Here in the north of Ghana, we have officially finished our two weeks of data collection and preliminary analysis for the country’s midterm review. Our team of four spent the last two weeks traveling to a total of four villages in the Upper East and Upper West regions, speaking with men and women who have participated in the Pathways program since its inception three years ago. We gathered a large amount of interesting and valuable information about how the program has affected both men and women over the past several years.
Above, a focus Group on Mens Engagement, facilitated by Pathway’s Staff member – Thomas, in Ghana.
As the four of us did not speak all (or in my case, any!) of the six languages found in our four target villages, we teamed with data collectors from CARE’s partner organizations in the region, along with a few additional translators, as needed. We were very lucky that despite this being Ghana’s wet season, rain only interrupted our focus group discussions on one day, for a very short period. Of course, this was not so great for the communities’ farmers, as it is also planting season!
Our team held interviews and focus group discussions with men and women from male- and female-headed households as well as community leaders such as chiefs, queen mothers, and CARE-appointed community-based extension agents (CBEAs). All four target villages are predominantly Muslim and dominated by male-headed, polygamous households. Since Pathways is especially interested in seeing how women’s position in the community has changed, as a result of Pathways, our discussions focused on changes in men’s perceptions of women, women’s financial status, and their ability to contribute to decision-making at the household and community level.
Above, a focus Group on Mens Engagement with women and Charlotte Newman, Pathway’s Intern, in Ghana.
The main Pathways activities in each of the communities are an agricultural producer group and a village savings and loan association (VSLA). The agricultural producer groups have been used to teach women and interested men how to farm and process soybeans and groundnuts. All the villages reported that women had not previously been allowed to farm because their faith and traditions mandated that farming be only for men. However, following the implementation of Pathways, men have begun to understand and appreciate the importance of allowing their wives to farm. In many cases, women are able to farm using a portion of their husband’s land, but in other cases they are even able to purchase land of their own. Both men and women stated that, as a result of farm production, women are now able to contribute more to the household, including paying for children’s school fees and health insurance as well as buying foodstuffs and clothing. They also cook more nutritious meals for their households with new soya recipes they have learned from CARE, and acknowledge the importance of feeding their children nutritious meals so that they perform better in school. Men generally stated that they are happy with their wives’ ability to carry some of the household burdens.
Above, a community borehole in Koro Ghana, purchased by women Village Savings and Loan (VSLA) members.
The VSLA provides a space for men and women to deposit their earnings into a community savings coffer that accrues interest and can be accessed by participants when needed. Participants in all four of our target communities cited the VSLA as an extremely useful way to force themselves to save, as well as a manner of accessing money to pay for expenses such as hospital bills or children’s school fees. Participants in Koro, in the Upper West, reported that they had used money from the VSLA to install a community borehole, which has resulted in substantial time-savings for women who no longer have to walk to the valleys to fetch water. Respondents also said that the weekly meetings held through the VSLA have increased unity among all community members, who now quarrel less amongst each other and resolve problems more easily. VSLA meetings have included CARE-led discussions between men and women on gender issues such as gender-based violence (GBV) and work-load sharing in the home. In several villages, these discussions have encouraged husbands to begin helping their wives complete household chores, such as fetching water and bathing the children. In Koro, however, one woman told me, “Some husbands don’t help, so we [the women] know how to go to farm and still come home and fetch water, cook, and care for the children.” Overall, though, it seems as if there is an increase in household task-sharing in the Pathways villages as women spend more of their time farming. Community members from all four villages also cited a decreased level of husbands physically abusing their wives. Unfortunately, several respondents in the community of Chum refused to discuss GBV, expressing fear that their fellow group members would report what they said back to their husbands. While this indicates that gender-based violence is still an issue in at least one of our target communities, it is promising to see that there is an increased awareness among men that GBV is a crime, and that the trend is on the decline.
Above, women map their level of involvement in decision-making in the home and as farmers.
While we have yet to perform our full analysis of the data we’ve collected from the communities, our preliminary analysis indicates that Pathways participants are pleased with the program, overall. It also illustrates that the program is truly helping provide communities with avenues to increase their levels of agricultural production and women’s empowerment. As part of our discussions, participants were able to give feedback on changes they would like to see in the program – through a participatory “outcome mapping” methodology. The “hoped-for-outcomes” will be taken into account during our final analysis as we discuss what Pathways can do to continue improving the lives of Ghana’s rural farming communities. In fact, the next blog entry – from Mali – will give Pathway’s followers more detail on CARE’s Outcome Mapping Methodology – a road map for Pathway’s evaluation process. Stay tuned.
Written by Charlotte Newman, CARE Intern, Ghana
Edited by Melissa Jennings, CARE Intern, Malawi