In 2010, I worked with Engineers Without Borders Canada on establishing an agriculture-as-a-business curriculum as a regular activity of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture in the Kassena-Nankana East District (Upper East Region, Ghana). I trained extension agents in the inner workings of the curriculum, going out to the field to coach them through its implementation and working with management to build buy-in to the program. Even with this investment, due to other competing priorities (programs with more funding attached and/or top-down promotion), it didn’t become a permanent program at the district. This does not mean, however, that the program didn’t have impact.
In 2011, I revisited a women’s group of about 60 members that participated in the program. Before going through the curriculum, they had never engaged in farming as a business before. Through our work, Eddy (Field Staff extraordinaire) spent weeks investing in their knowledge, skills, and motivation. We planned a meeting between the group and a local rice processor, and the District Director even came to the meeting and the follow-up meeting with the group back in their village.
A year later, their level of self-confidence as a group had soared because they had been invested in. They had all doubled the size of their farms and they expressed a self-belief and determination they hadn’t before. Nobody had seriously invested in these women before program, then suddenly they were getting the attention of the Extension Agent, the Director, and buyers.
With EWB, we look to change systems, but sometimes we overlook and undervalue the less systemic, but more individual and human impacts of our efforts. My work did not fundamentally change service delivery to farmers in Ghana, but our ability to push forward this program even for a short period of time meant impacting the lives of 60 female farmers in Kassena-Nanakana East.
Junior Fellowship Program Manager (Engineers Without Borders Canada)