Improving Ghanaian women farmers’ access to agricultural advisory services

19 December 2023, Ghana: When Linda Aduwaa thinks back to last year, one thing stands out: how women in her community were treated.

Linda has been farming rice and maize for the past 15 years. The mother of five says that only a year ago, men refused to help with household chores. Women couldn’t own their own land independently of men. They weren’t even able to attend agricultural advisory meetings about improving farming practices in the area.

That all changed after a radio program on Royals FM.

Thanks to the Royals FM radio campaign program, we now live in a completely different era, where we are treated equally.” Linda Aduwaa, a rice and maize farmer

Royals FM broadcasts from Wenchi in Bono Region in central Ghana. The CABI- and Farm Radio-supported radio program aired in spring 2023 and aimed to raise awareness about the importance of women’s contributions to agricultural development and increase their access to agricultural extension services.

Linda was not alone in experiencing these challenges. Women farmers face gender-specific barriers that limit their agricultural productivity. Many women lack access to agricultural advisory services (government services that educate farmers on agricultural practices to improve their yields) and producers’ organizations (groups of producers of a specific crop that form to improve profits and share information and knowledge). Many women farmers also do not own the lands they farm on.

Women are also often expected to stay at home instead of attending agricultural training opportunities. Given their unique sociocultural circumstances, women can be overlooked by essential farming support services. These barriers contribute to a gender gap in agricultural productivity. By addressing these barriers, we can help women farmers increase their productivity and improve their livelihoods.

Improving women farmers’ access to land and agricultural advisory services

Linda is not the only woman who benefited from the radio programs. Nana Dora Asunkwa is a 78-year-old farmer who cultivates cocoa, cashew and cassava. She is the queen mother of Kenyasi No. 3 in the Asutifi North District of the Ahafo Region. In Ghana, queen mothers are traditional rulers who complement the role of the chief and focus mainly on women’s and children’s issues. As a woman and a widow, Dora has a lot of experience dealing with the challenges women face, which is why she is grateful to the initiators of this project.

“Before this program, it was difficult for women to acquire land from landowners, and this was a common complaint among women in my community. However, since the program started, I have noticed a significant impact on landowners in my community,” she said.

Landowners no longer require a man to be present when a woman is looking for land, and women are now more comfortable attending extension meetings. The idea that it is good to allow women to access agricultural advisory services has been embraced by husbands in the community.

Dora urged the program team to continue with the program. She suggested that topics such as women as farmers, land acquisition, burden sharing and decision sharing be repeated. According to her, these topics have been game-changers in her community.

Changing household dynamics and decision-making processes

Janet Asiamah is a farmer from Ayomso in the Asuanafo North Municipality. She has been farming for over 40 years and has cultivated various crops including cocoa, cassava, maize, cocoyam and plantain. According to Janet, it was commonly believed that women were only farmers’ wives and not farmers themselves. However, thanks to the Akufo KYE-FA program on Success FM, women have been educated and empowered to realize that women too can manage and own their own farms. As a result, they have started acquiring land to farm on their own.

The radio program has helped to change household dynamics by promoting burden sharing (husbands supporting their wives to perform household chores), which allows women to attend extension meetings.

“This program has challenged the old ways of thinking about women’s ability to own lands. The program has also influenced our men to accept our opinions in decision-making, not only in farming but in our day-to-day affairs as well,” said Janet.

She also said the program has been incredibly helpful to them by teaching them how to farm effectively, including the application of fertilizers and the use of weedicides.

“As women farmers, we are now proud of our work and have been educated to diversify our income streams through livestock rearing and mushroom cultivation.”

Using radio to change attitudes about women in agriculture

Interactive radio is an important tool for improving women’s standing in the agricultural industry. That’s why we worked with four radio stations in the Bono and Ahafo regions of Ghana on these programs, changing negative perceptions and attitudes about women’s participation in agricultural extension activities and decision-making. The programs were co-developed by Farm Radio International and CABI, working with local stakeholders. Funding came from CABI’s PlantwisePlus program.

To design the programs, we hosted a multi-stakeholder workshop to bring together farmers, members of the agricultural extension industry, broadcasters and other project partners to get their input on solutions to the challenges farmers are facing.

The radio programs integrated content about gender equality with farming tips. Linda mentioned that she previously had no knowledge about weed control. Thanks to the radio program, she learned how to properly deal with weeds and practise mobility constraints (planting crops in lines).

Linda said there is a community information centre in her area that always airs the program, providing them with information on the weather, the right agrochemicals and their uses, and more. Community information centres are found throughout Ghana and broadcast information on a megaphone or speaker, which is loud enough to cover a community or marketplace.

The shows also connected farmers with ways of getting more information beyond the radio program.

“I was happy when I heard we have women agric[ultural] extension officers because my husband will not allow me to meet a male to know more about what I do, but with my fellow woman he will allow me to meet her for more explanations and that is a plus for us women,” Linda added.

Cultural taboos often prevent women from meeting with men outside the home. Interactive radio is one way to address these kinds of barriers to women farmers’ agricultural productivity. For women like Linda, that means better farming and a better future.

Also Read: Four New Baby Plum Tomatoes with ToBRFV Resistance

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