Market Access through Cooperative Action in Ghana - Empowering Rural Women Informal Workers using Microfinance, Education, and ICT

Market Access through Cooperative Action in Ghana - Empowering Rural Women Informal Workers using Microfinance, Education, and ICT

Since being part of the project, I have had hope and peace.

Fatima Abdulai, beneficiary and shea farmer

CONTEXT

While substantial political progress has been made in Ghana over the last two decades, government debt, inflation and currency deprecation all contribute to ongoing livelihood insecurity, particularly for the country’s rural poor. Average income for its 26.4 million population is below that of sub-Saharan Africa, and with a struggling export sector, improved links with global markets are essential if the burden of farming-based livelihoods is to be relieved.

OBJECTIVES

  • To empower rural women informal workers using microfinance, education and ICT
  • To improve rural women’s access to social and financial services, and directly connect them to large international buyers.

RESULTS

  • Project beneficiaries have started diversifying their sources of income beyond the shea nut business.
  • The growing level of entrepreneurship among some of the beneficiaries was recently recognised by an International Micro-Entrepreneurship Award offered by Planet Foundation in December 2013
  • Improved access to health care services among project beneficiaries
  • Improved working conditions for women shea processors

FACTS AND FIGURES

  • Increase in sales by 160% through market diversification
  • Increase in revenue of between 50% and 80%
  • Around 10,000 women shea butter processors have benefitted from the project to date

TESTIMONY

Market access improves children's education

Azara Zakaria is a widow from the Boakodo community in the West Mamprusi District.

“My husband passed away some 10 years ago and left behind 11 children. Nine of the children who were in school had dropped out since I was not able to cater even for their feeding let alone their school needs. I used to weep most of the times because I wanted to get my children have a better future than I did but how could I do so? Then one day, I was informed that there were some visitors in our community to discuss their intention to support the processing of shea nuts and butter. I remember saying to my son who brought the news that, “ba zaa magmi”, meaning they are all liars. I thought so because I have heard of similar stories that ended up not benefitting us. But after a few months, the visitors returned to buy nuts and they bought all the nuts that were available by our group.

I was amazed that they came back and actually bought all the nuts as promised. Before this time, one could carry one bag of nuts to the market for two conservative weeks, just selling in bits to feed the family. With the new experience I had seen an opportunity some others did not have. It was therefore an opportunity to make use of my large family in picking more nuts to make more money. In the very first year I picked nuts with the support of my children throughout the season and at the time of sale, I had up to 10 bags of nuts.

Everything was bought and paid up for and when I received the money, tears fell out of my eyes. I can’t remember exactly but I collected over GHC 500 that day. The next day, I re-enrolled seven of my younger children back into the community school (three girls and four boys) with the money. The other four were too grown and made a choice not to go back to school so I decided to concentrate on the younger ones. Currently, my first daughter is in Junior high school whilst the rest are in the primary school.

I have single-handedly taken care of them from then till now and I cannot thank this project adequately for the support I have had from it. All I do now is pick enough nuts to sell and cater for my children without having to worry about markets, my children also support when they are on vacation from school. I am just praying that our relationship with SSL will continue so we can educate our children to one day take us completely out of poverty.”