Improving farmers’ productivity through addressing gender based constraints in groundnuts and rice – a pilot action research programme.

Since January 2016, WISE has been working with Nathan Associates to help to address gender based constraints in the Market Development Programme (MADE) for Northern Ghana which is in its third year of implementation. The UKAid funded programme uses a market systems approach, Making Markets Work for the Poor (M4P) aimed at facilitating and stimulating sustainable economic transformation through agribusinesses and rural enterprises.


MADE Ghana and its private sector partner aggregators identified a need for training men and women farmers in relation to productivity enhancement and gender. To achieve the improvements in yields and quality which are needed for market development, it is necessary that gender based constraints are addressed.

MADE identified the following constraints to improving productivity among women rice and groundnut farmers in Northern Ghana:

  1. Access to land – quality, distance and security of tenure are barriers for many women;
  2. Access to inputs and services – women tend to have less access to seed, tractor services for land preparation, fertilizer and other chemical inputs, labour, protective clothing, etc;
  3. Responsibility for household chores and child care – e.g. limiting the time women can dedicate to good agricultural practices;
  4. Lack of confidence – e.g. women are unsure that they could assume lead farmer positions;
  5. Inadequate support and a lack of decision-making authority at household and   community levels.

Working in close partnership with the MADE Ghana team, WISE Associates Elaine Jones and Sally Smith carried out a scoping analysis and a stakeholder consultation workshop with private sector partners and other key players in Ghana in the first quarter of 2016.

This led to the formulation of an Action Research Proposal to carry out a pilot Training of Trainers programme and evaluation of its impact with a selected number of Field Officers attached to Private Sector Aggregator partners in the Ghana MADE programme.  The purpose of the pilot is to demonstrate to the Aggregators, the value of investing in training men and women in order to build their capacity to address gender-based barriers to improve productivity and gender equity under three key headings:

  1. Good Agricultural Practices including understanding gender and gender relations in the work that men and women do in producing groundnuts and rice
  2. Enhancing Financial and Business Management Skills including understanding the roles of women and men in poverty reduction and why women and girls are most affected by poverty and managing money at the household level to achieve a more equitable distribution of income between men’s and women’s decision-making on household and group expenditure
  3. Quality Management Systems including how women’s work affects and can improve the quality of crops and how organising men and women farmers for collective action can improve the potential for aggregation of quality crops in ground-nuts and rice.


A training of trainers’ programme

The training of trainers’ programme (TOT) launched in Tamale on 27th February, 2017 with a five day training programme with 24 Field Officers attached to six private sector Agricultural Aggregators in ground-nuts and rice.   Representatives of three Aggregators also attended the TOT which was delivered by the sub-facilitator ASDEV supported by Elaine Jones from WISE Development and members of the MADE Ghana team.  The methodology and approach are based on Participatory Action Learning techniques which are particularly suited to adult learners.  It is based on the premise that all learners have knowledge and experience to draw on – they are not empty vessels, a theory championed by the famous Brazilian educator Paolo Freire.


Given that MADE Ghana is a market systems programme, it is imperative that evidence is gathered to demonstrate to the market actors, in this case the aggregators and the farmers, that it is worth investing time and money in integrating training of this kind into their businesses. What was exciting about the TOT was the contrast with the participants’ experience of training to date which had been limited to purely technical aspects of Good Agricultural Practices delivered through traditional methods.  MADE Ghana’s partners’ approach thus far has been to train lead farmers, (mostly males), through demonstration plots.  Adoption rates are variable.  In this new “step down” approach, training is delivered at the community level. Gender sensitisation is mainstreamed throughout the training package and the methodology is participatory drawing on innovative tools such as those developed under the Gender Action Learning System (GALS) by Dr Linda Mayoux.   The participants in the TOT threw themselves into the training with gusto with high levels of participation and enthusiasm.  The aggregators present enthused about the “added value” of the approach.

The roll out of the programme at community level starts on 20th March, 2017 and will stretch over a 12 week period reaching 2,400 men and women farmers.


Lessons Learned and Scale Up


A baseline and end-line evaluation will research the impact the training has both socially and economically.  Given the key proposition that this training will lead to improved yields and productivity and improved gender relations, all these aspects are considered in the evaluation questions.

The timing of the TOT and evaluation of its impact fits very neatly with MADE’s own planning process for the remainder of the project.  Early learning from the TOT will be considered and incorporated into planning for the year ahead to ensure that the MADE Ghana philosophy of adaptive learning and practise will be a living process, thus responding to the evolving needs of men and women farmers and private sector actors in Northern Ghana leading to a more inclusive social and economic growth pathway.



With thanks to Elaine Jones and Sally Smith (WISE) and Tony Akpene Klu (MADE Ghana) for developing this blog.


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