.00 by the middlemen, which is woefully inadequate.”
Mr Abarika, 50, said he started farming since 2000 and appealed for equipment, better irrigation facilities, and fertilizer to facilitate his work to satisfy his workers.
Speaking to the GNA, Justice Atombisku Ayine, the Assemblyman of Nyariga, said giving women the same opportunities as men could improve agriculture production and reduce poverty, hunger and malnutrition.
“The cost of living is rising, hence women must not be discriminated against when it comes to land and livestock ownership, payment for work done, access to resources and credit to enable them to equally contribute to improve living standards”.