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CCA is a not-for-profit 
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Volume 9 Number 03, March 27, 2015

Women, woodlots and water

The Eastern Corridor in Ghana's Northern Region is one of the most water scarce areas of the country, where more than three million people lack access to an improved water source. Residents, the majority of whom are rural farmers whose livelihoods depend on accessible water, face mounting challenges related to climate change including droughts and floods. Many communities are reliant on streams and swamps that dry up during severe droughts. Women are particularly affected and are the primary users and managers of local water sources. It can take hours each day for women to collect water for both their domestic and productive uses. 


Fetching water long distances is a daily chore in Northern Ghana


Given this reality, the Eastern Corridor may seem an unlikely location for tree nurseries to flourish. Nevertheless, the Canadian Co-operative Association (CCA) in partnership with SEND Ghana are tackling the challenges of climate change head on. In doing so, they have sewn the seeds for the establishment of successful wholly women-owned and operated commercial woodlots that are thriving in this area. The project - Building Women's Resiliency for Climate Change, has been implemented in six communities in the Eastern Corridor for two years with funds from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Development (DFATD).

Ramatu Donkor, the president of the Mpentem Women's Farmer Co-operative in the village of Kalande credits the borehole they installed in 2015 for the success of their woodlot and nursery. Members pump water from it to fill the two large storage tanks that stand inside their nursery compound.  The tanks provide life-giving water for the mahogany, mango, teak and acacia seedlings in the nursery, to the rows of fast growing trees in the woodlot, and the soya bean plants inter-cropped there.


WOmen's co-op members with their seedlings
Ramatu Donkor (centre) with members of the Mpentem Women's
Co-operative at their nursery

The benefits of their micro-enterprise touch everyone in the community: potable water for home consumption and savings of time and effort for women and youth to devote to other pursuits. The seedlings, fruit and soya beans contribute both to their nutrition and income. The key benefit and most sustainable aspect of the project is its role in reducing deforestation, which in the long-term will help to lessen the impacts of flooding and drought in the area. Though the project exploits groundwater resources in the short-term to help grow the tree stands, participants feel that the ends justify the means. Moreover, with their earnings, the women members are opening credit union accounts to grow their savings and take out loans to improve their farm enterprises and off-farm businesses.


Co-op members are also enjoying a host of social benefits from their woodlot and nursery enterprise, including greater harmony and decision sharing in their homes, and women are saying they are more organized, confident and willing to manage and grow their co-operative business. News and interest about Kalande, its woodlot and nursery is growing thanks to media coverage. A new road sign outside of town has literally put Kalande on the map.

Women are receiving agricultural, business and leadership training and sharing this with their husbands and children. "I even taught my husband how to graft mango," says Ramatu Donkor, the president of the Mpentem Women's Farmer Co-operative. "We share what we have learnt with others from different communities and we ask them to embrace the project when it comes to their community."

As well as fostering women's economic empowerment and

diversifying family income, the co-op is also offering ecological benefits by enriching the quality of the soil and preventing its erosion. More importantly, it is enhancing women's access to essential resources in the region, as women are now able to source water directly for both the nurseries and household use through a conveniently placed borehole funded by the project for just $5,400. The borehole is greatly improving the quality of life for nearby communities. Project participants are harnessing the economic potential and sharing in the wealth that this water source provides.

Hearing the women talk about their project and future prospects, it is clear that the co-op and new water sources have awakened and will sustain the entrepreneurial power of women living in these six communities.

"Now we, the women, see the commercial woodlot as a business - from the nursing of seedlings for sale, to benefits from soya bean, fruits, firewood, etc," says co-op member Azara Fuseini.

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