In the last 10 years, Ghana has seen dramatic positive trends in political and economic development. Despite gains in economic growth and poverty reduction, however, progress has been uneven and largely concentrated in southern Ghana and the country’s urban areas. Agriculture, which is responsible for 38% of GDP and at least 60 percent of employment, lags behind other productive sectors, growing at an average rate of only two percent per year—less than rural population growth. Within this sector, rural women farmers are responsible for producing the vast majority of food for household consumption each year.
Geographically, 70 percent of the nation’s poor and 54 percent of the nation’s extreme poor live in the Northern Savannah Zone (NSZ), where female-headed households constitute the majority of the poorest. Paradoxically, the NSZ is responsible for producing some of the most nutritious foods produced in Ghana, including legumes, cereals, and vegetables. Low productivity, weak markets, and marginalization of women and youth are among the underlying causes of poverty and hunger within the group living amid relatively vibrant and healthy food production. At the same time, stability and good governance are attracting donor and private sector investment in agriculture, presenting opportunities for the Pathways model to succeed in Ghana’s NSZ.
In light of these conditions, CARE Ghana has developed the EQUAL initiative, to enable more productive and more equitable participation of poor and vulnerable women farmers from the Northern Savannah Zone in sustainable agriculture and to contribute to their empowerment. The initiative will directly impact 50,000 poor women smallholders in three northern regions of Ghana – the Upper East, Upper West and Northern – as well as 200,000 others in their households. CARE anticipates that these impacts will trigger significant and long-lasting change, ultimately benefitting 500,000 additional women, men and youth across the zone who are similarly hungry and vulnerable to famine.
Key interventions that make up the EQUAL initiative include:
- Nurturing collectives and community organizations including women’s solidarity groups, Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs), youth groups, and community-based organizations.
- Facilitating functional linkages between production and markets to benefit women smallholders.
- Promoting the adoption of intensified and sustainable agricultural practices to address environmental and natural resource constraints, while at the same time taking advantage of technologies that enable more productive, climate resilient agricultural practices.
- Engaging elites and power holders, including men and boys, in shifting social norms to address women’s marginalization.
- Supporting advocacy and policy change, with a specific focus on local land reform to benefit women smallholders.