Supporting women's voices in Ghana

How IIED supported forest and farm producers in Ghana as they put gender equality at the heart of a new national federation, assisting women producers to get their concerns addressed at the national level.

May 2022
8 minute read
Six female farmers bend over while tending to their crops.

Members of the Rural Women's Farmers Association of Ghana (RUWFAG) prepare a field for sowing near Lawra (Photo: Global Justice Now, via FlickrCC BY 2.0)

Women farmers and forest producers in sub-Saharan Africa face many barriers to achieving their full potential.

As part of the drive to improve gender equality in this sector, IIED has conducted surveys on knowledge gaps and governance models and provided practical training and strategic advice to a newly-formed national association of forest and farm producers.


Women farmers and forest producers in Ghana make up nearly half of the country's crop producers, but they face multiple disadvantages. These include lack of land ownership and limited access to finance, inputs and markets and a lack of political voice.

Many Ghanaian women work as unpaid labourers on land owned by men. At a national level, Ghanaian women farmers and forest producers have been under-represented and unable to work collectively to improve their circumstances.

IIED is a partner in the Forest and Farm Facility (FFF). This is a highly successful international collaboration between the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and Agricord, providing support to forest and farm producer organisations across Africa, Asia and Latin America. 

In Ghana, FFF worked with 11 forest and farm producer organisations to establish the Ghana Federation of Forest and Farm Producers (GhaFFaP). This national federation aims to advance the collective voice and priorities of the country's forest and farm producers. Today the organisation represents more than one million producers, 46% of whom are women.

What was our contribution?

IIED's work to support women forest and farm producers – and GhaFFaP in particular – included research at the local level, policy advice, strategy development and delivering practical training and toolkits.  

Our 2018 policy briefing ‘Transforming gender relations: upscaling collective action in women’s entrepreneurship’, identified various strategies for scaling up gender equality through the FFF, including peer-to-peer mentoring, business incubation and strengthening women's networks.

In 2019 IIED and the University of Edinburgh surveyed producer organisations to identify knowledge gaps and opportunities for co-producing new resources. 

The research surveyed 41 forest and farm producer organisations (FFPOs) in six countries and identified a demand for knowledge products on how to further gender equality, including on topics such as women’s role in business, involving women in leadership and decision making, women’s access to natural resources (especially land) and gender-equitable benefit sharing. 

Our 2020 research report ‘Women’s empowerment through collective action: how forest and farm producer organisations can make a difference’ set out different organisational structures and services that can make it easier for women to participate in economic and political life. 

The report demonstrated how a good producer organisation business model can help increase women's employment opportunities and access to markets, and improve women's access to social services such as vocational training, childcare and maternity leave. All these things help women to participate in the labour market.

In Ghana, IIED has worked with GHaFFaP from its inception, helping to develop a ten-year roadmap for its activities. Crucially, this roadmap includes a clear gender strategy designed to ensure that women’s interests are fully represented. 

This is backed up by a governance structure that provides mechanisms for women's concerns to be heard from the grassroots to the national level.

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Diagram of the GHaFFaP organisation structure showing women's groups at each level

At the national level, GHaFFaP has a Women’s Champions Wing that organises roundtables and skills development for women members. The roundtable discussions feed into dialogue with government and private sector stakeholders. 

The champions wing also coordinates 'women’s champions' across the federation, including:

  • Women advocates who lead on informing members about how closing gender gaps in value chains can be a win-win situation for all
  • Women coaches with different areas of experience – for example, in production, marketing or finance – who serve as coaches to other women, and
  • Businesswomen mentoring women members to ensure they have access to and benefit from GhaFFaP’s business support.

IIED delivered practical capacity building for GhaFFaP. We provided gender 'to-do' lists and business development training which included a gender equality focus. 

We developed business incubation and risk management training programmes with guidance on gender equality mainstreaming. IIED and partners also provided a series of toolkits on market analysis, access to finance and diversification for greater resilience. 

Our Ghana work is linked to broader programmes on strengthening women's voices in governance. Our report ‘Routes to change’ analysed GhaFFaP and two other case studies from sub-Saharan Africa to map the most effective approaches for ensuring that rural women can participate in decision making affecting their livelihoods.

The case studies were featured in a seminar on strengthening women’s voices in public and private governance in April 2021. A video of the presentation is below, or you can watch it on IIED's YouTube channel.

What difference has this work made?

Gender equality is built into the fabric of GhaFFaP. Its statement of objectives includes this goal: “to ensure gender-inclusive practices in all programmes and activities of member organisations”.

Previously, women producers’ strategic needs were dealt with in silos, if at all. Now, a mixed-gender national federation of producer organisations is implementing a governance structure designed to ensure that women members’ priorities inform discussions at all levels.

Head and shoulders photo of Alima Sagito-Saeed.

“What I've been doing as a leader with position and authority is to make sure that at each stage of planning, issues of women are not just an add-on, but a fundamental part of the discussion" 

– Alima Sagito-Saeed, vice-president of GhAFFAP

Alima Sagito-Saeed is executive director of the Savannah Women Integrated Development Agency (SWIDA), a federation of women producers in the north of the country. She is also vice-president of GhAFFAP, and she told us how GhaFFaP prioritises women's concerns.

"Fortunately, in the association, we have started very well because right from the beginning, if you see the components of the FFF project, they were very strategic as far as issues of gender are concerned," she says. 

The governance model ensures that member organisations also mainstream women's issues. "All the leaders of the organisations, the farmer producer organisations, in the association, they make sure they are planning and mainstreaming the agenda of women and youth right from the beginning."

Thanks to this organisational set-up, GhaFFaP has been able to identify and follow up on strategic priorities of particular concern to their women members, ranging from protecting 'open access' shea and baobab trees to formalising village savings and loan associations, most of whose members are women.

GhAFFAP's women champions framework also creates new spaces for women to participate and develop their skills as advocates, leaders, knowledge bearers and experts. This, in turn, is building further opportunities for them to take collective action and enhance their agency.