An Easy Sell? Women's Economic Empowerment in Ghana

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Empowering women in rural, northern Ghana—where nearly 80% of women have never attended school, is no small feat. With some smart marketing and production support for farmers, agribusinesses are now buying the idea.

Greater Rural Opportunities for Women (GROW) is a six-year project funded by both the Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA) and Global Affairs Canada (GAC). The main goal of the project is to improve food security for families in the Upper West Region of Ghana by assisting women farmers to increase productivity, link to sustainable markets, and improve nutrition practices.

The implementation of the GROW project started in 2013 with a goal of reaching 20,000 women farmers using a value chain approach. Through a mixed methods data gathering approach including interviews and surveys, MEDA recently developed and published a case study that examines the role of market actors and their profitability as they have engaged with the GROW project and female farmers. This blog shares some of the results.

 Ten market actors (farms, agricultural processing companies and cooperatives) provided figures regarding their total estimated sales to women in 2013 (before GROW) and 2016 (GROW Year 3). In 2013, their sales ranged from GHS 4,000 to GHS 50,000 (approximately USD800 to USD11,000), and three years later the reported sales ranged from GHS 8,000 to GHS 200,000 (USD1,600 to USD44,000), with increase in sales ranging from GHS4,000 to GHS150,000 (USD800 to USD33,000). Overall, this represented a 145% increase in sales to women. Of these, input suppliers reported an 193% increase, and for equipment and technology service providers, this represented a 197% increase in sales to women from 2013 to 2016 (see below figure).1

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The total percentage increase here is directly attributable to participation in the GROW project.

As a result of this access to equipment and inputs, GROW farmers are better able to expand and become more efficient in their production.

In addition, women consisted of just under half (46%) of both sales and clientele for surveyed agribusinesses and financial institutions.

Over ninety percent (92.4%) of market actors surveyed recognize the contribution women make to their businesses. According to the results, 75.5% strongly recognize women’s contribution to their businesses, and 18.7% report a very strong recognition. This was confirmed in the focus group discussion, where participants noted the backbone of the farming business is with women, women repay promptly, and add value to their businesses.

“Women want to pay right away and if they are selling products they want you to pick up the money right away. In the past we worked with men and they run away with our money; since then we have been working with women and we have never experienced such problems, they are supportive of our business and we appreciate their effort,” noted one agribusiness manager.

A key challenge that emerged from all value chain actors and that was expressed by three of the agribusinesses: difficulties related to soya threshers. None of the existing machines are ideal: farmers experience this as a bottleneck to their production, and likewise agribusinesses see it limiting the supply of soya. The GROW project is exploring innovative ways to promote access to this crucial technology.

The full case study can be found here.

We hope this blog post will help MEDA learn about the impact it is making in this market system, and contribute to broaden the knowledge base in women's economic empowerment in rural Ghana. We are buying it!

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