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Helping women get access to tools for farming success

By Mike Strathdee

As printed in The Marketplace - November/December 2017woman with planter in Ghana

MEDA is building on its successful work with women farmers in northern Ghana with a new initiative, the GROW (Greater Rural Opportunities for Women) Technology Fund.

 

Manual labor required to tend small farms in Ghana is time-consuming and not very efficient.

“They (women farmers) are basically adding another job to their workday if they’re doing farming activities,” said Jennifer Denomy, technical director of MEDA’s Vulnerable Populations work, focusing on projects supporting women and youth.

Recognizing this challenge, MEDA has begun efforts to get technologies into women’s hands, tools that will help with planting, growing, processing and transportation of soy and other crops.

In the instances where commercial tillage equipment is available and can be contracted, even when women can afford to pay for it, they are usually bumped to the bottom of the list for such services, Denomy said.

MEDA staff have identified nine technologies that are suitable, locally available and contribute to soy growing and processing. These include:

• Personal protective equipment to allow women to spray fertilizer or other chemicals safely, including a backpack sprayer, clothing, rubber boots and a mask

• A hippo roller, a barrel that is rolled over the ground to a pump or watering hole, filled with water, then taken back to where the water is needed. This eliminates the need for women to carry water on their heads in areas where the ground is level.

• A mechanized seed planter that allows seeds to be planted in a straight line and relatively evenly. Using this method instead of traditional scattering by hand results in fewer weeds and higher yields, resulting in major gains for farmers who don’t have access to a lot of land.

• A kickstart irrigation pump that helps people bring water from a nearby holding place to where it is needed to water a crop.

• Tarpaulins used to lessen the amount of unwanted material that gets into the soy after harvest as it is being dried on the ground. This also makes it easier to gather up dried soy.

• A mechanized thresher

• A kit that helps turn soy milk into yogurt

• A grinder to turn soybeans into a paste that can then be made into soy kebabs or other food products

• Donkey carts used by sales agents who aggregate the production of several farmers

The products are sold by local retailers and by non-profits, in the case of several of the larger items. Farmers pay a portion of the cost, with the majority coming from a MEDA “smart subsidy” in the form of coupons that can be redeemed by the women until next summer. ◆