When Oxfam came to Augustina’s community in rural Ghana to teach women beekeeping and farming techniques, she leapt at the chance.
“I had never kept bees before,” she says. “The only beekeeper I knew was a man who harvested wild honey.”
Augustina joined the training group and her friend Vivianne helped teach her beekeeping skills.
“Vivianne trained me on how to wear the protective clothes,” Augustina recalls, “[and] how to safely set fire to the sawdust for harvesting the honey.”
At first, she was wary of bee stings. But when Augustina stepped into the protective clothing supplied by Oxfam, she found her confidence.
“I learnt how to observe the hives to see when they were fully matured and ready for harvest and how to gently remove the beeswax to bring it home for processing.”
Beekeeping has given Augustina and Vivianne welcome independence.
“Previously, we thought it was only for men,” Vivianne says. “Now, we are in charge and we can do it.”
Before she joined the beekeeping program, Augustina’s life was soured by hunger and uncertainty. “I used to feel sick and unhappy,” she recalls. “It was a sad situation.”
With three young daughters to feed, and no opportunities to earn a living, Augustina struggled.
“I couldn’t get enough food to feed my children, which made me feel sad as a mother.”
In rural Ghana, incomes depend on farming. But because farming is viewed as men’s work, women are excluded from profitable farming activities – such as raising livestock or growing staple crops. This means many women can’t earn a living.
“Land is strictly owned by men,” Augustina explains.
Between June and August, three in four families in rural Ghana grapple with food shortages. The Hungry Season is especially hard for women because they don’t have equal access to farming land and resources — and so their children go hungry.
“You could see the children were unhappy and they looked sick,” Augustina says. “You could tell they were underfed.”
Life is much sweeter now for Augustina and her daughters.
“We now know we can sell honey and improve our living standards,” she says.
With her newfound beekeeping skills, Augustina has the power to lift her family out of poverty.
“Now I can sell honey, which means I can buy food, schoolbooks, pencils and clothes.”
“There is a great difference now in my life,” she says.
“People travel from far and wide to buy our honey. We know with time we can become a honey-producing community.
“We also eat the honey and, when my children suffer from coughs, I can mix it with a little palm oil to make a medicine.”
While Augustina is delighted with her own honey business, she points out that there are many more women like her who yearn for the opportunity to make a living.
“Day in, day out, there are new women coming to this community. They also need support. If we could have more beehives it would be wonderful,” she says.
She also hopes for a fairer future for her daughters, where they can earn an income without being held back by gender inequality. “My children are all girls. I would like them to be able to take up bee keeping.”
Oxfam is working with Ghana’s poorest communities to create opportunities for women to participate in the farming that sustains the region.
With your help, we can help more women, like Augustina, transform their lives and show their communities what women are truly capable of.
Augustina puts it best: “What a man can do a woman can do.”
Photos: Adam Patterson/Oxfam
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