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What exactly is GROW?

Before I left for Ghana, obviously everyone wanted to know more about the program I would be working with: what its objectives are, the people it works with and generally how it’s doing. While I had to be pretty vague because I didn’t really know many of the details at the time, this blog is my attempt to explain the program after two-and-a-half months here (can’t believe it’s already two months!).

1 Woman and kids show off dry season gardenThis farmer and her children show off their dry season garden. Traditionally, agricultural activities stop during the dry season, leaving many families hungry. GROW provides training on agriculture strategies and techniques that allow families to provide food and income for themselves all year long

GROW stands for “Greater Rural Opportunities for Women,” and aims to increase food security for 20,000 women and their families in the Upper West region of Ghana, the tiny region in the top left-hand corner of the country. Its contract runs from 2012-2018 and is funded by Global Affairs Canada (formerly DFATD, formerly CIDA). The program has two offices in Ghana, one in Tamale (this is more of an administrative site) and one in Wa (which is more field oriented. This is where I’m based). By promoting soy cultivation and increasing access to its value chain for women, we are able to provide training in agricultural production techniques, strengthening market linkages, diversifying food production, increasing nutrition, and promoting growing and harvesting even during the dry season when agricultural activity traditionally stops.

2 Woman watering dry season gardenThis woman is watering her dry season garden, which provides food for her family and produce to sell even if they are not farming their larger plot. The fence keeps away hungry, free-roaming livestock.]

Although MEDA oversees the project, it is partnered with five locally-based Key Facilitating Partners, or KFPs. KFPs are responsible for achieving target numbers of farmers, running training sessions and monitoring how things are going in the field. They participate in workshops and then pass on the skills to the Lead Farmers, who then pass it on to the group of women farmers under them. Knowledge sharing travels from MEDA to KFPs to Lead Farmers to farmer groups of women in a way that empowers those with leadership skills to help those around them.

3 Drip irrigation and row plantingIn this photo you can see the black polytank that provides water used for drip irrigation. This farmer also makes use of row planting in order to keep the plot organized, reduce seed waste, provide maximum sunlight exposure, and give the farmer access to the rows to apply fertilizer or chemicals and for general maintenance.

The really cool thing about MEDA is that it doesn’t actually give the women anything besides knowledge. Many other programs give inputs, machinery, etc. free of charge, but these programs are more likely to fall flat because there is little accountability and things like tractors and threshers tend not to be used properly, get broken and not repaired. Instead, MEDA encourages an entrepreneurial spirit in its clients to invest their own resources in ways that make the most sense to them. This means savvy entrepreneurs may purchase a tractor or thresher and charge others for its use, or a group of women will come together to rent a thresher and help one another to get all of their fields done quickly. The women often lack access to traditional banks and financial services, so MEDA trains and empowers community VSLAs (Village Savings and Loans Associations), while simultaneously providing training opportunities. Training topics run the gamut and aim to impact all areas of life in order to help these women and their families move from subsistence farming towards a better standard of living.

4 Farmer group at soy utilization training

5 Step down on soy utilization trainingThese photos show a farmer group attending a soy utilization training session. These sessions provide information on the nutritional benefits of soy and teach attendees how to use them in preparing typical Ghanaian dishes

GROW is actually a pretty big deal, and I’ve even heard it referred to as a “Super Star Project” at the High Commission of Canada in Accra when attending a security briefing when I first arrived.

As for me, I’m working in the Measurement and Evaluation (M&E) and Communications branches of GROW. In communications we are planning to do some follow-ups on client stories and in M&E we are getting our our Midterm Evaluation underway, so it’s a busy time!. I’m also working on a case study project evaluating GROW’s interaction with Value Chain Actors, which brings together the M&E, Value Chain and Financial Services units, meaning I get to work closely with and learn from a wider group. We are currently in discussion to finalize our survey and focus group tools.

Stay tuned for my next steps!

Until next time,


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