In Ghana, rewards continue long after programme officially closes

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In Ghana, rewards continue long after programme officially closes

©IFAD/ Francis Kokoroko

Rural Enterprises Programme (REP) client showcases his poultry products during an exhibition put together for the IFAD delegation visit in Savelugu.

Thanks to an IFAD-supported programme in north-east Ghana, women's groups are still building their small-scale ruminant-breeding businesses, feeding their families and sending their children to school 13 years on. Their success inspired other women in the region to follow suit. The programme also had a number of spin-off successes, including the development of three improved varieties of cassava, the nation's staple crop, which led to a nationwide programme for roots and tubers.

Seventy per cent of Ghana's poor people live in rural areas, and poverty rates are highest in the drought-prone northern plains.

Women are among the worst affected. More than half of the women who are heads of households in rural areas are among the poorest 20 per cent of the population – the poorest of the poor.

They bear heavy workloads and typically work at least twice as many hours in the day as men do.
From 1986 to 1995, the IFAD-funded Smallholder Rehabilitation and Development Programme enabled poor rural women in the area to improve their livelihoods by helping them form groups to raise sheep and goats.

Alimatou Mahama is one of the women who is still benefiting from the impact of the programme.

Raising livestock was a man's job

Alimatou lives in Kanshegu, a small village in the district of Savelugu/Nanton in the northern region of Ghana, with her husband and nine children. In 1994, she helped create the Kanshegu women's group with nine other women to explore ways to improve their livelihoods and lift themselves out of extreme poverty.

Programme staff met with the group and suggested they raise livestock to improve their incomes.
"For us, it was a very strange idea because raising livestock was a task that is generally reserved for men," says Alimatou. "What really motivated us is when project staff explained how livestock production could increase our incomes and help us become economically independent."
 
On a pilot basis, the 10 women began raising 21 ewes and two rams. Later, the group included goat-raising at their own expense. Some of the technologies and skills that the programme introduced to the women included better animal feeding and housing systems.

They also learned how to keep accounts and records for their business. Improved breeds of sheep and goats were imported from neighbouring Burkina Faso and Cote d'Ivoire and given to the women at an exchange ratio of one improved to two local breeds.

"Our goat-and-sheep business has helped women in Kanshegu have better living conditions," says Alimatou. "The money I make from these activities allows me to buy food and clothes and pay for medicines and school fees for my children."

Other women's groups follow their lead

News of the Kanshegu women's group's achievements quickly spread. The programme received numerous requests for support from other women's groups in the region and eventually sponsored 39 groups in the Savelugu/Nanton district.

As the number of livestock increased, members of the various groups started establishing their own individual sheds or pens. In Kanshegu, seven such pens exist today. Women in Kanshegu and elsewhere have also had the opportunity to share their knowledge outside the district by participating in a Ministry of Agriculture field school programme.

The Smallholder Rehabilitation and Development Programme closed in 1995, but the women in Kanshegu and other communities continued their activities. In Kanshegu, the group is now working to become registered as a cooperative society.

The programme also successfully pioneered the concept of women extension volunteers. And it released three improved varieties of cassava, which were the starting point for the subsequent nationwide Root and Tuber Improvement Programme.