Women’s empowerment in agriculture and rural development in Ghana
Youth entrepreneurship in agriculture and rural development sector in Ghana:
Formerly noted for their mothering roles (Deckard, 1983), Sub-Saharan African women in agriculture, especially those in Ghana are gradually defying the odds to become sustainers of their homes despite their meagre income (Heintz, 2005; ILO Geneva, 2011). Nonetheless, the major difficulty they face in the agricultural sector, is that of lack of finance, of which the creation of an enabling and conducive environment will lead to their true empowerment, hence, reinforce their economic capabilities (Sen, 2003). However, their much younger counterparts, the youth, as much as they are encouraged to go into agriculture, tend to rather reel under their “Achilles heel”, thus, engage in their unabated exodus from rural areas to urban centers in search of non-existent jobs. This paper, admonishes the sensitization of the former in a bid to ensure their entrepreneurship, and by so doing, promote rural development. For purposes of methodology, the paper has been duly divided into two major parts, of which the first part talks about women’s empowerment, whereas, the second part deals with youth entrepreneurship in agriculture and the rural development sector.
Key words: Women, Youth, empowerment, entrepreneurship, rural development.
Anciennement connues pour leurs rôles de mère (Deckard, 1983), les femmes de l'Afrique Subsaharienne dans le secteur agricole, en particulier celles du Ghana défient progressivement les chances de devenir le soutien de leurs familles en dépit de leur faible revenu (Heintz, 2005; OIT, Genève, 2011). Néanmoins, la difficulté majeure qu'elles rencontrent dans le secteur agricole, est celui de manque de financement, dont la création d'un environnement favorable et propice conduira à leur véritable émancipation ainsi que le renforcement de leurs capabilités (Sen, 2003). Cependant, leurs homologues, les jeunes, autant qu'ils sont encouragés à aller dans l'agriculture ont plutôt tendance à être sous l’influence de leur "talon d'Achille" à savoir : leur exode sans relâche des zones rurales vers les centres urbains à la recherche d'emplois inexistants. Ce papier, propose comme solution, la sensibilisation de ces jeunes dans le but d'assurer l’entreprenariat jeunesse et par extension, le développement rural. Pour des raisons de méthodologie, le papier a été dûment divisé en deux parties principales, dont la première partie parle de la dé-marginalisation des femmes, alors que la deuxième partie est consacrée à l'entreprenariat jeunesse dans l'agriculture et le secteur du développement rural.
Mots clés: Femmes, jeunes, émancipation, entreprenariat jeunesse, développement rural.
The South-South Cooperation as well as the Triangular Cooperation together do offer the Global South the needed platforms to help address key developmental issues affecting member nations. For this reason, this paper deems it an honour to share some few thoughts on the topic at hand, which in our view, as researchers, is of prime importance to the cause of women and the youth at large in the developing world, especially that, in recent times notably after the Beijing Conference, the issue of the former, thus, their empowerment has always come to the fore.
By way of methodology, this paper has been divided into two major parts. The first part talks about women’s empowerment with emphasis placed on their role in agriculture and rural development whereas the second part deals with youth entrepreneurship in agriculture and the rural development sector. At this juncture, let us take a look at our first part of our paper.
Women’s empowerment in agriculture and rural development in Ghana
Hitherto, for centuries, the most important clue to a woman’s status anywhere in the world has always been her degree of participation in economic life and her control over property and the product she creates (Leavitt, 1971; Hartmann, 1976).
However, for purposes of efficiency, every known society has always divided and specialized labour tasks to some extent. The aforementioned division of labour has for the most part, consciously or unconsciously been done along gender lines where men carry out tasks that take them outside the home. Women, however, are largely restricted to homecare and childbearing activities due to their attributes, known traits and behavioural pattern.
Nonetheless, based on their perceived temperament, they are naturally considered as mothers, and their greatest pleasure and true fulfilment are thought to lie in maternity (Deckard, 1983).
These aforementioned ideologies about women have tended to further alienate and marginalize them and have in one way or the other belittled their work in the home and outside the home, hence, their contribution to the economic well-being of the home and the society at large.
Nonetheless, in recent times, especially today’s world and for that matter, today’s global economy, more and more women are beginning to play somewhat growing roles. Thus, their contribution and role in the family as well as in the economic development and social transformation are becoming more and more pivotal.
In the developing world, Sub-Saharan Africa for instance, there has been a surge in the role women play in the region’s economy especially that they seem to be influential every step of the value chain. This is rightly so as it is thought that the agricultural sector is considered as one of the oldest occupations of women in Africa, hence, still employs across the Continent a great number of them. Besides, currently, amidst the growing population in Ghana (total population of about 27 million inhabitants), generally speaking, the majority of the workforce is engaged in low-income agricultural and informal activities (Heintz, 2005), especially, as the domestic economy depends largely on subsistence agriculture which also accounts for approximately 50% of employment (Aryeetey & Baah‐Boateng, 2007).
However, though it is estimated that, about 60% of the active population is into agriculture, the findings of the Ghana Statistical Service, as per their 2010 Population and Housing Census showed that, though there are more females in Ghana than males, the male counterparts seem to be the most employed.
Nonetheless, generally across Africa, the number of the women keep rising as an estimated 10 to 12 million people yearly seek to join the African Continent’s workforce of which about 364 million people are between the ages of 15-34. Majority of this youthful population are arguably women.
It is however worth noting that, most young rural people, thus, women in Sub-Saharan Africa, work in family farming (a lot go unpaid for their services) and the informal sector, which are typified by the following: low levels of income and productivity, poor working conditions, absence of social protection, limited opportunities for advancement and absence of social dialogue (ILO Geneva, 2011).
The situation in Ghana is not any different. The income levels are generally low and are nowhere near the country’s GDP per capita income thought in 2014 to be around 775.46 US dollars, thus, representing, 6% of the world’s average (World Bank, 2016; Trading Economics, 2016).
Though the agricultural sector is dominated by men, women are seen every step of the value chain. Regrettably, their efforts are largely hindered and impeded by the lack of finance which usually stems out of the shortage of working capital .
As women’s employment is frequently concentrated in activities for which earnings are low, the risks of poverty is high, and control over income precarious, hence, bringing about, a disproportionate number of women often working as own-account workers or unpaid workers on family enterprises. In Northern Ghana, for example, women’s participation in income generating employment is high, nearly equivalent to that of men, but poverty rates among working women remain above those of working men. Thus, there is a clear gendered pattern to the relationship between employment and poverty in Ghana (Heintz, 2005).
However, though the income women generate from their operations may be small, it plays a significant role in meeting family food needs (IFAD, 1998).
Nonetheless, notwithstanding the fact that most of the farms these women operate on usually seem to be small and somewhat for the greater part, labour intensive, they are equally bedevilled with working with very limited tools irrespective of the fact that, this very sector elsewhere has become not only capital intensive but for the greater part a lot more mechanized.
At this juncture, a good question comes to mind: How can women finance agricultural activities in view of increasing their stake in the national economy, hence, their empowerment?
This question and many others remain critical to changing the current trend of events, as the issue of financing women’s agricultural activities has always come to the fore especially as it is generally accepted that their income levels are usually low as a result of their significantly less access to wage employment (GLSS 4, 98/99). According to UNIDO, people living in the world’s peripheries especially women, shoulder the burden of the world’s poverty (UNIDO, 2003). This clearly attests to the fact that despite their seemingly important roles, women remain relatively financially challenged.
Hence, in the quest of reinforcing their capabilities economically (Sen, 2003), credit facilities have been brought on board to meet the latter’s needs. But there again, how easy is it to access these loans in the wake of little or no assets to serve as collaterals?
Besides, with respect to financing, Ghana has recently been hit by a lot of setbacks as a result of the growing numbers of defaulted microfinance companies who had run unsuccessful Ponzi schemes (Graphic Online, 2015).
Coupled with the aforementioned reason, one can also add that though the Ghanaian economy is on the verge of making a recovery according to the nation’s Finance Minister, the interest rates being charged by its commercial banks are currently amongst the highest in the world, hence, making capital quite expensive (Doing business, 2015).
But then again, what really amounts to women’s empowerment? Does it go beyond an affirmative action to drive home the demands of gender equality and imbalance?
Empowerment, in the much broader sense, is based on the idea that giving employees skills, resources, authority, opportunity, motivation, as well as holding them responsible and accountable for outcomes of their actions, will contribute to their competence and satisfaction. In that regard, the term, “women’s empowerment”, makes indeed reference to the creation of an environment for women where they can make decisions of their own for personal benefits as well as for the society at large.
Hence, for the Ghanaian society to conclude that it has adequately empowered its women to play key roles, in a sector like that of agriculture, then, there is an urgent need for the drawing up of frameworks and the creation of the enabling and conducive environments that women need. In other words, more institutionalized affirmative action is needed to help empower women to spearhead not only the growth of the sector due to their number but most importantly leverage on their influence in the home to lift many households out of poverty and ensure by so doing a more befitting rural setting in Ghana. For this reason, financial institutions could be encouraged to lend to women in agriculture at much more “softer” interest rates and as such benefit tax waivers and exemptions for example.
In that regard, financial institutions who do encourage agriculture could be labelled as contributing to Ghana’s green economy (agricultural market segmentation) hence benefit from incentives which will spur then on to continue assisting the women in their endeavours. The women could also be encouraged to join hands and form cooperatives, all in the bid to present themselves as worthy economic agents, hence, court the attention of the financial institutions.
As part of their social corporate responsibility, companies in Ghana could also adopt in the rural areas, farms, food processing plants as well as women cooperatives and economic units in the area of agribusiness, all in the bid of ensuring their (women’s) increased output and overall empowerment.
Arguably, concepts such as that of fair trade could also be sold a lot more to Ghanaians, as it directly helps empower women in agriculture. For this reason, institutional support is needed to back and protect the rights of these women.
 The author is a PhD Candidate in Governance and Development at the Mohammed V University – Rabat in Morocco. He equally is a junior researcher at l’Institut des Etudes Africaines (IEA), a research centre affiliated to Mohammed V University-Rabat.
 IFAD - Office of Evaluation and Studies. 1998 . Ghana: LACOSREP I, Mid-term Evaluation Report. Rome. July.
- Quote paper
- Frank Edem Kofigah (Author), 2016, Women's Empowerment and Youth Entrepreneurship in Agriculture and Rural Development Sector in Ghana, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/317254