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In Ghana, a Feminist Push for Fairer Farming

Female farmers are often held back by higher barriers to funding, land, and materials. But when they're empowered, they're not the only ones who benefit.

Christabel Afrane holds a plump chicken under her arm as she checks her boxes for eggs. The rest of her Rhode Island Reds cluck at her heels – every turn she makes, they follow.

She bought the birds to prove she practices what she preaches to girls in Ghana: that there is money and empowerment in agriculture; and that when a woman succeeds, everyone benefits.

In Mrs. Afrane’s home country, Ghana, women produce the majority of food. But female farmers in Africa tend not to reap what they sow, held back by higher barriers to funding, land, and materials than men encounter. It’s part of why so many eke out a living as low-scale subsistence farmers – a trend she’s seen firsthand.

When Afrane’s grandmother, Mary Akua Ago, lost her husband, she had to walk two hours to her farm and back each day – planting, weeding, and harvesting only to feed her family. She used to have a plot close to her home, but when her husband died it went to his family, leaving her no other option to provide food for her eight children.

Watching her grandmother’s struggle, Afrane wondered: “How can you support this woman, or a young girl, who is moving heaven and earth to survive?”

Today, Afrane is on a quest to bring more women into agriculture, and support them once they’re there. When their opportunities grow, so do their profits – along with their yields, and their own ability to lift up other women. She’s not alone: from individuals to international NGOs, there is a growing emphasis across the continent for equality in farming.

There’s Mavis Nduchwa, whose animal farm in Botswana trains unemployed single mothers in poultry management. There’s Professor Ruth Oniang’o, joint winner of the 2017 African Food Prize, who has spent decades advocating for women in the sector. There’s even been a reality TV show about boosting female farmers in Tanzania: Female Food Heroes, sponsored by Oxfam.

They’re not empowering women for fairness alone, they say – though that’s important – but to better feed the world.

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