Having travelled across the globe, it’s not surprising to see women in the fields, behind plows, and selling their harvest in the market. In fact, most of the world’s smallholder farmers are women.
I live in Washington, D.C. now, but I can relate to some of these women’s experiences. I come from a long line of farmers on both sides of my family. Our farms were in Virginia, New Jersey, and Connecticut, and I witnessed first hand the long days and the rush to use every bit of daylight to plow, plant, or harvest.
Farmers the world over—from Virginia to Ghana—deal with factors that can make or break their success, no matter how hard they’ve worked, including weather, soil, seeds, fertilizer, machinery and market access and competition.
And while weather is a constant for men and women on the farm, that’s just about where most equality stops.
I just returned from meeting with women farmers throughout Ghana. As with many women in developing countries, they face greater challenges including: lack of access to markets, limited land plots of 1-3 acres (usually the least fertile), and desperate need of tractors and other equipment, which are owned and used almost solely by men.
But women’s collectives and networks are proving to be one of the strongest tools for helping women smallholder farmers voice their concerns and change the way they farm and access markets. These collectives are strong and strategic, and in many cases shifting entire policies.
Take the Development Action Association (DAA) in Ghana, for example.
DAA represents over 1,500 farmers who affect thousands more. When DAA is able to shift policy, they impact thousands of farmers in Ghana. Earlier this month, I visited Lydia Sasu and some of the women of DAA, the collective Lydia started nearly 17 years ago and that has partnered with Women Thrive since 2010.
The collective is now in 46 rural communities throughout the southern part of the country. DAA works to create networks of women farmers – whether they operate vegetable farms or even fisheries. They understand the power of collective voice and collective action.
Through working together and with some advocacy training from Women Thrive, the members of DAA have been able to provide training to each other, build schools for their local communities, and advocate for better policies from the Ghanaian Ministry of Food and Agriculture.
The simple truth is this: we're stronger when we work together. And that's a lesson that's just as true for women plowing small fields in Ghana as it is for men harvesting corn in Virginia.
That's why Women Thrive strives day-in and day-out to help women smallholder farmers get the skills and resources they need to make their voices heard and feed their families. Your support helps us do that. Thank you for your believing in our work. We look forward to sharing more updates on what you’ve helped achieve for women and girls globally in 2014.
Lauren SupinaVice President of Organizational Advancement
Lauren Supina is a Vice President at Women Thrive Worldwide, a 15-year-old NGO dedicated to bringing the voices of women in developing countries directly to decision-makers in Washington and at the global level. Lauren has travelled to more than 20 countries visiting local women, and has represented the United States at international conferences and on international delegations. Follow Lauren on Twitter @LaurenSupina.
Want to learn more? Visit us online at www.womenthrive.org.
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