Stories of Change: Pushing Boundaries in Rural Ghana

In northern Ghana—the country’s poorest region—nearly half of young people of working age are unemployed. Agriculture is one of the few available sources of income. While women play a major and vital role in this work, the best paying jobs in this field—such as animal health managers and seed growers—are usually held by men. But Hawa, 20, illustrates how this may be changing, and how young women are making a difference in farming and the new economy.

Hawa participated in a programme run by Urbanet, a network of small farming organisations that promotes sustainable agronomic practices. She and other young women received training in shea-butter, soy milk, and rice processing as well as in animal rearing. The programme provided them with support to set up their own businesses or form cooperatives. And they were each given a few goats to tend. Additionally, they were trained to provide veterinary services as part of a national animal vaccination initiative. With these income streams, the young women would be more likely to be able to stay in school and develop enduring livelihoods.

But last year, COVID presented myriad challenges to those who participated in the programme and to the community at large. “We used to find it very difficult. Online classes were organised but some of us, unfortunately, couldn’t take part because we didn’t have the resources,” said Hawa. Those without access to computers, phones, or Wi-Fi couldn’t continue their education. 

Markets were closed and community members were not able to conduct day-to-day business. “We really faced a lot,” noted Hawa. She and the other young women who participated in the programme couldn’t travel from farm to farm. The severe financial strains forced many—including Hawa—to sell their goats, or consume them.

Some girls and young women—out of school—faced an increase in sexual abuse and there was a rise in teenage pregnancy in the community.

During this tumultuous time, EMpower supported the organisation in addressing some of these significant challenges. Hawa and others received another allotment of goats to sustain them. And soon they will have the opportunity to participate in refresher trainings on shea butter processing and animal health management, and to learn digital marketing skills to promote their businesses.

“Participating in the Urbanet programme has greatly impacted my life,” Hawa said. Since she first got involved, she has been able to enhance her earnings, pay school fees, get health care, and deepen her understanding of hygiene and reproductive health. And she was able make connections with other young women entrepreneurs and officials running the government’s veterinary services.

A true leader, Hawa will soon become a trainer for Urbanet—ensuring other young women can learn and follow in her path. And perhaps most notably, she recently received admission to the University for Development Studies, Tamale, and plansto study community nutrition. An inspiration for others, she proved that the obstacles she faced are no match for her determination.

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