Farmer field days in Ghana support "women's crops"

In Ghana, sweet potato, cowpea and many other vegetable value chains are often referred to as "women's crops".

Across 22 farming communities, AICCRA hosted Farmer Field Days to demonstrate how yields can be improved using climate information services, climate-smart agriculture and One Health innovations. 

Women farmers made up nearly half the participants, where notable innovations shared include new varieties of crops and planting methods. 

It’s nine o'clock in the morning in Doggoh, a farming community in the Jirapa Municipality of the Upper West Region of Ghana. 47 men and 54 women farmers have come on bicycles, tricycles, and motorbikes to AICCRA’s Farmer Field Day event to observe progress on the maize and cowpea varieties they planted together with the officials of AICCRA and the Ministry of Food and Agriculture a few weeks ago.

Today, they will witness first-hand the benefits of cultivating the improved maize and cowpea varieties from AICCRA, and compare them with the gains they make from cultivating their local varieties. The majority of the farmers at this field day event are women.

In attendance is a group of women wearing colourful pink shirts. These are the members the Doggoh-Tamparizie Mother-to-Mother Support Group, a village savings association, whose members, mostly women farmers, support each other with loans from monies they collectively save.

Members of Doggoh-Tamparizie Mother-to-Mother Support Group at AICCRA's field day in Doggoh

In Doggoh, AICCRA is mainstreaming gender and social inclusion by prioritizing not only improved stress tolerant maize varieties (particularly to drought, pest and disease) but also improved varieties of cowpea, which are often described as a "women's crop" in Ghana.

AICCRA is promoting the benefits of using bundles of climate-smart agriculture (CSA) and 'One Health' technologies, such as the use of biopesticide for managing cowpea and maize pests and disease, as well as the application of organic soil amendments to manage soil borne pathogens.

Farmers are also being introduced to cowpea and maize intercropping for improving soil health and dual-purpose cowpea for grain and fodder.

“Today we are here to see with our eyes, how the improved varieties we planted together compares with your local variety. We will all walk through the maize farm and the cowpea farm. Pay close attention because I will ask you to tell the group what you have observed,” says Stephen Yeboah, technical focal person for AICCRA Ghana, and Senior Research Scientist at the Crops Research Institute of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.

“Let’s stop here,” he tells the group.

"The maize variety you are standing next to is called Suhudoo. What is the meaning of Suhudoo?" asks Stephen. 

“Peace.” the group responds in a loud chorus.

“Yes. As you have noticed, it matures early and is tolerant to pest and diseases, drought and striga. Let’s proceed to the cowpea farm.”

The "women's crop"

Cowpea is an important grain legume and is a cheap source of protein for rural and urban families. Out of a potential yield of 1.5 or more tons per hectare, Ghanaian farmers produce less than 300 kilograms per hectare. The low yield on farmers’ fields could be attributed to insect pests infestation, disease infection, drought, and low soil fertility. 

AICCRA is promoting four stress-tolerant and high yielding cowpea varieties to farmers. These are Kirkhous Benga, Zamzam, Nketewade, and Padi-tuya, which means 'how many women' in the Dagaare language of the people of Doggoh. 

More women than men cultivate cowpea in Doggoh, according to Peter Maalong-gae, a technical officer with the Ministry of Food and Agriculture.

“This is because cowpea matures faster and is cheaper to cultivate. Unlike maize, the women only pay for the cost of spraying pesticides,” says Maalong-gae.

Stephen Yeboah explains that the excellent nutrition cowpea offers families as well as the income it generates in the local markets makes it a very popular crop choice among women farmers. 

Women farmers watch on as Dr Yeboah of CRI-CSIR explains the benefits of bundled CSA-One Health innovations for cowpea

Positive farmer feedback

Cecilia Bellingtaa is a farmer and a member of the Doggoh-Tamparizie Mother-to-Mother Support Group. She has been growing cowpea for fifteen years. As a women’s leader in the community, Cecilia is one of  the early adopters of the bundled innovations (incorporating both CSA and One Health) that AICCRA is promoting in Doggoh. 

“Before AICCRA, we used to plant the cowpea by broadcasting. Now we have been taught to plant the cowpea in rows,” said Cecilia.

“We have noticed that planting in rows makes it easier to clear weeds and apply pesticides. Also with the new cowpea varieties, we know we will get more yields and make more money to support our families.”

Interview with farmer Cecilia Bellingtaa

Cecilia Bellingtaa in Doggoh, Upper West Region of Ghana speaks about how AICCRA's demonstrated methods have improved her community's planting of cowpea. 

Mainstreaming gender in crop production is critical to achieving food security

Crop production in Ghana is mainly rain-fed, and its productivity is threatened by current and future climate scenarios. Rainfall either occurs late or stops earlier than usual. Temperatures in most areas have exceeded the threshold for growth and diminished the productivity of many food crops. The combined effect of these multiple climate stresses is farm yield reduction of between 25% and 50%. 

In addition, current food production practices that rely on frequent and heavy usage of high doses of synthetic pesticides present health and environmental risks. 

Despite climate change's destructive impacts on agriculture, CSA and associated innovations in climate-informed services (CIS) and One-Health are needed to enhance the resilience of food production systems are not in the hands of  many smallholder farmers in Ghana, particularly women farmers.

Restricted access to CSA and CIS technologies for women is driven by gender and generational inequalities, especially in the allocation of productive resources like land and financing.

To make these technologies accessible to women farmers, AICCRA Ghana is working with partners across 22 farming communities to prioritize CIS, CSA and One-health technologies for sweet potato, cowpea, and vegetable value chains.

Women farmers constitute 43% of farmers who attend AICCRA’s field day events across Ghana. So far, 15 field days have reached 854 farmers, 371 of whom are female.

AICCRA's gender strategy in Ghana

AICCRA's Faustina Obeng Adoma explains how the AICCRA project are bridging the gap between women farmers and climate-smart technologies.


Reginald Ofori Kyere, Communications Specialist for AICCRA Ghana

Dr Stephen Yeboah, Technical Focal Person for AICCRA Ghana and Senior Research Scientist at Crops Research Institute of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research