Ghana’s Woman of Courage 2019, Ms Stella Saaka, has urged women in agriculture to apply creativity and innovation to be able to cope with current market and economic trends, and make their businesses viable.
She mentioned some of the creative solutions as processing, good farm management practices and new feeding systems.
At a forum in Accra on women in agriculture, she noted that the mere existence of scientific innovations will do little to improve the welfare of women smallholders if they do get access to such innovations. It was organised by the U.S. Embassy and the Knutsford University College on the theme, “Women in Agriculture: Reversing Trends, Changing Lives.” “Creativity is key. Avail yourself and develop your skills by linking up with others in the agribusiness value chain. Effective networking can also boost your innovation in agriculture,” she stated.
Ms Saaka, who was awarded by the United States Embassy in Accra, outlined some major bottlenecks in agricultural to economic growth to include low productivity, challenges to finding sustainable ways to scale up food production technologies to farmers and insufficient access to markets.
Again, she said agricultural finance was in short supply and smallholder women producers suffered feel the brunt.
“We are being encouraged to embrace commercial farming methods to increase production, but we can’t do much without funding. It’s easier if we are a group. Forming agricultural cooperatives often makes it easier to attain and payback bank loans,” she said.
The Cultural Affairs Attache to the embassy, Ms Elizabeth Ategou, said the month of March was celebrated in the US as women’s history month and not just international women’s day on March 8 following the important economic role that women play.
“When women are working, it has a multiplier effect and has a huge impact on their ability to take care of the home, feed their children, take care of their health, to get them education which will lead to more economic opportunities,” she said.
She added that women in agric needed to be celebrated.
An agronomist, Ms Margaret Agyemang, urged women in agriculture to ignore all odds and forge ahead to be able to mentor the youth to go into the sector to contribute to socio-economic growth.
“The frustration will come but let’s keep moving. Learn more, get connected with others and you can move ahead,” she said.
The Founder of the Oak Foundation, an agricbusiness enterprise, Ms Portia Agyei Yeboah, added it was important to support and encourage women to go into agriculture so they can have the accessibility and economic power to be independent which will then transcend into their communities and the country generally.
Profile of Stella Saaka
She hails from the Talensi District in the Upper East Region.
Ms Saaka, who is the Regional Organising Secretary for the Women in Agricultural Platforms (WAPs), a key component of the US Agency for International Development (USAID)’s Northern Ghana Governance Activity, is considered a powerful force for women’s rights in the district.
Apart from spearheading agricultural income-generating activities for women, Ms Saaka continues to break barriers in the male-dominated political and traditional authority system prevalent in northern Ghana, convincing the Talensi political leadership to include women in the district’s development and decision making process.
During the presentation of the award, the US Ambassador, Ms Stephanie S. Sullivan, said Ms Saaka’s actions actively empowered the women in her community by helping them to access productive resources and to ensure their voices were heard by decision makers.
“Her students call her a role model and the women she represents call her a woman of courage. I hope all Ghanaian women and girls learn about her story so they can craft their own journey to make a difference,” she said.
Ms Saaka expressed happiness that her work with women in rural Talensi had been recognised by the US Mission in Ghana.
“I dedicate this award to all my hard-working women in Talensi and to all women working hard to empower themselves economically to take care of their families and homes in Ghana.”
A media release from the US Embassy stated that Ms Saaka had distinguished herself among USAID’s Northern Ghana Governance Activity participants who aim to address the broad issue of access to land in one of the most densely populated districts in the region per square area.
Ms Saaka started processing sweet potatoes in 2014 and the women use the income they generate to support their children’s education. As a means of alternative income generation, they produce a range of products from orange, sweet potato, including drinks, snacks and flour for making pastries.
Due to these efforts, more women are finding ways to contribute to the economy in the district which has led to a decrease in female migration during the dry season.