My name is Steve Hogberg and I’m a week into my Enterprise Development Internship here at MEDA. I’m from Ottawa, Canada and as this is my first field mission, I find myself happy to be back in West Africa and meeting all the MEDA GROW staff in Ghana – including my fellow collaborators, Janelle and Sarah. So far I’ve travelled to Accra (the coastal capital), and Tamale and Wa in the northern parts of the country. My mission here is to work on expanding market linkages for women soy agro-entrepreneurs throughout the region. Right now I’m learning a lot about all the components of the soy bean Value Chain (or the production process from growing to processing to selling). My goal is to establish strong market linkages for women entrepreneurs to grow and sell their product at a reasonable price long after the GROW Project has ended.
Whereas men have traditionally dominated the agriculture industry in Ghana with cocoa, maize, and mangos, women have seen considerable profit from soy beans. Because large family groups lease arable farmland to the head male member of the household, women farm only with male approval and on tracts of land allotted by their husband. GROW works with women farmers and their husbands to enable women to farm parts of the land in order to gain valuable business skills and also to supplement family income in addition to rearing children and keeping the house. So far we have over 16,000 women farmers planting soy beans on the GROW Project – the Rainy Season (May to September) is when they and I will be doing most of our soy collaboration. But for the remaining six months of the year, women need to have alternative sources of crop income – enter the Moringa tree! More on soy later.
Yesterday I went to a Moringa Tree Sensitization Workshop put on by MEDA along with KITA (Kumasi Institute of Technology and Agriculture) and Ghana Health Services. The Moringa tree or Moringa oleifera is a highly versatile plant ideal for the semi-arid climate of the Ghanaian Dry-Season. With proper planting, fertilization, and watering, the tree reaches maturity in twelve months and has numerous medicinal properties certified by the Ghana Medical Association. These include natural cures for infertility, increased breast milk production in pregnant women, and appetite stimulation in infants. All parts of the tree: roots, bark, leaves, and seeds, can be either dried, ground, and put into tea, or mashed into a paste and applied externally on the body. High in antioxidants and proven to lower cholesterol, the tree is highly accessible and profitable for home use and sale to pharmaceutical companies during the Dry Season. After the workshop, I will be joining MEDA partners in disseminating the benefits of the Moringa tree to farmers and MEDA market clients. More on soy beans and marketing later in my next post. Ciao for now.