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Bawku: Widows changing narrative through agriculture despite potracted conflict

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A group of resilient widows is forging a path of healing and empowerment through agriculture despite the potracted conflict in Bawku.

While outsiders may view Bawku through the lens of strife and division, these widows in the Kpalwega community in the Bawku Municipality of the Upper East Region are defying odds and cultivating a future of hope.

During my visit, I interacted with them and learned that most used to be traders, dealing in various goods with market value in the Bawku market, but have now turned to farming due to the prolonged conflict.

For women like Apansib Abunkudugu, a 45-year-old widow who tragically lost her husband to the conflict, agriculture has become a beacon of stability and sustenance for her family of five.

Transitioning from her previous life as a trader, she explained that she now tends to a thriving vegetable garden during the dry season, growing onions, peppers, and garden eggs.

Speaking to her, she indicated that despite economic challenges, she finds solace and inner peace amidst the greenery—a respite from the turmoil that once engulfed her community.

“What can I do if not engage myself in this garden? I spend most of my time here because I find inner peace. After losing my husband and my work as a trader to the conflict, this garden is doing wonders for me and my eight children,” she said.

Gifty Akumbas, also a widow who lost her husband to the prolonged conflict, finds strength and sustenance in her vegetable garden. With seven children to care for, her garden has become a lifeline, providing a steady income of Ghc250.00 to Ghc300.00 every three weeks.

Similarly, Assibi Akirigah, a mother of five and a widow, couldn’t stop praising how her vegetable garden supports her family. According to her, two of her children are attending school thanks to the support she gets from the garden.

With a group membership of 50 widows, they explained how their vegetable gardens support them and their families during the dry season.

However, alongside their success stories, these women grapple with a host of challenges, including pesticide invasions, inadequate water supply, and a lack of agricultural extension officers to support them with farming techniques.

Abunkudugu recounted the laborious process of manually digging a pit to store water for their garden—a temporary solution that falls short during prolonged dry spells.

According to her, a couple of weeks ago, she was admitted to the hospital for treatment after spending long hours and days digging a pit for water for her vegetables.

“I used my hands to dig. And you know, I’m not younger anymore. After digging, I spent two days in the hospital. It’s not easy getting water for the vegetables,” she said.

“If we can get water, like an irrigation system to water our vegetables regularly, it will go a long way to improve our livelihood here. Some of us might even forget about the conflict and our losses,” she added.

Gifty lamented the destructive impact of pesticides on their crops, despite repeated calls for assistance from agricultural experts in the area.

According to her, some officers, whenever they were called, failed to show up due to the ongoing fighting in Bawku.

“I can’t remember the last time we saw an extension officer here showing us how to nurture our vegetables. It’s hard, but what can we do?” she questioned.

Assibi Akirigah, also a mother of five and a widow, explained how the absence of agricultural extension officers negatively impacts them.

“Two weeks after planting my garden eggs, I noticed some flying pests nesting on them. I tried using homemade concoctions to fight them, but it didn’t work. As you can see, the plants are turning yellow,” she said with a somber voice.

Speaking about addressing these challenges, Ms. Patience Azuah, a Member of the Centre for Empowerment and Development Initiative (CEDI, Ghana), emphasized that stakeholders, especially government bodies, must look beyond the happenings in Bawku.

“These women just need a little push. I think extension officers need to be trained and encouraged to devise means to support these women. Imagine an already traumatized widow losing everything in her garden again. Policy implementers must do more, especially the Ministry of Agriculture,” she urged.

CEDI Ghana is a registered NGO aimed at addressing development gaps and empowering the poor in economic, social, and environmental management, protecting vulnerable individuals, and curbing migration.

At the time of writing this report, I made several calls and requests for comment from the Department of Agriculture in the region, but received no response.

Despite these challenges, the widows remain undeterred in their pursuit of a better future for themselves and their families. Their resilience and determination serve as a testament to the indomitable spirit of the people of Bawku, who refuse to be defined by conflict.

Source: A1Radioonline.com|101.1MHz|Moses Apiah|Bolgatanga

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