Posted on Monday, 03 August 2015 14:10

Horticulture: Green shoots for Ghana's flower industry

By Billie Adwoa McTernan in Bedum Breman

Photo©Billie Adwoa McTernanAs profit grows so does the capacity and this provides the opportunity to employ more women farmhands. The women would become masters of their land and hopefully their pockets too.

Clusters of black peppercorn vines, ylang ylang flowers and citronella plants line the bushy roadway to Bedum forest in Ghana's Central Region.

The [Women] rejected [their salaries] because they said they could not earn more money than their husbands

It is early afternoon and a small group of women are tending to rows of yellow, pink, orange and red variations of heliconia tropical flowers as part of a gender-focused social enterprise program channelled through Eden 'n' Eve, a 10-acre flower farm owned by Sefa Gohoho-Boatin.

In an effort to address and sustain gender equity in the area, Ghanaian sustainable agro-forestry company Portal Forests Estates launched the pilot starting with Gohoho-Boatin. Under the terms, Portal Forests Estates provides technical assistance, facilitates training sessions for Eden 'n' Eve and strives to maximise women's participation at all levels of the value chain.

Though currently fairly small-scale, the farm is expanding and many of the women are enthusiastic about growing with it. Its access to water and cool climate makes it an ideal location for flower cultivation.

"We've been working, we've been planting and we are on it," says team supervisor Ama Koa. "I've been here eight months and I want to be here for a long time."

As the scheme develops Eden 'n' Eve will provide landowners in the surrounding environs with free seedlings. The seeds would be planted, sprout into flowers and sold back to Gohoho-Boatin who sends them for export.

Koa is one of those who hopes to join that part of the initiative should she obtain some land.

On the Eden 'n' Eve farm the women earn 300 cedis (£60, $90) monthly. Before, from their own farms, they would sell about 100 cedis worth of food crops - cocoa, cassava or plantain - monthly.

But for them cultivating flowers has an additional satisfaction.

"I like farming flowers because they are beautiful," says former cassava farmer Tawiah Ankrah, with a smile across her face.

The Eden 'n' Eve farmers have already benefitted from training programs.

"When we went to the MDK [Dutch-owned flower exporting company] training we saw how they clean their flowers we saw how they sort them, we saw how they keep it before they send them for export. I'd like to learn more about what happens when they arrive abroad," says Koa.

Modernising money management is also on the agenda. Some of the women have opened accounts with local rural banks, but old habits die hard and Ghana still is very much a cash economy so the accounts sit idle.

"I'm yet to deposit any money," admits Ankrah.

Other difficulties include the obtention of land deeds for women that wish to participate in the next phase of the scheme.

When a discussion begins about who will add their own land to the project the women shuffle. "I have land," one woman points out. "But I'd have to ask my husband first."

"This is the big challenge we have," says Gohoho-Boatin. "When the women were offered what we thought was a fair salary, they rejected it. Why? Because they said they could not earn more money than their husbands. They wanted to keep the peace in their homes"

By custom land can be inherited without issuing legal papers. Gohoho-Boatin and her colleagues are working with the local assemblyman to ensure the necessary steps are taken so a greater number of women can participate as shareholders and increase overall Жаропрочная труба 20х23н18 по цене от компании - поставщика Электровек-сталь. production. The pace is slow but steady as word about the project spreads throughout the town.

In the forest, under shade-providing coconut trees, a group of outgrowers – contracted farmers – led by Mensah, perch on bamboo benches eager to discuss their hopes for the program.

The idea of the pilot has caught on through the town and attracted the attention of local chiefs and the assemblyman for Bedum Breman, Mustapha Mensah, who is keen to get his community involved.

"We [now] know that if we have additional crops to what we have already it will progress us. That is why people are interested to plant these flowers [on their land]," Mensah says.

He hopes that eventually the people from Bedum Breman will become key players in the trade by training others across the country in best flower farming practices.

The outgrowers and their families nod in agreement, many of them keen to move away from traditional agricultural exports.

MDK, who work with Gohoho-Boatin, say that landowners in Ghana can expect to earn at least $12,500 (£8300) per acre cultivating flowers and with proper supervision and irrigation could exceed $25,000. Cocoa brings in roughly $580-$600 per acre.

"I want us to be growing more and more," says Koa who is also a mother of four. "I want to make enough money so my children can go to any school or do whatever interests them. I want to push them to any level they want to go."

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