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Big Dreams for a Smallholder Farmer

By Kelly Jennings-Robinson

The livelihoods of rice farmers in the Upper East of Ghana are being transformed. Large-scale irrigation projects mean that farmers are now able to have two rice harvests per year: one in the harsh, dry season and the other in the rainy season. This increases the size of their harvests and the chance to earn more money for their families. It also ensures that farmers are less dependent on one single, seasonal income. This provides an added degree of financial security in a place where crops are vulnerable to weather extremes, pests and disease.

Although irrigation has grown yields, farmers in this remote area of Ghana still struggle with limited access to modern farming equipment. This hinders their ability to efficiently plant and harvest their crops. It is also a challenge to get a loan to improve and expand their smallholdings. This is especially true for female farmers, who are often the most disadvantaged and marginalised in agricultural communities.   

A field in Ghana that has not been irrigated.

A green, irrigated field in Ghana.

An unirrigated field (first image) compared to an irrigated field (second image) 

Roots of Change 

Our UK government-funded Roots of Change project is supporting over 200 irrigation farmers in the the Upper East of Ghana. Farmers, particularly women, are given access to loans to invest in their farms. The project also works with prominent community farmers who rent their machinery at a subsidised rate to help the women with their planting and harvesting. These farmers also provide a stable and reliable market for the smallholders by agreeing a fair price for their crops up front, enabling them to plan their finances in advance. 

Meet Irene 


Irene has been farming a half an acre plot for over 10 years and recently started working with Richard, a well-established farmer in her community.  With her first loan she has been able to expand her farm to a full acre.  Her crop has grown from 20 bags of rice annually to 45 bags.  She will keep 5 bags for her family and sell the rest at a fair price.

Irene’s future looks bright and her hopes are high. She wants to use her increased earnings to buy more land to farm and invest in extra labour as well as mechanised tools to help with her harvests. She is also planning to start growing maize.

Irene has also learned the importance of savings and now has a small safety net which she uses to help with school fees for her four children. She is also planning to use the extra income to rebuild her family home with fired bricks, rather than mud bricks, providing more stability and security against the elements during the rainy season. 

Richard and Irene

Richard lends his farm equipment to Irene and purchases her crops. 

All photos by Daniella Hawkins. 

UK Aid





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