Inadequate access to extension services impedes women farmers

Smallholders women farmers have identified inadequate access to extension services as a major constraint to their active participation in agricultural production.

Beside the limited number of agricultural extension agents, the women farmers also said many of the extension officers were male dominated, which presented a structural barrier for them in accessing their services.

A communique issued in Wa, the women said cultural and social norms made it more difficult for women to receive extension visits on their farmers for fear of their husbands accusing them of flirting with the extension officers.

At a National Smallholder Women Farmers Conference held in Wa, the women said the provision of tractors and animal traction services were equally under male control and smallholder women farmers were discriminated against.

This, the women said, compelled smallholder women farmers to plough and sow their crops late resulting in poor yields and shortfalls in incomes and livelihoods.

The women urged government to prioritise issues of smallholder women farmers and support them adequately through the establishment of irrigation and credit facilities to promote all-year round agriculture to help increase food crops production and incomes.

The communique explained that rural migration among young women to the southern parts of Ghana in search of non-existing jobs could possibly be reduced if small holder women farmers were supported adequately.

The women farmers said many of them were also faced with difficulties in accessing markets for their agricultural produce, which had been compounded by the lack of storage facilities to keep their produce in waiting for better prices.

The conference called for a guaranteed produce prices to enable smallholder women farmers to make profits from their investments to pay back loans to the banks.

The communique urged the Ministry of Food and Agriculture to provide market information to women farmers and as well link them to available markets while government programmes which would absorb agricultural production, should link them to companies to buy their produce.

They proposed that smallholder women farmers should be trained to add crop budgeting into their investments to help them bargain better prices when selling their produce.

There should also be a national campaign to use standard scales to measure farm produce in a consistent way across the country, while the provision and maintenance of storage  and inventory systems were put in place through public-private partnerships to assist the smallholder women farmers to sell at the peak season.

The communique called for consistent training in quality standards for farm products so as to make their produce attractive and marketable, while it urged government to increase the numbers of agricultural extension officers, taking into consideration the gender inequalities to help address the cultural barriers that limited women access to extension services.

Similarly, the smallholder women farmers’ movement appealed to the Ministry of Food and Agriculture to conduct an agricultural census to obtain up-to-date and accurate information on the agricultural extension officer’s ratio to a farmer to help identify the current gap and respond appropriately to it.

The conference advocated the allocation of tractors to the movement and the training of women as operators to ensure effective access to tractor services for women farmers as part of government’s programme on agricultural mechanisation centres.

The communique urged Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies to provide support for the production of crops not considered in the Planting for Food and Jobs Programme and yet were key staple foods cultivated mainly by smallholder women farmers.

The movement urged government and other policy makers to be flexible in the selection of crops to enable smallholder women farmers go into crops that yield better in their communities.

ActionAid Ghana organised the National Smallholder Women Farmers Conference with funding from the Netherlands Foreign Affairs to deliberate on policy issues in agriculture and gender mainstreaming on budgetary allocation to the agriculture sector.

The conference was on the theme: “Influencing gender responsive budgets for agriculture: Time to increase investment for Smallholder Women Farmers”.

Source: GNA

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