Everything seemed to be going fine as Rahila Yilangai carried out her assignment of evaluating an innovative project sponsored by the global Securing Water for Food (SWFF) program in rural Ghana. She was interviewing the wife of a farmer. The woman was on her list to be interviewed. However, the woman’s husband, who had been listening in on the conversation, suddenly announced he was head of household.
“Get in the kitchen and cook me something to eat,” the farmer said to his wife.
The husband insisted he would continue the survey being conducted to determine the effectiveness of the SkyFox program, a project to provide irrigation for crops and boost a burgeoning fish industry. This particular interview by Rahila, a Nigerian, stood out in her mind as an example of gender inequality found not only in Ghana but in many countries in Africa and, indeed, around the world.
There were no surprises. The program is helping people in the region.
“Though the woman was listed as the investor in the program, the husband clearly took charge of the details,” Rahila said, including telling his wife there were no profits from the investment because “all the fish were stolen.”
The researcher said that tale—at least to her given the situation and the husband’s reaction—sounded, in a word, fishy. While such gender discrimination is not an anomaly with the innovator projects evaluated, there were various other projects, including SkyFox, where men encouraged women to participate. “Most of the women respondents were interviewed without their husbands present,” said Rahila.
For Rahila, an experienced researcher from the AP Leventis Ornithological Research Institute, in Jos, Nigeria, it was all part of the job commissioned by SWFF. The global SWFF program is highlighting and doing something about the worldwide problem of finding ways to grow more food with less water. It is estimated by the year 2050 there will only be usable, year-around water for a third of the world’s population.
The SWFF program came together five years ago as an innovative way to put a dent in the problem.
At the same time, the program is demonstrating that an innovator’s imagination could point the way ahead. SWFF is funded by USAID and the governments of Sweden, South Africa, and the Netherlands. Overall, with just a few hiccups with interviews and locating the rural farmers on her interview sheet, Rahila said the end-users, the farmers, had an overall favorable view of the program. Every respondent in the survey reported a positive impact, and they planned to continue in the program. Currently, SkyFox serves over 5,000 end-users who benefit directly from the project, impacting about 45,000 people.
SkyFox has long been a small capital markets initiative by selling Ghanaian farmers shares in fish production to aid in both increasing farm yields through nutrient irrigation and feeding the population, which has a shortage of fish. The innovation plans to hold an initial public offering on the Ghana stock exchange in the coming months.
Specifically, the SkyFox method focuses on the efficient utilization and reuse of water with higher-level holding tanks being used for fish production. The water is then bio-filtered and reused by channeling it through an irrigation system for crop production in the lower savannas.
Between the program’s launch in 2017 and the estimated results by 2020, SkyFox estimates that 3,400 fish ponds will be constructed with more than 2,000 hectares of land under irrigation.
“It was a fascinating assignment,” said Rahila, who had only been in Ghana once before to attend a conference. “There were no surprises. The program is helping people in the region.”
USAID, Sweden through the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), and the Governments of The Netherlands and South Africa invested $34 million in Securing Water for Food (SWFF) to promote science and technology solutions that enable the production of more food with less water and/or make more water available for food production, processing, and distribution.
This story was developed through the SWFF Social Impact Storytelling Initiative which was established to document innovator journeys and social impact as they work to improve the way water is being used for agriculture. #socialimpact #innovation #agriculture #water