Women are key to feeding all families everywhere, and to improving livelihoods through improved subsistence production, stronger agricultural markets and more inclusive agroindustrial systems. Sabina Abuga knows how to use technology to advance prosperity through food security.
She worked with farming communities in Talensi District, in the upper east region of Ghana, learning how to apply participatory research methods through a parnter workshop in Bolgatanga. Together with organizers, participants and stakeholders, she engaged local women to identify drivers of land use change, threats of land degradation, and risks of land tenure loss on the availability and distribution of food and agricultural products among women. The team conducted semi-structured interviews, focus groups, transect walks, natural resource mapping and household diagrams.
She also collaborated with the Soy Innovation Lab to generate data on the spatial configuration of key installations within the soybean value chain in and around Kumasi, Ghana. Soybean is an important cash crop, rich in protein and critical for animal feed production. Besides household food subsistence, the agricultural sector can offer immediate employment to over half of the country’s active labor force. Many small-scale farmers in Northern Ghana tend to be women who produce staple crops for their family consumption. The path to opening opportunities to increase livelihoods and income may rely on local, spatially relevant knowledge gathered through participatory methods.
Sabina says, “we are agents of change, taught to use geospatial data techniques to transform societies and make them a better place.” While doing so, Sabina herself, together with her fellow YouthMappers in Ghana and beyond, are learning critical workforce skills and expanding their career networks.
Thanks to Sabina Abuga, Ndapile Mkuwu, Laura Mugeha (above, pictured left to right); Marcela Zeballos; Michael Batame, Noela Yakubu, Confidence Kdopo, Gladys Adjei, Kingsley Kanji, Bert Manieson, Francis Debrah, Kwame Odame, Ebenezer Boateng, Dr. Julia Quaicoe, and the late Prof. James Eshun of the University of Cape Coast; Dr. Peter Goldsmith, Soy Innovation Lab, USAID; Chad Blevins; Catholic Relief Service, Matthew Kandel, University of Southampton,Thomas Addoah, BRECcIA; Kwaku Antwi Ghana Department of Food and Agriculture; Dr. Conrad Lyford, Texas Tech University.
To feed the future, we will need to dramatically increase food production around the world. Some scholars estimate we will need seventy percent in the next three decades, due to the rapid growth of the world’s population. Meeting this need means paying greater attention to women farmers, who make up the majority of agricultural workers in many regions. While women produce subsistence for their households, the agroindustrial systems offer paths to prosper. Given improved tools, training, and technology – including mapping technologies like those Sabina uses – it will be critical to support women in agriculture.
Women can also play key roles in development of technologies, research, and networks across the broad agricultural and food systems sector, whether thay be roles as producers, consumers, researchers, and businesspeople. In the geospatial sector of this industry, mapping skills can help to analyze land cover and land use change, assess farm and soil health, understand dynamics of a gendered land tenure system, trace the supply chain and distribution of food and agricultural products, and evaluate the equitable availability of resources, so that all families can thrive without hunger, and prosper in the economy.
These mapping and data collection efforts, led by female emerging student leaders in the YouthMappers network, hold the potential to benefit millions around the world by making available critical, mapping data relevant to half the world’s population, so that security improves, lives are saved, power is generated, prosperity rises, and innovation happens.