Friends of the Nation under the Women Economic Advancement for Collective Transformation [WEACT] project embarked on distribution of COVID-19 preventive items to cocoa growing communities in the Western and Western North Regions. The items were to help the communities fight the covid-19 pandemic that is still taking lives in Ghana. The items included hand washing stations [Veronica buckets and hand washing bowls on metal stands], nose masks, hand sanitizers, face shields, branded T-Shirts and various educational materials on the pandemic.
WEACT is a 5 year project supported by Global Affairs Canada and implemented by Oxfam Quebec, Oxfam in Ghana, WiLdaF, SEND Ghana, Friends of the Nation, VIAMO, NORSAAC, Shear Network and TungTeiya. The project’s ultimate outcome is to achieve an enhanced empowerment of women for inclusive growth.
In the Western Region, beneficiaries included the Wassa Amenfi West Municipal Assembly, and in the Western North Region, the Aowin Municipal, the Suaman District, and the Sefwi Wiawso Municipal Assemblies were beneficiaries. Cocoa Farmer Co-operatives, Chiefs and Queen Mothers in Kwabeng, Ananekrom, Asuoklo and Nyankamam Dadieso, Kwasuo Sui and the Ahokwah communities were all provided with the items.
Compliance of COVID-19 protocols in the beneficiary communities
Generally, compliance of COVID-19 protocols in cocoa growing communities visited was low. In the 8 communities, people largely were on the streets with no masks, and there were relatively no publicly stationed hand washing facilities at vantage public spaces for people to wash their hands. This situation is similar to what happens in many parts of Ghana.
Admitting apathy towards compliance of the protocols the Krontihene of the Dadieso-Suaman Traditional Council, Nana Armah Kofi II remarked that “the observance of the protocols is in truth, not followed strictly, as was the case in the early days of the pandemic. You could go to the marketplace and find that only a handful of the women are in nose mask. The Delta Variant of the virus as we have heard in the news is dangerous, yet our people seem not bothered”. He therefore appreciated the donation and admonished residents to comply with the protocols.
Receiving the items, the Municipal Chief Executive of the Sefwi Wiawso Municipal Assembly Hon. Louis Owusu Agyapong stated. “It is one reason we so much appreciate these items the WEACT project has presented to us. It will help us in our attempts to ensure that this pandemic is over as soon as possible, so life returns to what we’ve known it. May God bless the people behind the funds for these items”.
Economic/social impact of COVID-19 in beneficiary communities
The impact of the pandemic could also be felt during the distribution of the items. Queen mother of Kwabeng who is herself a cocoa farmer, Nana Hemaa Akua Ayaa II explained that “before the outbreak of the virus, officials of COCOBOD were coming to our cocoa growing communities to treat diseased farms and to supply us inputs for our farms. But when the cases in Ghana started going up sometime last year, those officers stopped coming. As we speak, many are our farms that are badly infested and are not bearing expected fruits. If you add the fact that the rains are not coming as expected too, then you know the challenge that lies ahead of us in our communities”.
In the Aowin municipality, the trading among cocoa communities from within the municipality and adjourning ones were halted. Samuel Adu Gyamfi, the Aowin Municipal Chief Executive explained that “even though there was no lockdown at our local level, we had to make local level laws to support the president’s initiatives to curtail the virus. As a result market activities in our towns and villages had to be restricted, and there was no inter-communities and inter-district trading. This affected our people, particularly women who are mostly traders”.
Chairman of the Boafo Ne Nyame Co-operative at Dadieso in Western North Region, Grace Afum said “we have had to put an end to meeting all our members as one unit to discuss issues of mutual importance because of the social distancing and other protocols. And as you may be aware, we are unable to meet online through zoom or other platforms because of the absence of mobile network connectivity in many of our member zones”.
Apart from the economic implications of the pandemic in cocoa growing communities, the social life of the people is affected. “As we speak, there are funerals that have been suspended for a long time, denying relatives of the dead the closure they need. It’s part of our culture to make sure we give a befitting burial to our deceased relatives. But funeral celebrations have piled up that we are now trying to work to have them performed. All these are having effects on farming, trading, and cultural activities of the people”. Hon Samuel Adu Gyamfi again noted.
Embracing the WEACT Project
During the distribution, it was observed that both the beneficiary communities and the local government representatives were in high hopes on the prospect of the WEACT project in their jurisdiction. They recounted the decline in economic activities in cocoa growing communities whenever the cocoa is out of the season, and so wished the project provides hands on skills to women in particular to sustain their lives.
The Municipal Chief Executive for the Suaman Municipality Hon. Christan Baah narrated that “when the two cocoa seasons are over, you find that the economic situations of people in the district is significantly reduced. This affect a chain of other activities in the district. And in all of this, our women are the ones mostly affected. We will wish if WEACT will look at training our women in cocoa on how to make products such as soaps and other skills, it will help them to be economically positioned during when cocoa is out of season”.
“We are looking forward to seeing the WEACT project in full swing in our community We know the contributions of women, so if this project is aiming at empowering our wives in other ventures to support our cocoa work, we are ready to offer the project all the necessary support to see it succeed in the Sui community”. Chief of Sui, Nana Kwasi Bosomtwe II assured.