COVID-19 has had a profound impact on smallholder farmers in Ghana, leaving many deeply concerned about putting food on their table following the start of the pandemic. Rose Bohnia is a single mother of two. She lives with her sick mother and five other dependents in Nyoli, a poor rural community in the Wa West district. She is also a petty trader who processes groundnut into pastes and sells the product to people in Kumasi, the capital of the Ashanti region of Ghana. Rose’s business came to a halt after the outbreak of COVID-19. Travel restrictions coupled with market closures have put Rose out of business. She has struggled to find a source of income to feed her dependents and continue to provide the basics for her household.
With support from Global Affairs Canada (GAC), the Co-operative Development Foundation of Canada (CDF Canada) has responded in a timely manner to address the impact of COVID-19 on people, communities and businesses. A $2 million CAD project entitled Access to Inputs and Capital to Sustain Livelihoods in Times of COVID-19 (ACCESS) is funding critical needs facing farmers in Ghana and Ethiopia. This project is supporting 12,000 households with access to inputs, fertilizers, seeds, knowledge and skills to respond to the impact of COVID-19. For people like Rose, who have had their incomes wiped out as a result of the pandemic, ACCESS has proven a lifeboat.
“Being home with no source of income I used my capital on food and medical bills for my sick mother. With all the children being home throughout the pandemic, our feeding has tripled from before. I used to spend 100 Ghanaian Cedi ($23 CAD) on food ingredients per month, but now I spend about 250 Cedi per month. Prices of items have increased since COVID-19 and there is general hardship. There are days we go hungry because there is nothing to eat”, said Rose.
Apart from engaging in trading, Rose cultivates maize during the farming season as the primary source of food for her household. Things took a different turn this year and Rose could not grow her usual amount of maize because the price of fertilizer has gone up. The soil in Rose’s area is extremely poor in nutrients, so without fertilizer the yields are very low. Rose was facing a high risk of food insecurity. She had depleted her food stock and was facing the risk of growing less maize due to the unaffordability of fertilizer. ACCESS has helped her plough one acre of land and supplied her with certified maize and fertilizer for two applications. ACCESS was a ray of hope for Rose and her household.
“I never in a million years saw any help coming to me in this form. The [ACCESS] officer taught us to dibble and bury the fertilizer, which is different from how we have been doing things in the past and the field looks good. We are already seeing good results in the maize field and I am expecting a good harvest. I plan to sell some of the maize to support my children’s education and store some for household consumption”, highlighted Rose.
In addition to receiving agricultural inputs, ACCESS project beneficiaries were taught good agricultural practices and how to apply 4R farming practices on their fields. They are now optimistic about getting higher yields and Rose is determined to apply those practices on her field in the future. She is also hopeful that she will continue her small business once pandemic restrictions are lifted.