Scaling postharvest technologies to women farmers in Ghana

By Dr. Anna Snider, AgReach at the University of Illinois

Gender is a theme that has implications at all levels in agriculture research and international development. AgReach is part of a team that includes entomologists, plant pathologists, agricultural economics, engineers, and others to ensure that the benefits of the work being done by the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for the Reduction of Post-Harvest Loss (PHLIL) team are equitable for female researchers, farmers, extension workers, entrepreneurs, and other members of the value chain. The main area of activity for AgReach’s PHLIL efforts since 2019 has been Ghana.

Men dominate poultry production in Ghana, but two organizations are working to overcome the challenges women face in this male-dominated sector. The Women in Poultry Association and the Women in Poultry Value Chain Apex help female (and male) Ghanaian poultry entrepreneurs through advocacy and education. AgReach researchers Paul McNamara and Anna Snider met representatives of the organizations on a trip to the Brong-Ahafo Region of Ghana in 2019. The members were eager to learn better ways to handle the grain stored in their warehouses. Postharvest grain losses in the poultry industry are quite high, and poorly stored grain can have a negative impact on the health and output of chickens.

AgReach connected the organizations and their farmers to other PHLIL researchers, who offered educational opportunities to improve practices and incorporate technologies. The farmers were also connected to distributers of postharvest technologies developed and promoted by the lab, such as the ZeroFly hermetic bag, which excludes air to improve postharvest quality and contains an insecticide to destroy any insects that come in contact with the bag. Another postharvest technology developed by the lab is the GrainMate Moisture Meter, which gives an accurate reading of the moisture content of grain before storage.

But simply providing appropriate technologies to smallholder farmers is not enough to ensure equitable access. The way a technology is introduced to communities can influence who in the community controls the technology and who simply has access to it. In order to inform PHLIL’s gender-equitable scaling strategy, a study was conducted on how post-harvest technologies, introduced through various initiatives, were currently being used in communities.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic prevented travel to Ghana for over a year, Snider trained a group of researchers in the Department of Gender, Development and Extension at the University for Development Studies in Tamale, Ghana, on how to conduct a Gender Technology Assessment. After a three-part training delivered via Zoom and attended by approximately 20 faculty members and graduate students, four participants were selected to conduct fieldwork in the communities around Tamale. The researchers conducted 15 focus group discussions with members of farmers organizations, as well as interviews with extensionists, NGO staff and input suppliers.

The results from analysis of other technologies showed that dissemination through farmers organizations gave both women and men access to the technologies. However, women had little control over those technologies, as they often did not have leadership roles in the farmers organizations and often were not able to attend the trainings. This was due to literacy limitations and constraints on women’s time. These lessons are to be applied for our postharvest loss interventions.

Ongoing research on scale out is investigating whether other models such as working through women’s-only groups such as the Women in Poultry Value Chain Apex or employing women as micro-distributors of the technologies will give women more control over the technologies. Fieldwork planned for December 2022 will include visits to private service providers, warehousing facilities, and women’s groups.

Click here to read more about AgReach’s work with PHLIL

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