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Chapter 2. Improving women's agricultural productivity.

Recent attempts to improve Ghana's agricultural production have involved serious examination of gender issues. And just as early efforts to improve agricultural production focused on male farmers, so contemporary efforts have often become women's projects. But neither approach has had the desired effect. It is important to gather data on women, after decades of neglect, but focusing only on women will just keep women marginalized (Imam 1990). Sustainable programs need to involve both men and women.

The traditional rural household has been misunderstood by many analysts: rural communities, like the rest of society, have undergone significant changes. In the traditional household there was a clear division of economic responsibilities. The division of labor--who was supposed to do what--was clearly defined by age and sex. But social change has brought several changes in the structure, composition, and social and economic organization of the Ghanaian household and with them changes in how work is divided and how responsibilities are shared (Brown 1994).

To understand gender relationships at the household level one must understand the rural household. In a simplified view the rural household is a unified group of people with common goals, all working together, even if engaged in different activities--and gender is simply a way to categorize labor or the head of the household. But rural gender relationships are not simple. In rural households complex negotiations take place between men and women over the use of productive resources and the use of produce or income. Gender affects production relationships within and across rural households--that is, the setting of goals and priorities, the mobilization of resources, and individuals' willingness to take risks (Moock 1986). Women will help their husbands "in a more corporate manner," for example, if husbands have responsibility for finding the family's food. The more pronounced the separation of accounts between men and women, the sharper the division of labor (Palmer 1991). According to Bukh (1979), the introduction of cash crops in Ghana (which involved mostly men) was one of the most important reasons for the growing inequality between men and women. Another factor contributing to conflicts of interest in Ghanaian households is that ties of lineage are often stronger than conjugal ties in all ethnic groups in Ghana, patrilinear or matrilinear (Lloyd and Brandon 1993).

However agricultural tasks and produce are divided, household food security is clearly a priority. In Ghana food purchases account for much of the total household spending--in rural households, about 35 percent (UNICEF/Government of Ghana 1993). In many parts of the country subsistence farmers' output is insufficient to meet household consumption needs. The proportion of the household budget allocated for food is often seen as a measure of relative poverty. Lloyd and Brandon (1993) maintain that women tend to allocate a larger share of their own resources to the food needs of their children. Economic conditions in recent years have affected the traditional gender division of responsibilities in the household. In areas where men are supposed to provide food staples while women provide the soup ingredients, women are increasingly supplementing household food needs as well as helping to meet other traditional men's responsibilities (Whitehead 1993).


The increasing number of households headed by women is a concern, as these households are believed to be among the poorest in rural areas (Heyzer 1992). Ardayfio-Schandorf (1994) reports that households headed by women are more prevalent in urban areas (33 percent) than in rural areas (28 percent) and that overall the imbalance is increasing (from 25.7 percent in 1960 to 29.1 percent in 1989). Households headed by women contain fewer children and fewer adults and tend to be smaller than households headed by men, but with a higher dependency ratio. Whether the reported household head is male or female is not by itself an indicator of economic status but it may be an indicator of potential vulnerability. Individuals are more likely to be among the poorest group if they live in households with older heads, either male or female, or in households headed by widows (Lloyd and Brandon 1993).

Researchers and development practitioners often assume that rural women are a socially homogeneous group. But women involved in agriculture vary widely in potential and in constraints on increased productivity and income generation. Sometimes better-off women traders take advantage of poorer women farmers (Gura 1986; Imam 1990). To reach poorer groups of women requires carefully targeting benefits that will reach them and be retained by them. The prevalence of polygamy (and the ranking of wives and widows) maintains women in a subordinate position, whether among the matrilineal Akan-speaking peoples or in such patrilinear societies as the Ewe, the Ga, the Tallensi, and the many societies of the North (Nukunya 1992). But generally it is difficult to apply one description to all Ghanaian women. As one person writes:

Ghana's ethnic, cultural and agro-ecological diversity makes generalizations about gender relations and their consequences for women's access to resources, decision making and status extremely difficult. Divergence of experiences has been further widened by regionally distorted historical development and biased development policies. In particular, the three Northern regions are disadvantaged by the combined effects of harsh agro-climatic conditions, low output per capita, limited options beyond small-scale farming, less urbanization and low service provision. Combined with strongly patriarchal family structures, women's lack of influence in decision making, and a history of male outmigration which has tended to increase women's work burden, this results in the generally more limited options of northern women. However, socio-economic differentiation is also marked in more prosperous southern regions... Other variables, such as age and education, particularly differentiate women's experiences (University of Sussex 1994; i).

Although rural women are important in agricultural production, they are commonly believed to be less efficient farmers that men (Box 2.1). Even women see many of their tasks as unproductive. They struggle against greater odds than men do, bearing heavier responsibilities. Wherever women find themselves, they look for ways to improve household, food, and economic security. Agro-ecological conditions often limit their opportunities for agricultural production and other income-generating possibilities. In coastal areas where land is often unavailable or unsuitable for farming (Manu 1989), fish smoking is a major activity. And according to the 1960 census, out of 90,000 people in the canoe-fishing industry, more than half (47,000) were women who processed and sold fish. Salt mining is also important for women from October to early May. These activities compensate for the lack of farmland (Date-Bah 1985; Manu 1989). Women rarely concentrate all their efforts in one activity; it would be too dangerous if crops or markets were to fail. The importance of diversification was brought out during a visit to Lekpongunor, a coastal village of the Greater Accra region, which had a poor fishing harvest for a few months. Most of the women there rely heavily on income from fish smoking, so Mrs. Anson, the field coordinator of the Regional Training and Applied Research Project for Artisanal Fish Processing, used the opportunity to stress the need for the women to engage in additional income-generating activities to ensure a steady income, regardless of seasonal and annual variations in the harvest. In addition, of course, women do most of the work gathering household fuelwood, especially during farming season. Even though women have much more work to do on the farm they must still make fuelwood available for preparing family meals.
Box 2.1 Are Women Farmers as Productive as Men?

Early efforts to improve agricultural production focused
exclusively on male farmers. Women were not believed to be capable
of farming at the same level of efficiency and giving women
extension information and improved inputs was considered a waste of
scarce resources. Given the advantages that male farmers enjoy,
especially those growing cash crops, it is no wonder that many
studies found male farmers more efficient. Several factors
contribute to the lower productivity of Ghana's women farmers:
small farm size and inability to hire laborers to increase farm
size; types of tools used; unfavorable land tenure; lack of
extension information and agrochemicals; lack of credit; and the
number of tasks women have to perform at a distance from the farm
(Date-Bah 1985). But studies that control for differences in
individual characteristics and levels of input use show that female
farmers are as efficient as male farmers (Quisumbing 1994). Gladwin
(1996) states that "gender differences alone do not explain
productivity differences between men and women farmers, but gender
disparities and women's lack of access to the basic
yield-increasing inputs of production result in lower yields."


Several related factors limit women's productivity, but chief among them are competing demands on their time.

Constraints on Women's Time

Lack of time is a serious constraint for rural women, whose multiple tasks give them a far heavier workload than men. Cleaver and Schreiber (1994) argue that women's lack of time--or the excessive amount of time they must spend each day on household tasks--is the single most binding constraint on female productivity in farming and other income-earning activities. Competing pressures for women's time and energy may lead to trade-offs, such as fewer hot meals or less attention to one crop or field. And conflicts may arise about the use of family labor time if men's and women's crops or fields require attention at the same time (Ghana-CIDA Grains Development Project 1993). Saito and Weidemann (1990) advise extension agents to be sensitive to women's lack of time and to the fact that the timing of household tasks is relatively inflexible. Their training visits should not add to women's time stress.

In most places women are responsible for collecting water and fuelwood, although Islamic tenets require men to provide these necessities for household use, which may be why more men are involved in fuelwood collection in the savanna areas (Table 2.1). Some men may actually pay their wives for the water and fuelwood the family uses. Environmental degradation has increased the burden of collecting fuelwood and other forest products for household use, and has affected the income generated. The household's socioeconomic situation determines whether these tasks are done by members of the household or by hired laborers.

Inadequate infrastructure facilities--especially the water supply--greatly curtail women's productivity and increase their time commitments. Among households in Ghana 76.9 percent (urban) and 16.1 percent (rural) have access to pipe-borne drinking water; 13.9 percent (urban) and 43.0 percent (rural) depend on borehole, well, or rain water; and 9.2 percent (urban) and 40.9 percent (rural) use only rivers, streams, or dugouts (Ghana Statistical Service 1995). Poor roads are another major problem. Ehiring the rainy season most farms in the northern region are cut off because of impassable roads, so farmers are unable to sell or buy at market rates prevailing elsewhere.

The notion of time as human capital to be managed, or a resource to be carefully invested, is not new. Nor is the fact that women usually endure harsher time pressures than men do. Time is a resource, but it is not expandable. Improved agricultural practices can raise crop production, better information can increase a fisher's catch, but nothing yet devised can add hours to the day. In a sense using time more productively effectively "stretches" time by producing more output, but for repetitive, time-consuming, essential daily tasks distance rarely shortens and the means of transport rarely improves. In fact, the time and distance covered to fetch firewood may gradually increase as nearby brushwood is consumed.

The economic implications of how women have to use their time are discomforting--and run across all sectors and issues. Poverty of time also affects perceptions about other kinds of deprivation.

The effects of women's heavy time constraints are pervasive: the woman's exhaustion and daily (perhaps prolonged) absence from the village or community; inequities within the family; gradual erosion of the local supply of water and fuelwood; and, nationally, the waste or misuse of energy and abilities needed to bring about lasting social and economic development. Ghana's capital of human time and energy are still directed to preserving an unbalanced and unproductive system in which women contribute the most and benefit the least.

How people respond to changing macroeconomic conditions is partly conditioned by the demands on their time. If a woman is overworked and her time is already committed to one activity, for example, she may not be able to take advantage of a changing price incentive without abandoning another important duty. New economic opportunities may involve women in a "negative sum game" in which time and energy devoted to any new effort are diverted from other important activities (Haddad 1991). Realistic efforts to encourage women to participate in economic activities and be more productive must consider their time constraints and obligations.

According to the 1987/88 living standards survey, women's time commitments are 15 to 25 percent greater than those of men--for all age groups, jobs, and types of households--mainly because of their heavier commitment to household work. Women typically spend 20 hours a week (men five) doing housework. Men compensate for only a third of this gap by devoting more time to paid activities (Haddad 1991).

A similar picture emerges from the 1991/92 survey (Figure 2.1). Women of all age groups spend more time than men on household activities. Men withdraw from household activities as they become adults, but women's household responsibilities increase with age and do not substantially decrease until they are 70 or older. Girls' significantly greater involvement in household activities partly explains their low enrollment in middle and secondary schools. The gender gap in time devoted to household activities becomes appreciably wider for the age groups 10-14 and 15-19, but is widest for the most productive age group, 20--49. And demands on women's time do not change with household income. The time women devote to household activities is similar for different household-income quintiles (Figure 2.2). True, women from richer households may devote less time to fetching water and fuelwood but they spend more time on other household activities.


The reasons for women's greater involvement in household activities include many socially defined gender-based expectations. With the emergence of the nuclear family system, men are sharing more household chores, but the pace of change in the division of household tasks is slow. Women's involvement in household work (and the length of time devoted to household activities) depends on the type of family structure, the social class, the economic resources available to women, and how modernized the economy is (Brown 1994).

Women in urban areas devote significantly less time to household activities than those living in rural areas do, because they spend less time fetching water and collecting fuelwood (Figure 2.3). In the short run public policy cannot effectively reduce that part of women's time burden attributable to rigid gender-based expectations, but providing more easily available drinking water and energy-efficient cooking technologies can greatly help.

Rural women in Ghana depend heavily on "free" natural resources, such as nuts, mushrooms, fruits, berries, leaves, and small animals and on raw materials for such cottage industries as those involving dyes, resins, and fibers. At the same time women as forest exploiters are also important managers of natural resources (Molnar and Schreiber 1989). Protecting the environmental resources they depend on is one way to ensure that their present level of household food security is not further threatened. Poverty is one of the worst enemies of the environment: poorer nations and people overexploit natural resources to survive (Chitepo 1991).



Unenlightened exploitation equally degrades the environment. In some areas of Ghana's forest zone, for example, oil palm trees are declining because of the method of palm wine harvesting (cutting down the trees instead of tapping the trees for wine, as practiced elsewhere). For women who process palm oil, such a technique threatens an important food source and income-earning activity. Clearly, an intervention focused solely on improving the processing technology without addressing the problem of deforestation would soon run into problems because there would eventually be no palm fruit to process. Widespread deforestation and the extension of agricultural lands into forest areas has placed a severe burden on rural women, especially the poorest women who must travel longer distances and spend more time collecting firewood. Substitutes must be found for diminishing firewood supplies, and cooking methods and family nutritional needs must be adjusted to match available firewood supplies (Bagchi 1987). Women are painfully aware of how changes in the environment have reduced crop yields and the fertility of land, dried up water sources, and destroyed vegetation, including fuel wood (Iddi 1996). In one fishing village 95 percent of the women said they had no difficulty finding fuelwood 10 years ago; only 5 percent say that is true now (Ardayfio-Schandorf 1993).

Policymakers in Ghana can ease major constraints on the productive use of women's time by doing four things. They can:

* Focus on providing easily accessible, safe drinking water. Heavier investment in the water and sanitation sector will clearly ease women's time constraints. The collection and use of water is primarily a women's task, according to a UNICEF study (1990). In northern Ghana 88.4 percent of water is collected by women and 9.3 percent by girls, so improving the water supply benefits women proportionately more than men. Easier access to sources of safe drinking water not only reduces the time women spend fetching water, but reduces the incidence of waterborne diseases in the family. The most effective and sustainable water and sanitation projects involve women in planning, implementation, and maintenance.

* Conduct research on appropriate technologies for reducing the consumption of fuelwood. A reliable supply of fuelwood is important for household cooking and for such income-generating activities as the brewing of beer, the processing of nuts, and the smoking offish. Women are responsible for most of these food processing activities, which, together with domestic cooking, account for 80 percent of the demand for fuelwood (UNICEF 1990). Technological innovations that increase the efficiency of traditional wood ovens will reduce the time women now use collecting fuelwood, cooking, and processing food. New models of the "smokeless oven" used in India are more fuel-efficient and emit less smoke. Promoting similar technologies in Ghana will ease women's time constraints and reduce the likelihood of their contracting respiratory diseases.

* Consider gender differentials in access to and control over land and trees and design schemes to promote communal woodlots in ways that ensure women's participation. Recent efforts in the northern region, designed primarily to produce wood appropriate for male-oriented construction activities, were of little benefit to women in the area.

* Make gender analysis an integral part of the design of policies and programs to promote economic growth and alleviate poverty. Systematic attention should be paid to the economic implications of time allocation issues. Gender analysis can be used to identify imbalances in the gender division of labor (including rigidities in labor allocation and the unequal division of household work), to understand gender-based differences in incentive and capacity because of differing levels of access to (and control over) economically productive resources, and to explain the implications (and invisibility) of women's work. Only when these factors are better understood can economic reform and development programs achieve their intended objectives.

Limited Access to Productive Resources

Women's limited access to land, labor, and capital (as well as decisionmaking power) clearly affects their productivity. One of several types of rural poverty that especially affect women in Sub-Saharan Africa is "poverty of resources." Resources become more scarce as demand for them increases because of high population growth and as environmental degradation reduces their supply and quality. Women are often the losers when resources become scarce. One reason why poverty and hunger are increasing is that responsibility for the physical and intellectual growth of boys and girls is being shifted to their mothers, who do not have the access to resources they need to provide for the family (Snyder 1990). Women need not just "access to" but "control over" a resource, and decisionmaking power over its long-term use, including its ultimate disposal.

Rural women's limited access to land has received much attention but, as Davison (1988) points out, land alone does not explain what is happening to women in agricultural production. In Ghana land is not traditionally considered a "commodity" to be bought or sold; rather, it is a resource with sacred meanings that define one's existence and identity in social relationships (Davis 1993). Land tenure in Africa technically involves access rather than ownership, as land is usually officially owned by the government, but controlled by village chiefs. If, in allocating land, chiefs discriminate against women, this merely reflects women's socially inferior position (Ewusi 1978). As Cleaver and Schreiber (1994: 80) explain:
 In Ghana, despite significant differences
 among ethnic groups, land generally belongs to
 the community and use rights are held by the
 lineage. Lineage members seeking land to farm
 ask the lineage head to assign them a piece of
 land. Discrimination against women in this allocation
 process is widely reported; fewer women
 obtain land; women often get less fertile land;
 and women obtain smaller parcels. In some
 patrilinear groups, such as the Krobo, women
 usually have no access to lineage land, unless
 they are unmarried, live in their parental home,
 and cultivate land allocated to them by their

Women in matrilineal societies may have an advantage over their sisters in patrilinear societies. Among the Ashanti (a matrilineal society), more than 50 percent of the landholders are women compared with only 2 percent in the north (NCWD 1994).

Uncertain access to land is a disincentive to improve that land through long-term investment (Chitepo 1991). Moreover, restrictions, often socially imposed, about using the land for such purposes as tree-growing limit women's ability to participate in agroforestry or other programs requiring long-term land use. With access only to land that is often less fertile women may only be able to cultivate cassava, while men will put the more fertile land into the cultivation of cash crops (Bukh 1979).

The man in the family often controls labor and capital, so a woman may need to ask her husband's permission to take time to work on her own farm during farming season. Nor is the children's labor automatically under the mother's control. A woman makes decisions about the crops grown on her own plot and influences decisions about the family farm, but the male head of household has final decisionmaking power (Millar 1996). A woman may need the consent of her husband to take out a loan, which the husband could then take for his own purposes.

In focus group discussions involving rural women, women said they had trouble expanding their farm size because they didn't have enough money to hire laborers to help with the land. Even if they planted the same cash crops as men, their farms were smaller and most of the produce was used for household consumption. They also usually had to sell whatever excess they had at harvest time, when prices were low. If perishable crops such as cassava and vegetables could be processed or stored, instead of being sold as tubers or fresh produce, women could significantly increase their financial gains, even without increasing production. Less wastage and greater profits would encourage women to find ways to produce more, possibly through groups, and to process other women's raw produce. Even if women cannot get better control of the land, locally, more capital would allow them to make fuller use of the resources at their disposal and expand their options for activities less dependent on land.

The Need to Combine Several Activities

Rural women combine as many as four or five income-generating activities to minimize the risk inherent in total reliance on one activity. This is a coping mechanism used by poorer men and women alike, but women are especially willing to try additional ventures. Most of these activities entail low capital input, use labor-intensive technology, and yield low levels of productivity.

At Wadie-Adumakase, an Ashanti village, rural women emphasized the need for a separate income because even though their husbands might increase income from the family farm, the increase might not be used to improve the welfare of the family. "In the long run, the children's welfare is the woman's responsibility," they said. B.M.B. and FEMCONSULT (1990: 9) concur: "Increased output on the husband's fields does not automatically improve the living conditions of the whole family, since the men often spend the extra income on consumer or luxury goods, whereas the output of the women's fields are mainly used to satisfy basic family needs."

Most rural women rear some small livestock. One survey in the northern region showed that about 70 percent of the women have 5 to 10 chickens and 20 percent have 2 to 5 goats (Adongo 1980). In focus groups most women (from villages in Ghana's forest, savanna, and coastal areas) said they kept a few chickens, goats, and sheep. In one village in the forest zone many inhabitants, male and female, were rearing turkeys, especially to sell at the time of festivals. (They complained of the birds' high mortality rate, which was hardly surprising as they were allowed to range freely, like chickens. Despite regular extension visits to this village, extension agents had not advised them to cage the turkeys or take other precautions). In one coastal village many women rear pigs, but only for sale, as local residents do not eat pork. Several local women own cattle. (The myth that women do not own cattle in the area may persist partly because women tend to conceal such apparent wealth. Only because a trusted project field coordinator was present was this information offered.) These women were able to purchase cattle and other livestock with profits from their fish-smoking businesses, which were enhanced by technological improvements from the project.

Women all over Ghana also process various types of edible oil, including that from palm, coconut, groundnuts, and shea nuts. Shea butter extraction is very important in northern Ghana. Other income-earners--many encouraged by different development projects--include cassava processing, soap making, fish smoking, small-scale gold mining, fish pond farming, cotton spinning, pita brewing, basket making, batik printing, and dry-season vegetable farming. Many women also process the fruits of locust trees (Parkii biglobiosi) into a local spice called dawa dawa. One woman has made beekeeping, usually considered a man's activity, a full-time business. (In 1990 she harvested 24 gallons of honey.)

Pottery making is an important source of income for women in many villages. (Indeed, in the Kumasi area, the craft is taboo for men.) Because of changing economic conditions and the high cost of imported pots, local pots regained importance in the 1980s, to the advantage of the women potters (DateBah 1985). In the Adansua village in eastern Ghana, pottery and soap making are being introduced to women who are primarily fish processors, as insurance against times when fish are not plentiful. The women paid for their training and deposited money for a kiln to be installed.

Some activities are significantly affected by gender and social beliefs. Traditionally, for example, rural Ghanaian women do not weave Kente and other types of cloth because of their belief that weaving on a narrow loom with their legs apart would cause infertility (Konadu 1980). Cloth dyeing, however, is an important activity for women in Ashanti land, where black cloth is essential for funeral ceremonies. At Ntonsa Mission, near Ntonsa village in the Ashanti region, nearly all women are engaged in cloth dyeing. Lack of water keeps them from expanding their business.

During the past session, one component of the Sasakawa Africa Fund for Extension Education (SAFE):

* Introduced pig farmers to improved meat-smoking techniques so their products could be sold (at much higher prices) as smoked pork.

* Increased women farmers' decisionmaking options for maize storage.

* Trained rural women to process soybeans into dawa dawa.

* Integrated beekeeping with plantation crops.

* Introduced the use of woodlots to provide fuelwood for cottage industries (Ntifo-Siaw and others 1996).

Such projects not only help women farmers but also make extension agents more aware of the possibilities for helping rural women.

Cultural Constraints

Strategies to advance women that directly conflict with cultural norms and social beliefs will not be sustainable in the long run if the mode of intervention is confrontational. The socioeconomic context that puts women at a disadvantage is often disregarded at planning programs for them. Among the Frafra people of the upper east region, for example:

* The gods forbid a married woman to go into a granary without her husband's permission.

* Women are not allowed to search for firewood in or around fetish groves, except at specified times.

* Women in their menstrual period should not go into a farm until their period is over; if they do, and if there is no sacrifice to pacify the gods, the harvest will be poor.

* Women must not eat fowl, except guinea fowl (Iddi 1996).

Rural women themselves may view such cultural constraints not as repressive, but as a valued part of their way of life. When that is true, innovative ways must be found to introduce unconventional strategies that will benefit the rural community. Some successes--such as getting a few women farmers to use animal traction in a northern area of Ghana, where it was considered culturally impossible to do so--have led to guarded optimism that cultural barriers can be broken down (Millar 1994; Box 2.2). But one report concludes that "traditional social claims and rights may be eroded in practice, but probably on balance to the detriment of women" (University of Sussex 1994: 68). The report warns that women may be caught "between weakening traditional forms of support and security and failure to implement legislative and other protective measures .. for economic security." Social change must be encouraged, but selectively. Some strategies, no matter how well-intentioned or carefully planned, may not be accepted in some places.

Targeting Failures

When improvements do become available, women are often not targeted or they lose control over the benefits. Several authors report that when a new technoogy makes women's tasks easier and more profitable, men often take over (Gittinger and others 1990; Saito and Weidemann 1990). Since shea nuts have become an important income-earner, for example, men are increasingly trying to get into the industry to buy and sell them in bulk, thus reducing access to shea nuts for women operating on a small scale (University of Sussex report to ODA 1994). And sometimes development projects make conditions worse for rural women, or strategies designed to increase output unintentionally increase women's workload without appropriate compensation (Gittinger and others 1990).
Box 2.2 Changing Social Beliefs about Women: The Amasachina
Self-Help Association in the Northern Region

In most developing countries women's subordinate position is
reinforced by social norms and values. Empowering women often
entails a confrontation with a cultural framework that even the
women cherish. But for women to be able to take advantage of
opportunities to improve their productive capability, some of these
cultural constraints must be eased. The Amasachina SelfHelp
Association, an indigenous nongovernmental organization working
throughout the northern region of Ghana, was formed in the 1960s to
promote cultural and self-help development activities among
grassroots people. (Amasachina, from Arabic, can be interpreted as
"commoner," "youth," or "community.") Today there is a network of
local Amasachina associations in villages throughout the region. AH
activities in its integrated rural development programs have
components for women.

The association's executive secretary believes the most important
assistance to women is the loans women use to buy paddy rice or
shea nuts for processing or food products to sell later when the
price is higher. Amasachina collaborates with the International
Fund for Agricultural Development to implement its credit scheme by
identifying the poorest people, organizing them into groups, and
providing training on loan management and repayment, group
formation, conflict resolution, record keeping, and gender issues.
Through training about gender issues some discriminatory social
practices against women are being softened. Because of this, women
in some communities are now allowed to sit and discuss development
issues with men. Through the efforts of Amasachina some barriers to
women's participation in decisionmaking are being broken down not
by confrontation, but by enlightenment. It used to be taboo for
women to plant trees; now women in groups plant woodlots. Each
community has a separate men's and women's executive. The leader of
the women, called Magazia, has significant influence in promoting
the interests of local women.

Source: Amasachina Self-Help Association brochure and interview
with the executive secretary, Issah Slifu, in Tamale.


Many efforts to integrate women into development have antagonized policymakers and local populations by emphasizing only the empowerment of women. It is important to reeducate policymakers and citizens, but people should be helped to understand that although activities engaged in by rural women may be targeted, higher productivity and income, a better supply of fuelwood, local processing equipment, and so on will benefit the entire rural household. Any approach taken should emphasize an improved standard of living for all that does not threaten to destroy their cultural traditions.

"Participatory approach" is a catch-phrase in the development community for an ideal that is not often realized. Too seldom are the voices of the people heard or their ideas acted upon. The current emphasis is on interactive "bottom-up" processes, but even when nongovernmental organizations are involved that may mean that the beneficiary is allowed to participate in the predetermined "agenda of the intervener" (Millar 1996). "Circumstances must be created in which farmers' demands can be heard... Participation by women farmers is especially constrained by the low status often accorded to them" (World Bank 1992b). Some agencies have encouraged more local input but often only after realizing that the top-down approach is not working (Box 2.3).
Box 2.3 The Process-Oriented Approach of World Vision International

World Vision International is a Christian nongovernmental
organization assisting rural communities in Ghana with an
integrated rural development program called the Natural Resource
Management and Sustainable Agricultural Program. In the early years
of its development activities in Ghana, the organization's approach
was that of a patron on whom recipients become dependent. When it
dug wells and boreholes for rural communities its staff later found
that when the pumps broke down or any other problem arose, the
wells were abandoned and the people waited for someone to come and
fix the problem for them. According to Dr. Opoku-Debrah, the
program's coordinator, this taught the organizers that their
approach was not leading to sustainable improvements. A new
"process-oriented" approach was adopted, in which a staff member
stays in the village for eight weeks, discussing with the local
people their problems and their perceptions of possible solutions.
World Vision International staff now appreciate local knowledge
about agriculture and natural resources, which makes development
programs more realistic, and build rapport with communities. A
member of the local community becomes the "animator" or liaison
between the community and project staff. Clan heads are brought
into the decisionmaking process to ensure local cooperation. Pump
maintenance volunteers, including women, have been trained to carry
out regular maintenance, for a fee paid by the community. World
Vision International staff have seen better long-term improvements
with this approach.

Source: CIIFAD 1994; WVI 1994.

Working with local people yields better longterm results because the problem is viewed from the local perspective. Bukh describes how the attitude of rural women can make or break a project: "Women farmers were reluctant to adopt a new hybrid maize because it tasted different from the local variety and, from their view, was "harder to prepare" into kenkey and other local maize dishes. They considered the hybrid maize only as a cash crop and not as a food crop. The hybrid was also considered to be less resistant to pests and diseases, and more dependent on agro-chemicals, which were expensive" (Bukh 1979: 69).

Improving Access to Credit

Rural women in developing countries seldom have access to formal credit. And it is often assumed (wrongly) that credit made available to poor farmers, including women, must be offered at below-market interest rates. Holt and Ribe (1991) report that most efforts to provide credit have been large-scale, formal, regulated programs that have reported dismal results. In most cases subsidized credit does not reach poor farmers, and when it does credit alone has not, by itself, generated more income. Some credit programs targeted to women have not been as accessible to poorer rural women as to better-off urban or peri-urban women, as Women's World Banking Ltd., Ghana learned. Dameh and others (1992) studied the degree to which the Co-operative Credit Union Association was meeting the credit needs of Ghana's female members. The study made the following observations, many of which apply to other credit programs as well:

* Women do not have the same access to credit as men in the credit union do, and the loans that women were given were too small to meet their needs.

* The policies of the revolving loan fund were too rigid to meet women's needs.

* Most women lack financial management and business planning skills and many women know very little about credit union operations and cooperative principles.

* In mixed credit unions (and most were mixed), women seldom occupied decisionmaking positions.

* Fear of borrowing and being in debt was a problem for women in some areas. They asked for less than they needed, which bought too little input to improve their businesses.

* In some credit unions men did not allow women to apply for women-in-development loans (set aside specifically for women members).

Smaller-scale credit schemes have generally been more successful than larger ones, but even those have trouble assisting women, especially when programs do not specifically integrate women into the schemes. Iddi (1994) found that benefits from the Nandom Rural Women Credit Scheme in northern Ghana included greater unity among members of the groups, a higher social status for women, and greater ability to improve family welfare. Among other innovative efforts to help women get access to needed capital, Africa 2000 is successfully disseminating the susu message to villagers and Ghana's Money Back program, a government-established insurance program based on the susu concept, provides life insurance and investment opportunities for small to medium-size businesses (Holt and Ribe 1991; Box 2.4). Most important is for women to start saving by themselves and in women's groups to reduce their dependence on outside assistance. Women can begin to help themselves, but only if they learn their own potential.
Box 2.4 Enhancing Opportunities for Women in Development:
Developing a Sustainable Credit Program for Women

To ease the economic hardships endured by the Ghanaian population
as a result of the Structural Adjustment Program, the Program of
Action to Mitigate the Social Costs of Adjustment was set up in
1988, with 23 assistance "packages." One project, called Enhancing
Opportunities for Women in Development (ENOWID), focused on
providing credit in the mode of Bangladesh's Grameen Bank. The
project operated in 18 districts from the Bhono Ahafo, Volta, and
western regions of Ghana. According to ENOWID's coordinator, Mrs.
Abrakwa, women are responsible for mobilizing and administering to
their own groups. Loans are given to individuals within groups, but
the group is responsible for ensuring that the loans are repaid.
Loan disbursement is in full view of all members of the group so
everyone is aware of what is happening. Peer pressure has been an
effective means of achieving the high rate of repayment (estimated
to be 95 percent): the group is responsible for repaying the loan
of any defaulting member. Unlike many credit programs, interest is
based on the current commercial rate in Ghana, now about 45
percent. This has not been a constraint, as the women who want
credit are taught to save and to repay on a regular schedule.

(Their alternative is moneylenders who charge 100 percent to 300
percent interest.) The ENOWID loan cycle is eight months. If a
woman takes a loan of 100,000 cedi, for instance, she pays back
130,000 cedi over a 32-week period, with payments of 4,300 cedi a
week. Even if she can pay back fully before 32 weeks she is advised
to pay back in installments to ensure that she has enough working
capital to reinvest or to earn interest from savings. According to
Ardayfio-Schandorf and others (1995), ENOWID has markedly expanded
women's income-generating capability. The project has focused
especially on 1,800 women beneficiaries, but 4,500 women have
enjoyed some assistance. Twumasi (1993) criticized the program for
reaching only a fraction of its original target of 7,200 groups,
but acknowledged that return rates have been high. The coordinator
maintained that to properly supervise the groups, it has been
necessary to limit their number. As the government is ending its
funding of the Program of Action to Mitigate the Social Costs of
Adjustment, the women's groups assisted through ENOWID are forming
themselves into an NGO with the same name to ensure that the
benefits they have enjoyed will continue.

Credit should be provided to rural women in such as way that the benefits will help them maintain their present level of production and improve productivity and income--perhaps by extending the time of repayment so subsequent loans maybe unnecessary. Capital needed to embark on new income-generating activities or to expand existing ones (including livestock rearing) should be provided through credit schemes. Mechanisms for providing credit and encouraging local women's savings groups (such as ENOWID) should be expanded. Some local savings and credit groups, like the susu, already exist, but most of them need targeted training programs.

Improving Access to Extension Services

In the 1980s development planners realized that women farmers in developing countries were at a disadvantage because extension services did not reach them, with either information or inputs (Box 2.5). Bagchee (1994) and others call rural women "neglected potential." The World Bank (1991) suggested that to be effective agricultural development activities should aim to:

* Bring services physically closer to women.

* Involve women in the formulation and management of programs affecting them.

* Make women (as individuals or in groups) the contact point for delivering services to, and receiving feedback from, beneficiaries.

Extension services are important, but an extension system is only as good as the technology it offers. Innovations for women should be portable, inexpensive, multifunctional, adjusted to women's size and strength, and locally produced. They should also be used in ways compatible with women's other activities. Labor-saving equipment may give farm women enough extra time to allow them to get involved in more remunerative activity, to devote more time to child care and nutrition, and to be more productive at traditional tasks. But not all "improved" technologies are advantageous to women. Much of the time saved at grinding mills, for example, may be lost again traveling to the mill and standing in line for long hours. Increasing fruit production without providing for appropriate methods of preservation may lead to such a market glut that producers end up giving their produce away to avoid waste, or carrying it home. Too often, the benefits of traditional techniques are overlooked in efforts to improve productivity. Mechanical peelers introduced for processing cassava met largely with low adoption rates in small processing units because the peelers created more waste than hand peeling did (UNIFEM 1989). Women are reluctant to accept new technologies that are not practical and do not reduce arduous work and otherwise meet their needs, especially if they require capital investment.
Box 2.5 When Technology Does not Help

Providing agro-processing equipment is a common development
strategy to help rural women. This has led to some significant
gains in cassava processing, palm oil and soap making, and fish
drying, for individuals and groups. Ahmed (1989) found this to be
so in assessing a collaborative program of assistance between a
Dutch-funded International Labour Organisation (ILO) project and
Ghana's National Council on Women and Development, through which
improved technologies were introduced to 22 women's groups engaged
in six different processing activities. But technology transfer has
often had negative consequences for women, children, and
communities--nowhere more so than in Africa (Stamp 1989). In
Savelugu town in Ghana's northern region, women reported mixed
results. The International Fund for Agricultural Development had
helped local women's groups get a corn mill (valued at 2.27 million
cedi) and a groundnut oil-extracting mill. The Agricultural Sector
Investment Project had helped a women's group acquire a rice mill
at a cost of 3.83 million cedi (Amoah 1996). The rice mill has
improved their rice processing and the quality of the finished
rice, but the women are unable to operate the mill. The women pay a
young man to operate the mill but he is unreliable, so the mill
often does not function. The women agreed that they could learn to
do it themselves, but have trouble starting the engine. The women
need to be taught operation and maintenance so they can be
independent. No one comes to use the groundnut oil extractor,
people do not like the way the equipment processes the groundnut
paste. As for the corn mill, the women complain that the machine is
always breaking down, so they spend all their profit on its repairs
and have nothing left over with which to repay the loan. None of
the equipment has brought the expected benefits. The women
appreciated the Fund's efforts but asked it to remove the corn mill
and the oil extractor and give them a shea nut crusher.

Capacity building of local groups is now receiving significant attention. The degree to which women in Ghana have formed informal groups varies by area. Woodford-Berger maintains that women do not seem to organize around productive activities such as farming or marketing. At the same time, she recognizes the importance of informal collective associations or networks and susu groups, often church-related or organized along lineage lines.

Assisting Rural Women through Government Programs

Responding to the UN Decade for Women and the call for greater attention to women, in 1975 the government of Ghana established the National Council on Women and Development by decree to provide an official focal point for promoting the advancement of women. Under the office of the president, it is directed by a 15-member council appointed by the government. Its stated functions are monitoring and evaluating donor programs and activities, identifying and formulating policies, managing pilot projects, and providing training. The council's regional secretariats help women farmers by providing small revolving loans before planting season to help pay for labor and to meet expenses until harvest time. It also helps groups of rural women get land from the local chiefs and teaches women income-generating skills, which are useful during the off-farm season.

The 31st December Women's Movement is registered as a voluntary NGO but operates more as an arm of government. Launched May 15, 1982, it emphasizes the "mobilization of ordinary women to be conscious of their rights and their potential." Active in all 10 regions of Ghana, it has established 821 day care centers in rural and urban communities and has worked with women's groups to increase their income-generating capability in a wide range of production, processing, and craft activities. Another government initiative, the Agricultural Sector Investment Project, implemented through the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, helps communities and groups improve productivity.

Efforts to provide extension services to rural women are carried out through the Women in Agricultural Development Division of the Department of Agricultural Extension Services in the Ministry of Food and Agriculture. Its responsibilities include deciding which topics to cover for rural women, especially about their crops and better use of produce such as soybeans (WIAD 1995).

Facilitating Development through Nongovernmental Organizations

Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) have become an increasingly important channel for development implementation. Independent of government, they are driven primarily by humanitarian, not commercial, motives. They work with government and international agencies to mobilize local community participation or strengthen local groups. NGO involvement in World Bank-supported projects has risen sharply in recent years (World Bank 1990). Similarly, the Amasachina Self-Help Association (see Box 2.2) has helped the International Fund for Agricultural Development to identify and train local groups that will later benefit from its credit. Other NGOs, such as TechnoServe and the Sustainable End of Hunger Foundation, implement programs more independently.

Some development projects facilitated by NGOs focus on infrastructure development. Through the Food for Work Project, for example, ADRA mobilized communities to embark on 250 projects between 1993 and 1995--in initiatives that involved health posts, markets, roads, schools, toilets, and agroforestry.

The range of NGOs and types of interventions in Ghana can only be touched on in this short report. Efforts such as the Directory for Interagency Dialogue: Women in Development--Ghana, by the Food and Agriculture Organization's Regional Office for Africa (1995b), have listed and described the development projects that benefit women and combine international support with local initiatives through government and NGOs. No one doubts NGOs' potential for facilitating local participation, but some NGO activities still cause concern, as expressed by Evangelische Zentralstelle fur Entwicklungshilfe E.V (EZE) (1994: 35):
 Many NGOs are following what has been
 termed a "poverty approach," that is, their main
 activities are oriented towards improving
 women's and girls' immediate economic situation
 by projects for income generation and vocational
 training. Very often this becomes an end
 in itself without any analysis of market trends
 at both micro and macro level. Nor do those
 involved seem aware of the growing criticism in
 the development world of income-generation
 programs for women since these bring only minimal
 economic returns and present an extra
 work burden without causing any noticeable
 changes in gender attitudes.

Providing Training

One thing everyone seems to agree about is the need to train women, as a starting point for any development intervention. Many NGOs recognize that their programs will face difficulties if women are not given training in basic business management skills; how to secure, use, and repay loans; how to use and repair unfamiliar technologies; and so on. Most women consider their profit to be the difference between what they pay for major inputs and what they receive for their goods; most report that they often spend money from what they view as profit (Ahene-Amanquanor 1996). They need traning in basic business concepts.

Women in Agricultural Development has been described as weak, but it also has potential that remains to be tapped. Personnel complain of being understaffed, yet underused. At the same time, the department has the official mandate to determine what gender-specific topics should be included each year in extension messages. Women in Agricultural Development and the Department of Agricultural Extension Services have different opinions about how well extension agents--especially male agents, who are in the majority---can deliver extension messages to women about food processing and similar topics. A close look at messages on seven subjects (including crop production and protection, livestock, agroforestry, fisheries, and agricultural mechanization) that agents convey to farmers and groups suggests that topics important to women may not receive the attention they deserve. Most staff favor a return to the old system of separate extension activities, which would put many female staff members back in permanent extension positions. The literature and experience in other countries suggests that operating parallel extension systems for women would not only be economically unsustainable but would also result in the staff being underused at the times women are busiest with on-farm activities. The economic implications of two extension groups--one

supervised by the Department of Agricultural Extension Services and the other by Women in Agricultural Development--regularly visiting the same place is unreasonable, but some attention can be paid to improving extension services for rural women.

Women in Agricultural Development staff in place regionally and at other levels could develop local one-day workshops for rural women focused on one or two topics that are important to them. Such local workshops, repeated widely enough to reach many rural women, could be held once a year during the off-season periods convenient to the women. Staff in one or more regions could develop a training program to be implemented in a central place, such as a market town, for rural women from surrounding villages.

Women need training to improve their productivity, but training should also be provided for policymakers, so they understand the importance and advantages of addressing women's needs in development programs; for program implementors in governmental agencies and NGOs, on ways to make women's voices heard and to define problems and solutions with rural people; and for rural men and local elites, so they understand the benefits of involving women in the development programs. Iddi (1995b) reports on an innovative attempt by TAAP to sensitize not only development staff, but also men's and women's groups in five communities at a one-day gender awareness workshop. Other training programs, whether on general business management and bookkeeping for rural women or aimed at gender-sensitizing groups, community leaders, and program developers and implementors, could be effectively implemented through NGOs.

Understanding the reasons and the way to incorporate women in all stages of interventions, from development through implementation, does not ensure a commitment to gender-sensitive action. As Jiggins (1995: 59) maintains, "Method cannot substitute for commitment to principle, nor can method safeguard against the use of participation for extracting information or other forms of exploitation." It is also important to realize that women who are decisionmakers or extension agents are not necessarily gender-sensitive, just because they are women.


To increase the value of their products and hence their income, women need help to process and store their produce until a time when the market price has risen above the prices paid at harvesttime. Both government and NGO field workers can help women to determine their technology needs. The National Council on Women and Development could be set up a screening unit to determine needed areas of technology development and to ensure that improved methods that work in one area are shared with other areas that could use them.


Women are ready to take on additional activities to earn extra income. Asked if her workload was not already excessive, one woman responded: "It is not hard work that makes one old, it is poverty!" The point is to be sure that the extra effort needed for an alternative income-generating activity truly improves economic and household food security.

One important source of emergency income in the rural areas of many countries, including Ghana, is small livestock husbandry. In most Ghanaian households, however, the few chickens, sheep, or goats around the compound are not considered a reliable regular source of food and income for the household--and the likelihood of disease killing all of the household's chickens or goats has been a disincentive to increasing production, even though the market for the animals is nearly always favorable, especially at festival-time. There seems to be no general social constraints against women in Ghana rearing small animals. There maybe local customs about particular animals, but women have other kinds to choose from. Rural women can certainly raise small livestock on a larger scale than they do now, whatever their problems of access to land or other resources needed for crop production. But if they expand small-livestock production they will need more extension training about animal husbandry practices, as well as veterinary services.

Before introducing new income-earning activities to women it is important to consider such factors as market potential, environmental conditions, and how the activity will affect women's workload. It is especially important to consider current access to a stable supply of fuelwood and clean water and whether the new activity will require long hours to collect additional water and fuelwood. And it is essential to weigh potential health hazards associated with any agricultural activities. University of Sussex (1994), for example, notes the potentially dangerous effect of head-loading. In improving the standard of living in, rural households, we must safeguard women's health so they live to enjoy the benefits.


The effects of environmental degradation are felt acutely by rural women who must spend longer hours gathering fuelwood and other nontimber forest products for fuel needed to cook meals. Enlightenment campaigns could encourage community leaders to allocate marginal lands to the establishment of community woodlots so women can spend fewer hours and less energy finding fuelwood, hours and devote more hours to more productive activities. Tree planting--indigenous or exotic (Tectona grandis or Gmelina)--should be encouraged on marginal lands.

It is equally important to encourage the use of fuel-efficient cooking stoves, both for the environment and to save women's time and energy for women. Development programs in other countries have experimented with various stoves; those that the women themselves can make are the most successful. Fuel-efficient cooking stoves are especially important in the northern areas and wherever there is extensive processing, such as fish smoking in the coastal areas. Impressive progress has been made with improved fish-smoking kilns, an effort that needs to be more vigorously pursued elsewhere and for other activities.


Research into the long-term impact of interventions on conditions for rural women needs to be an important component of all development strategies. Researchers from universities or institutes such as the Centre for Social Policy Studies and the Family and Development Programme at the University of Ghana should be recruited as part of the planning and implementation of all such interventions to continuously monitor their effects. Initial evaluation of the impact of interventions should focus on such qualitative factors as the enlightenment of parties involved in development and the skills they form in the process.

Generally, innovative methods and flexibility are needed to ease or eliminate social restrictions that limit women's productivity. Social restrictions previously considered impossible to overcome can be relaxed through imaginative implementation. NGOs have been somewhat successful in implementing change, especially where their focus has clearly been on helping women (rather than ensuring their own profits or salaries). Extension agents are useful--especially for demonstrating agricultural innovations--but the local community should help identify priority development problem areas, with the help of local NGOs.

When access to finite productive resources, especially land, is limited, the most sustainable approach may be to improve profits from current production rather than try to expand. In introducing new income-generating activities, it is important to consider how much additional work may be involved, and what stress may be placed on the environment. Will there be greater demand for fuelwood in savanna areas, for example? Will local resources provide the raw materials needed in the long term? Interventions suitable for one place should not be automatically imposed on all others.

Edited by

Shiyan Chao
Table 2.1 Who Collects Fuelwood within Households?

percentage of labor

Who collects? Season Savanna zone villages

Women Nonfarming period 28.6 18.2
 Farming period 66.7 50.0

Men Nonfarming period 42.9 --
 Farming period 16.7 --

Children Nonfarming period 14.3 18.2
 Farming period -- --

Women and children Nonfarming period -- 63.6
 Farming period 16.7 50.0

Other Nonfarming period 14.3 --
 Farming period -- --

Who collects? Season Forest zone

Women Nonfarming period 64.3
 Farming period 100.0

Men Nonfarming period --
 Farming period --

Children Nonfarming period 14.3
 Farming period --

Women and children Nonfarming period 21.4
 Farming period --

Other Nonfarming period --
 Farming period --

Source: 1991/92 Ghana Living Standards Survey.
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Title Annotation:Ghana: Gender Analysis and Policymaking for Development
Author:Chao, Shiyan
Publication:Ghana Gender Analysis and Policymaking for Development
Date:Sep 1, 1999
Previous Article:Chapter 1. The rationale for gender-sensitive development policy.
Next Article:Chapter 3. Supporting women entrepreneurs.

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