Meet WANDA Woman Bathsheba Bryant-Tarpeh, M.A., a doctoral candidate in the Department of African Studies and Research at Howard University, specializing in Public Policy and Development.
Supported by the USAID Feed the Future program and motivated by her desire to advance the well-being of communities within the black diaspora, Bathsheba performed her six-month dissertation fieldwork in northern Ghana where she focused on the gender implications of land-use change as a result of large-scale commercial agribusiness.
Despite rural African women being put forward as the main beneficiaries of policy changes that underwrite agrarian transformation, women are often left most vulnerable when commercial agri-business interests are put above the interests of smallholder farmers.
Bathsheba worked directly with local farmers, both men, and women, to provide strategies to maximize their productivity.
What are you studying at Howard University?
I am a doctoral candidate in the Department of African Studies and Research. My specialization is Public Policy and Development.
Why do you think this area of study is crucial to the development of your country and the African continent as a whole?
As an African American, I believe strongly in collaborating and forging relationships, networks, and organizational and professional work in helping to advance the lives of all peoples of African descent within the diaspora and on the African continent.
As the world continues to become more integrated, it is important that national development policies and international agendas are designed for the benefit of people on the continent. The Diaspora can play a critical role in the development of the continent and we must see this as a collective challenge.
As Black people, we cannot be fully liberated until we ensure our fellow sisters and brothers are free, from the United States to the continent, to Asia and Europe and the Caribbean. Learning from each other and building coalitions whether through business, non-profits, educational institutions, is a key strategy in the era of globalization.
Tell us about the project you worked on in Ghana.
I was a U.S. Borlaug Global Food Security Fellow, a U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Feed the Future Leadership Program. As a U.S. Borlaug Fellow in Ghana, I was provided financial and institutional support for my six-month dissertation fieldwork.
I am really interested in how the advanced global economy and international policies impact the livelihoods of rural, agrarian communities, especially for women and their families. This is an incredibly important topic because women play such a significant role in providing food and managing the nutritional needs of her family.
My project focused on the gender implications of land-use change as a result of large-scale commercial agribusiness. I conducted a focused ethnographic case study on Dagomba communities in northern Ghana that were affected by the biofuel industry collapse in the country.
I am really interested in bringing the experiences of the women and men to the fore and how they are adapting to changes in their environment and the implications on their food and nutrition security.
Often times during agrarian transformation, women are more vulnerable to losing access to land within societies that are already discriminatory against women with respect to land-use rights. Additionally, the large-scale agribusiness, in this case, was destructive to the environment, damaged the soils through use of harsh chemicals and pesticides, and deforested vital trees like the Shea tree and Dawa Dawa tree.
These trees are significant culturally and also economically and nutritionally as products derived from these trees are a great source of income for women and provide nutritional and medicinal benefits to the communities in which I worked.
What did your experience in Ghana teach you?
Being in Ghana was my first time on the African Continent. As a woman of African descent, being in Ghana was one of the most exciting, meaningful, and transformative experiences of my life.
The beauty of the country and the warmth and hospitality of Ghanaians and the friendships I made was such an incredible part of my time in Ghana. Visiting Cape Coast and Elmina Slave Castles and the Pikworo Slave Camp in the Upper East Region, near Burkina Faso allowed me to learn about the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade from the African context and it helped me connect the dots, so to speak, about our history and was one of the most memorable parts of my trip.
On a personal level, it made me want even more to discover my roots through genetic testing.
Academically, through my collaboration with other students and researchers in the country and most importantly, my work in the villages, I learned that I truly want to work in the arena of helping to improve the lives and welfare of vulnerable communities.
What intrigues you the most about the people you have met and supported through your work?
What intrigues me most about the community members in the villages in which I worked was the sincere level of gratitude shown toward me.
The communities were very much aware of their challenges and were so open to sharing their experiences with me and together we devised ways to improve their livelihoods in the short-term through creating farmer’s groups.
This was not an initial plan but evolved, as a response to community needs. I was able to provide informational sessions to communities, both women and men’s groups, on how to register their farming groups and provided strategies to maximize their productivity, how to get technical training from the local agricultural extension and gain support from the local assemblies for community needs.