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Host: Welcome, dear listener, to your favourite program Vom Yella,which means “Life matters” in the Frafra language. Today’s program is about gender mainstreaming in rural farmers’ groups. Gender mainstreaming is usually talked about in government offices or in large organizations but not so much among rural farmers. On the air is your host Lydia Ajono, reaching you from Radio Style. Today we will join a farmers’ co-operative group in Kanlade, in the city of Salaga, in the Northern Region. We will hear about their gender sensitization program and their efforts to diversify their crops. Stay tuned.
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Host: Welcome again. Today we will focus on gender and farming as a way to achieve the national goals of gender equality and women’s empowerment, especially in the Salaga area. Join me now as I talk to Madam Margaret Ajokumah and Mr. Sebewie Lawali. First, we will shed some light on what motivated Madam Ajokumah to join a farmers’ group and share information on gender equality in farmers’ co-operative groups.
Margaret Ajokumah: Thank you. First of all, let me thank SEND-Ghana and the radio station for giving us this opportunity to share our story. There is a saying in our language: “If you see a dog running, there is something that is chasing it, or it is chasing something.” My marriage was almost broken about two years ago, and I had almost run away from this relationship. But I thank the farmers’ co-operative group that saved my marriage. I joined the group with my husband. He attended the initial farmers’ meeting and told me to accompany him to the next meeting. When I attended the meeting, I realized that it was a condition of the co-operative group for all members to be couples.
Host: What did you learn at the meeting that day?
Margaret Ajokumah: Traditionally, men are in charge of all cash crops, especially yam, which is the main staple food crop for the family. But that day I learned that women could also grow soya beans and process the beans into marketable products such as soya dawadawa spices or soya kebab. I was so happy to hear this that my husband and I quickly registered our names and later paid the fee of five Ghana cedis (Editor’s note:approximately US$3.30).
Host: How did you and your husband farm before joining the couples’ co-operative group in your community?
Margaret Ajokumah: My husband never helped me with the household chores. But since the regular educational talks at the farmers’ co-operative group, he helps in bathing the children and preparing them for school. He also fetches water for the home with his bicycle. He buys clothes for me and the children.
Before the farmers’ co-operative group, he treated me like I did not matter. There were always arguments at home because my children and I were always struggling to get our daily meal.
I am now buying and selling food in the Salaga big market. With the money I earn doing that, we repay our loans with the community credit union established by SEND. We also have enough to feed the family and pay the children’s school fees.
Host: How many children do you have?
Margaret Ajokumah: We have three children – two boys and one girl. Currently, the first boy is at the Tamale Polytechnic, the other is at the senior high school in Tamale, and the lastborn is still in junior high in Salaga town.
Host: Earlier you talked about the peaceful atmosphere in your home. What is your definition of peace?
Margaret Ajokumah: When I say peace, I mean that there is enough to feed the children, enough to buy them clothes, pay their school fees, provide necessary books, and pay for their health insurance. And there is enough so we can keep aside some money in case of emergencies or to contribute to the needs of my father or my husband’s extended family.
Host: Now let us look at the role you play in the couples’ farmers’ co-operative. You mentioned in our pre-discussion that you have been talking to friends about joining the group. How do you do this?
Margaret Ajokumah: I reach friends in the market when they come to buy things from me, and also at funerals or marriage ceremonies. Apart from that, we organize sensitization meetings once a month to give talks on motherhood, sanitation and other issues.
Host: What are some of the challenges you face in trying to achieve your goals with the co-operative group?
Margaret Ajokumah: We have many farming challenges. But the main ones are the unreliable weather conditions. Sometimes the rains don’t come early, or they come too hard and flood the crops.
The other concern is the cost of chemical fertilizers for growing maize and rice, as well as tractor services. Marketing is another challenge. After harvesting, the market for yams and soya beans is especially poor.
Host: What do you think could be done to help reduce or solve these problems?
Margaret Ajokumah: I think we should continue with the education activities the group is doing. Because, despite all these challenges, the couples’ co-operative groups are doing much better than those who are not in the groups.
Host: Thank you for sharing your good story.
Margaret Ajokumah: I appreciate it, and I hope you will always come to our community.
Host: In case you’ve just joined us, you’re listening to Vom Yella. On today’s program, we are discussing the couples’ farmers’ co-operative model in the Salaga area of the East Gonja district of Northern Ghana. A member of the group named Margaret Ajokumah just told us how she benefited from the program initiated by SEND-Ghana. Joining us to continue the discussion is Sebewie Lawali, the chairman of the group. But first, let’s enjoy this traditional music.
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Host:Welcome back. Before the break, we heard from Madam Ajokumah. And now, Sebewie Lawali, the chairman of the Kanlade couples’ co-operative group, is here to continue our discussion. First, what was the main aim of setting up the Kanlade farmers’ co-operative?
Sebewie Lawali: Thank you. Before I go on, I would like to take this opportunity to appreciate the role our wives and mothers play in the group, especially Mrs. Ajokumah. She has never relented since she and her husband joined the group two years ago.
The idea of a couples’ farmers’ co-operative was introduced to support our families and communities to avoid perennial hunger and give quality education to our children.
The Kanlade farmers’ co-operative was established about 10 years ago to encourage farmers – and especially men – to appreciate the role their wives play in farming and home management. The group’s values are based on love, trust, unity, transparency and accountability, as well as peaceful co-existence.
Host: How do you relate these values to your activities?
Sebewie Lawali: The first condition for membership is that all members be couples, widows or widowers. To belong to the group, you should be a person who is ready to abide by the rules of the group. That means that you are ready to promote love, unity, and peace in your home and demonstrate that you are not only a husband, but also a friend to your wife and children.
By respecting and adhering to these ground rules, we are gradually achieving some of the objectives we have set up for ourselves in farming and community development.
Host: What are some of the co-operative’s achievements?
Sebewie Lawali: There are some you can’t easily quantify. For instance, peace. I know that some of my colleagues used to quarrel almost daily with their wives or were not concerned about their children’s education. But that has all changed. I can also say that practically all our group members are exhibiting these qualities of love, unity and peace. This is the result of the gender education that is going on in the group meetings all the time.
We have also done away with the traditional farming practice of shifting cultivation and adopted intercropping and crop rotation. This is helping many families because there is such a shortage of land that families cannot afford to let it lie fallow. Even when land is available, it is less fertile than it used to be 20 or 50 years ago.
We have divided the co-operative into smaller groups for our gender education activities. Each smaller group is made up of 18 men and 18 women. One smaller group has 12 men and 12 women. Altogether, we have over 200 members in the larger Kanlade couples’ co-operative group.
Host: What other activities do you organize, alongside sustainable farming?
Sebewie Lawali: Apart from crop production, we also have commercial activities. These include petty trading, dressmaking, hairdressing, and food processing. Other income-generating activities include processing shea butter, groundnuts and oil, and producing dawadawa (Editor’s note: dawadawa is a cube-shaped snack made from fermented fruit seed paste). These are some of our strategies to ensure food security in the home and to reduce poverty.
Host: When you look back at where you were personally, what has been the benefit to you and your family?
Sebewie Lawali: The number one benefit from the groups is the gender sensitization. I am empowered today. I can now advise my fellow men on gender issues. I can advise them that gender is not about women alone or about women controlling their husbands, like some men thought. I can testify that I used to leave all the housework to my wife, but that now I share the work with her. An example is cooking and bathing my children and even washing my wife’s clothes. I never did this before the formation of the group. I was raised to understand that cooking is for my wife. For a man to do that, you would not be respected by your colleagues.
But this perception can be changed. And the benefits of understanding gender equality and putting it into practice are enormous, rather than holding beliefs that promote conflict and poverty in the home.
Host: What challenges has the group experienced?
Sebewie Lawali: The challenges in crop production include irregular rainfall, because our farming depends greatly on rainfall. When the rains don’t come at the right time, we get low crop yields. Or when they fall early, at the time the crops need no rain, there is too much and it can even cause flooding.
The other challenge is getting tractor services, or transportation to transport the farm produce to the house after harvesting. We also face poor market prices for our produce. We are always being cheated by middlemen traders from big towns and cities.
Apart from these farming challenges, the biggest problem in the community is excessive drinking of alcohol, especially among the youth. This is causing a great deal of tension in families.
Host: What are you doing to solve this problem?
Sebewie Lawali: We are operating some community mobilization and sensitization activities involving the district agriculture office, SEND-Ghana and other civil society groups. These will help us continue to educate our people and the youth on some of these social problems.
We have also appealed to the Ministry of Agriculture through our District Assembly. We have asked the Ministry to support farmers with subsidies for tractor services and fertilizers, and also to encourage irrigated farming in the dry season.
What is working and yielding results are the farmers’ couples’ co-operatives. We will continue to promote this model until farmers in the whole district adopt it.
So these are some of the measures the group is implementing. But we lack capacity or knowledge. So we are seeking support from partners who might be knowledgeable in these areas or have the resources to support the group.
Host: Thank you so much.
Sebewie Lawali: I thank you for the opportunity.
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Host: We learned many things today, especially how couples’ co-operative groups have helped many families in Kanlade in the city of Salaga in northern Ghana. We have learned how the group has helped to ensure peace in the family and reduce the perennial food shortages. The couples’ understanding of gender equality and their practical demonstration of this in their homes has helped to strengthen relationships and marriages.
I believe you have also learned something today to help your lives. Don’t miss the next episode of Vom Yella on Radio Style.
Have a blessed day. Till we meet again, bye.
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