Empowering women to farm smarter
Sub-Saharan Africa has experienced the world’s most severe agriculture-related land degradation. This has massive implications for the livelihoods of the poor. Climate change will only accelerate this trend, with 600 million of the region’s people expected to face malnutrition by 2050.
About one-third of land in Ghana is under threat of desertification, with dry season temperatures expected to rise by 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius by 2050. In its mostly rural Northern Region, people depend heavily on rain-fed agriculture for their livelihoods. But erratic and/or reduced rainfall, pest infestations, depleted soil and poor market access make it increasingly difficult to live from farming. Since up to 45% of the land is deemed uncultivable, farmers work plots located farther and farther away from their villages. By regional custom, land belongs to men, and women are expected to work it. Typically, a husband sells any produce the family doesn’t plan to consume without sharing the resulting cash with his wife. To feed the family and provide for the kids, women often seek to earn income in other ways, such as by selling firewood or wild produce.
Amaati takes a market-oriented approach to encourage rural women in the Northern Region of Ghana to produce fonio on abandoned degraded lands. A whole-grain cereal native to West Africa, fonio is rich in amino acids as well as key nutrients such as iron, calcium, protein, magnesium and fibre. It is ideal for cultivation in semi-arid regions because it is drought resistant and matures in eight weeks. Its cultivation is particularly beneficial for the environment as it helps to regenerate the soil without the use of fertiliser nor irrigation. It thus promises to improve local populations’ earnings as well as their nutrition and health.
While fonio has been harvested from the wild and consumed for hundreds of years, Amaati promotes its cultivation and opens new markets for it. To ensure a sufficient supply, Amaati invests in organising and providing farmers with cultivable land and services such as tractor-based tilling and seeds. As a pioneer reviving Fonio in Northern Ghana, AMAATTI also ensures that farmers receive agriculture trainings on the cultivation of fonio and on post-harvest management.
At harvest, farmers pay Amaati in fonio for the services provided and sell to Amaati any fonio they haven’t kept for their own consumption. Amaati then transports, processes, packages and sells the fonio on the national and international marktets, employing 20-25 women at the processing unit to clean and sort the grains and four staff members and supervisors to operate the processing machinery.
IMPACT ACHIEVED SO FAR?
As of 2019, AMAATI had a total processing capacity of three tons per day, and the team had trained 2 865 farmers (of which 2 005 were female) on climate-smart agriculture practices and provided 1 600 women with credit to pay for ploughing services. It has worked with communities in ten regions in Ghana’s Northern Region and with 90 local retail shops nationwide to which it sells fonio. AMAATI also provides sustainable livelihoods for its roughly 30 employees. By end of April 2020, 3 000 acres of land is under land management.
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