Growing rice, growing prosperity – empowering the women of Yawboadi
In 2015, ICI entered Yawboadi, a cocoa-growing community located in the Ahafo Ano South East District in Ghana with the purpose to work with the community towards eliminating child labour. The community has a population of 577 inhabitants with the majority of the women assisting their husbands on the cocoa farm. Some of them cultivate a little rice to support the family income.
As part of the ICI project, a women’s group was formed for women, with children involved in child labour or at risk of child labour, who were interested in setting up Income Generating Activities (IGAs). The purpose behind the formation of the group was not only about the provision of temporary support to these women within the lifespan of the project. The IGA also serves as an empowerment tool that seeks to give women knowledge and skills in specific economic activities to help them support their families financially and empower them to contribute towards the development of their community.
How the group started
Aishatu Osman, is a 55-year-old woman with five (5) children. She has been a member of the IGA group since its establishment in 2017. She recounts for us the history of the group.
“The group was formed in 2015 with the purpose to support members in starting alternative income activities which will bring them extra income. We met once a week, on Friday mornings, and put in place rules and regulations on how we wanted our group to function. We did this because we knew that was the only way for the group to be sustainable. We were committed to ensuring that we get all the benefits we could from this initiative. After interacting with the Community Development Associate (CDA) and the Extension Officer from the Department of Agriculture, we decided to take up rice farming as an income generating activity. This commenced in 2017.”
The group on their own have started an account at one of the local banks which now has about GHC 1,200. The money was raised from their dues and other collections. They printed Dues Cards with which they raised funds. At every meeting, each member is required to pay GHC1.00. Since meetings are held weekly, each member pays monthly due of GHC 4. Members who miss the weekly meetings are required to pay GHC2.00. Late comers to meetings are fined 50pesewas each. This rule is not exempted for anyone, including visitors who come to interact with the group.
When the group was supported to start the rice farms, the members also decided to put aside GHC 50 from each harvest to raise more funds in their accounts.
According to Aishatu,
‘My role in the group is to fine latecomers and absentees. This is because I am usually the first person to get to the meeting venue.”
As part of the support to the group, the women received training in good agronomic practices in rice cultivation. They were trained on how to plant the seedlings and on how and when to use fertilizer and pesticides. They were also supplied with all the agro-chemicals and other materials like high-quality seedlings and a net to protect the shooting rice buds from birds.
With this knowledge, the Yaw Boadi women now plant their rice in lines with well-defined spaces between them. This allows them to easily move between the crops. It also allows them to plant more crops on a parcel of land.
As individuals, rice farming was not a new concept to the group. A lot of them were already engaged in this activity. The difference between what they used to do and what they are currently engaged in was the technical support and provision of necessary agro-chemicals.
Cephas Jacob Agbemazi, is the District Agriculture Officer who worked with the group during the lifespan of the project. He worked with ICI to trained and equip the women. He also provided extension services to them to supervise their application of the knowledge they had gained in the training. he has this to say about the progress the women have made so far;
“The group is the most cohesive of all the groups I have ever handled. The fact that rice production was not a new concept to them has also been a big contribution to their development. These women have progressed from an average one ton per hectare yield to 2.5 tons per hectare. 2018 saw the group getting about 4 tons per hectare due to improved rainfall. More people want to join the group due to this tangible change in the income of members. ”
Even though they are doing individual rice farms, they practice the Enoboa system. This is a farming practice in Ghana where people come together to help each other with the farm work. This is rotated from member to member till all the farm work is done. This means a reduction in labour costs and a shorter time dedicated to farm work as the numbers make the work easier.
One of the group members, Hawa Yakuba, has this to say about how she has benefited from this IGA;
“I am a farmer living in the Yaw Boadi community in the Asanti region. I am part of the group undertaking Income Generating Activities (IGAs). Previously, I used to cultivate rice but I always had low yields. My biggest harvest has been a bag of rice. Since joining the IGA, I have been trained in good agronomic practices on rice farming. We were also supported with seedlings and tools to start the farm. For the first time, I harvested six bags of rice. The money I made from the sale of the harvest was invested into my children’s education and a portion re-invested into the farm.”
This IGA group, which has developed into a self-help group (SHG) known as “the Life and Unity Association”, has shown great promise of surviving beyond the lifespan of the project. The change is so great that community leaders are seeing it.
According to the Assembly Member for the Community, Bismarck Kombert,
“I must say ICI has really empowered the women here through this rice farming. “ICI ama Mmaa no anya power”. Previously, the women were not making much money from rice farming due to low yields. They were also not working together. With support from ICI and the constant supervision of the crop extension officer from the Department of Agriculture, there has been significant improvement in the way the women cultivate their rice. Their yields have increased and we now see them working together. We also see them contributing more to the development of the community. They have become very helpful in supporting with the household income which did not use to be the case before. The women are also more involved in decision making in the community now because of the key role they are playing. Now, we have more food in the community because of their efforts. They participate more in community meetings and are also quick to contribute towards development initiatives in the community. This is because they now have the financial resources and the confidence to do that. They are also the only women in the community who have been awarded by the Assembly in the community. This has brought a lot of prestige to our small community. Thanks to ICI for empowering the women in Yaw Boadi. I will do my best, with other community leaders, to ensure that support their growth any way we can. We want this group to grow stronger and better than we see now because we can see their impact and commitment.”
The group, as part of their guidelines and planned actions, have agreed to work towards acquiring a milling machine. They will also be giving out low-interest loans to members in need of financial assistance. As a way of giving back to Yawboadi, the secretary for the group, Mr Appiah laid out more aspirations for the group in relation to the future of the children.
“We are looking at not just providing a protective environment for just our children but also for all other children in the community. We hope to work hard so we can help needy children by providing educational support in the form of school materials and scholarships. This will go a long way to help eliminate child labour from our community.