Rural female farmers and food security in Ghana: A call for reflection

Ghana Food Project33333.jpeg Women are involved in farm activities as well as all household activities. File photo

Fri, 6 Nov 2020 Source: Alex Danso and Emmanuella Appiah

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development puts forward a transformational vision recognizing that our world is changing, bringing with it new challenges that must be overcome if we are to live in a world without hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition in any of its forms (FAO, 2019).

The growing trend of population and the loss of arable land demands measures to be put in place to ensure the adequate provision of food to feed the population.

In view of this, The United Nations in its Sustainable Development Goals captured food security in her goals and urges individual states to work towards the attainment of food security (UN, 2017).

Food security defines a situation in which all people at all times have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food which meets their dietary needs and food preferences for active and healthy life (World Bank, 2015).

In Ghana, the Ministry of Food and Agriculture defines food security as the availability of good quality nutritious food hygienically packaged, attractively presented, available in sufficient quantities all year round and located at the right place at affordable prices (FASDEP, 2003). Food security has three main components - availability of food, accessibility of food and utilization of food (FANTA, 2018).

The realization of the components of food security demands close collaboration with farmers across the world. According to (Dorward, 2013), the relation between agriculture and food security and nutrition have long been recognized and a number of conceptual frameworks were developed to show the pathways in which agriculture is affecting food and nutrition security.

Johnson-Welch et al., (2005) asserts that farmers are the main food producers in developing countries, increased smallholder agricultural production means more food enters the marketplace, leading to lower food prices and better diets.

In spite of the efforts put in place to ensure global food security, the number of people who suffer from hunger has slowly increased. As a result, more than 820 million people in the world were still hungry in 2018, underscoring the immense challenge of achieving the Zero Hunger target by 2030.

Hunger is on the rise in almost all African sub-regions, making Africa the region with the highest prevalence of undernourishment, at almost 20 percent (FAO, 2019).

A recent report prepared by (MoFA, 2015) discussed that about 5 percent of Ghana’s population (1.2 million people) are food insecure. The Economic Intelligence Unit (EIU, 2019) in its 2019 Global Food Security Index (GFSI) ranked Ghana 59th out of 133 countries and 3rd in sub-Sahara Africa. The EIU attributed this impressive performance to the Planting for Food and Jobs Programme.

Notwithstanding this impressive performance, Ghana can realize more food security if much attention is focused on rural female farmers.

In the view of (IFDAD, 2000), women are the first to be concerned with household food security and nutrition, acting as producers, processors and consumers.

In Ghana, women are involved in farm activities as well as all household activities which include food preparation, cleaning, caring for the children, fetching of water and firewood gathering (Drafor, Kunze & AI-Hassan, 2005).

Due to the rural-urban migration of male agricultural workers, available labour resources become increasingly scarce and women have to participate in activities that were traditionally dominated by men. As men move away and women remain, rural areas are populated by ever-higher proportions of women (Drafor, I. et al, 2005).

In its 2012 report, the Montpellier Panel argued that a large number of the poorest and most disadvantaged and marginalized people in sub-Saharan Africa are women and some of the poorest households are headed by women.

National agricultural policies, however, often assume farmers are mostly men. According to the FAO, women in some African countries spend up to 60 percent of their time on agricultural activities.

Women farmers contribute up to 50 percent of labour on farms in sub-Saharan Africa. More than 60 percent of employed women in sub-Saharan Africa work in agriculture. Some studies show that female farmers are just as productive as male farmers.

A study conducted in the Mossi Plateau of Burkina Faso, even found that female labour in farming was six times more productive than male labour (IFAD, 2005). Empowering female farmers could help increase food security and improve livelihoods for Africa’s growing population, which is expected to quadruple within the next 90 years (World Bank, 2014).

It is evidenced that females are concerned with food security in the sense that they are involved in food production, food processing and food consumption. However, by and large, females have remained as invisible workers in the agricultural sector.

The significant involvement of women in agricultural work and their extensive economic contribution has not received much recognition. It is against this backdrop that the I call for the attention of the government, NGOs, and other Stake Holders as well as private researchers to reflect on the possible means available in order to harness the full potential of the rural female farmer to help promote food security in Ghana and the world at Large.

Columnist: Alex Danso and Emmanuella Appiah