Notes to broadcasters
Madam Amina Nabala Adam, 46 years old, lives in Diare village in the Northern Region of Ghana.
When Madam Amina Nabala Adam lost her husband 12 years ago, she tried all the coping strategies that Northern Ghanaian women typically use. These include buying and selling, where every day the northern woman is on a truck travelling from market to market, just to get enough to feed the family. Apart from the risk of vehicle accidents, buying and selling brings the problem of debt. Sometimes the women lose money instead of making profits. It also means any time or money they invest in the business is lost.
Many women and girls also migrate to the southern part of the country. But this has not really helped them. Rather, it exposes them to diseases such as HIV and AIDS, and causes them to drop out of school. This increases the numbers of school dropouts and early marriages in the Northern Region.
After her husband died, a small piece of land of about half an acre was all Madam Amina received as her share of his property. But even that is not hers – it will be transferred to her eldest son when he is old enough. She was the last of her husband’s four wives, whose grown-up children took over all the large fertile farms, the livestock and other assets.
Madam Amina found the solution to the constant hunger in her family by planting a local plant zabila – called henna in English – that is used to produce fine dyes. Selling the first crop of zabila to local cosmetics businesses helped her to diversify into growing maize and groundnuts and increased her family income.
A community radio producer named Lydia Ajono has been following the story of Madam Amina Nabala Adam. Madam Amina cultivates the zabila plant because she can sell the powdered leaves of the plant and pay her children’s school fees. It helps her family survive hungry periods in the year, improves their nutrition, and increases thefamily income.
This script is based on actual interviews. You could use this script as inspiration to research and write a script on a similar topic in your area. Or you might choose to produce this script on your station, using voice actors to represent the speakers. If so, please make sure to tell your audience at the beginning of the program that the voices are those of actors, not the original people involved in the interviews.
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Women may have access to land for farming. But what type of land is it? It may be infertile land that has been abandoned by male farmers, or it may be land that is controlled by a man, with the woman as a farm labourer.
Even when a woman has the opportunity to farm, it is very expensive and difficult for her to pay for inputs such as improved seeds or fertilizers. Sometimes, society rates women farmers as lesser contributors to the household income. This makes women have low self-esteem.
When Madam Amina Nabala Adam lost her husband 12 years ago, she was faced with raising five children alone. In the midst of these difficulties, Madam Amina remembered a traditional plant called zabila or henna and the benefits of growing it. This wonderful plant had been introduced to her by her mother in-law several years before. Madam Amina told me that zabila had been one of the survival plants for village women when there were food shortages in the household. I asked her what the secret of cultivating zabila was.
I started my search in the old farm of my mother in-law. I found a few seeds, planted a bed, nursed the seeds, and watered them daily. When the first rains came, I transplanted them onto a one acre piece of land that my late husband leased to me before his death.
And I discovered the solution to food insecurity in this wonder plant we call zabila in the Dagbali language, and which is known as leele in the Hausa language that is used by market women. At this time, it was almost extinct in northern Ghana, especially in Diare village.Traditional music recorded in villages
When you have cows and sell one cow without a baby, that ends the life of that cow. But zabila is always sprouting and you continue to harvest it. It does not need fertilizers. All it needs is for the farmer to keep weeds away from it. I assure you it will help you earn money to support your family.
Today, I can pay for all my children’s school fees, which range from $500 to $800 yearly. My five children are well-fed and clothed. About 12 years ago, I was in misery, without help after the death of my husband. Being the fourth wife, I had no share of his property. I had to leave my matrimonial home to settle here in one hut with the children.Standing by me listening is one of my daughters. She always helps me on the farm.
Last year, I sold all these bags and had money to grow two acres of groundnuts. I also had money to buy enough food for my children and pay for their school fees. Normally, I harvest the leaves every three weeks, which gives me a total of about eight to 10 bags. During the rainy season from July to November, I harvest more. In the dry season, I pound the leaves into powder and store it in bags. A bag fetches from $30 to $50 U.S. dollars.
I built this house from the profits I received from selling zabila. I also used some of the money to grow groundnuts and soya beans. I had a very good harvest from the groundnuts, which brought me more money. Then I grew two acres of maize. I use all the grain that I grow to feed my family. So now we don’t have food shortages in the house. If I need anything else, I sell zabila to finance it.
Because of zabila, I have travelled to many places that I would have never visited. Anytime I am invited to share my story, I go with some of the members of my women’s group.
When there are child naming, marriage or funeral ceremonies in the community, we meet in my house to plan how to support the woman in need. Currently I am sponsoring six other children in the village who are either orphans or very needy.Music recorded in the village
Contributed by: Lydia Ajono, Ghana Community Radio Network (GCRN), a Farm Radio International broadcasting partner.
Reviewed by: Helen Hambly Odame, Associate Professor, School of Environmental Design and Rural Development, University of Guelph.
Interview with Madam Amina Nabala Adam, Diare women farmers’ group, Savelugu/Nanton, Northern Region, Ghana, October 18 2009.
Interview with Konlaa Kombat, Agricultural Extension Agent, Diare, Savelugu/Nanton October 18, 2009.
The Regional Community Development office, Tamale.
Kumar S, Singh YV, Singh M (2005) Agro-history, uses, ecology and distribution of henna (Lawsonia inermis L.). Henna cultivation, improvement and trade 11–12. Central Arid Zone Research Institute, Jodhpur.
Henna: Cultivation, Improvement, and Temporary Tattoos & Henna/Mehndi http://www.fda.gov/Cosmetics/ProductandIngredientSafety/ProductInformation/ucm108569.htm Retrieved August 3, 2009.
Global Facilitation Unit for Underutilized Species, undated. Henna (Lawsonia inermis). http://www.underutilized-species.org/species/brochures/Henna_.pdf