Ghana, a place that’s rich with lush land, opportunity, and a growing young population is also a region with a vast amount of untapped resources.
In June this year, CEO and Founder of SheFarms, Tiambi R Simms and COO, Margot Barreveld, travelled to Mfuom, a community in the Jukwa District in Central Region of Ghana to introduce SheFarms and form a bond with the female farmers.
For four months prior the trip, SheFarms was working very closely with Selma Koomsom, the Director for Ghana at Rhiza, an NGO that provides education to secondary school children in Africa.
This relationship enabled SheFarms to not only develop a full training program that would help educate the female farmers in Mfoum, but also meet the farmers, see their farms and be part of their community.
“We stayed at the Nana’s house,” explains Tiambi. “He is the Nana of Development, and one of the chiefs in the village.”
It was a five-bedroom house, with a kitchen, dining area, a living room, front porch, an outhouse, and no running water.
The community introduced Tiambi and Margot to traditional Ghanaian food such as Fufu, a dish made with cassava and green plantain flour, and Banku, fermented corn dough with cassava dough.
Over 10 days, SheFarms founders hiked through the rainforests of Ghana to visit and meet 24 different farmers. Through these meetings, SheFarms was able to find out about their strengths, hardships, and goals.
In this particular village the female farmers inherit the land from their mother’s side, and despite most owning over 10 acres of land with cacao, palm oil, cassava, mixed farming, maize, tomatoes – they are still living below poverty line.
Tiambi explains that although the farmers sell between 50% to 80% of their production, they experience certain restrictions such as resource management, access to alternative markets, finance, information on broader price trends, and alternative buyers within their reach.
“Literacy is also a big issue amongst the farmers and the entire village,” she says.
The interactions and discussions triggered a sense of curiosity from the farmers, with a number of them asking questions about farm and crop insurance, how much their land was worth, and whether they needed a bank account.
“It’s all about awareness and providing them with access to information and resources that wasn’t attainable before,” says Tiambi.
Therefore, it was clear that the female farmers needed a platform, through which they can communicate and gain knowledge to improve their farming techniques, thus, overall production.
One of the farmers, Agnes Gyegye, travels for two hours to get to her farm and two hours back with her crops. Shas her own bank account, is in charge of the money, and works on the farm for six hours each day to provide for her family.
Despite having vast amount of land with healthy soil, the issue for her, she says, is logistics and how to get to the market faster, as the roads are not good.
Yaa Anima, has been a farmer for 25 years. Her mother taught her how to farm when she was just a little girl, and when she passed away, Yaa continued to learn from the community, and from other female farmers.
On her farm she has maize, cocoyam, cassava, plantain, garden eggs, pepper and tomatoes.
“[SheFarms] has great passion and affection for us as female farmer,” says Yaa. “I have learnt so many things I never knew in my life. I am over 60 years old and I believe that if I learn more from SheFarms, I will be able to transfer information to my children to become great in the future.”
It was evident to see that the farmers were eager to learn and to improve themselves. But it is important, Tiambi says, that we solve their first issue and that’s having enough money for them and their family.
“We need to understand that if we want to maintain our lifestyle in the West, we have to know that we depend on them and they depend on us,” says Tiambi. “We can’t constantly be taking from them and not giving back. We must invest in them.”
At the end of the trip one thing was clear: We have to do better.
That’s the conclusion for everything. We just have to do better, as people, as women, as a whole.