This year’s theme for the International Day of Rural Women is “Building rural women’s resilience in the wake of COVID-19”. On this occasion, we have asked CGIAR centers and programs to describe how their research is supporting rural women during times of crises. This post, by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), is one in series of responses.
by Georgina Smith and Alessandra Galiè
In northern Ghana, rural women are traditionally not supposed to own livestock, even though they are often in charge of looking after animals on the farm. Supporting women to become animal health service providers is helping overturn ingrained cultural beliefs that have hampered women from owning animals and making decisions about their health.
The worried-looking man stands outside a neat, semi-circular thatched cottage.
Shifting from foot to foot, the man’s anxious gaze moves to the small goat cradled in his arms. Forty-five-year-old Samuel Ndaa, chief technical officer at the district veterinary services, comes to the door to see the man, wearing his beige coat.
Samuel takes a brief look at the goat and disappears, reemerging with a small medicine box and vaccination. A small sum of money exchanges hands, Samuel vaccinates the goat, and the customer, looking instantly relieved, says goodbye and makes his way home with the goat tucked under his arm.
That customer could never have been a woman, even if the goat belonged to her.
As one of six veterinarians in the Bawku West District of the Upper East Region, northern Ghana, Samuel is already aware of the reasons why. Under the shade of a large tree outside his office in Zebilla, a bustling market town near Burkina Faso’s border, he explains the first reason.
Responsible for servicing more than 68,000 households, he runs through a list of his biggest challenges: lack of access to drugs and charging farmers a reasonable price that they can afford. But there is another, critical challenge: where to put the drugs when he has them.
The common ailments he treats in chickens include tapeworm and Newcastle disease, and in goats peste des petits ruminants and contagious caprine pleuropneumonia.
The medicines he uses need to be kept cold. With no refrigerator in his office, Samuel keeps the drugs in a small refrigerator at his home. And so he explains the first reason his customers can’t be women: it is culturally inappropriate for a married woman to visit a man in his home.