Lydia Sasu had a tough choice to make. While she was being honored with the Kleckner Trade & Technology Advancement Award in Des Moines, Iowa, she would be missing World Rural Women’s Day in her home country of Ghana.

Lydia Sasu, Ghana Farmer: “World Rural Women’s Day commemorates the multiple roles women play, especially in agriculture. Here’s a fact that many people do not realize: Women are responsible for roughly half of the world’s food production. In the developing world, they account for at least 80 percent of it.

In Ghana, women like me cultivate most of our country’s vegetables, cereals, and other food crops. Even with cash crops such as cocoa, which are mostly owned by men, we weed, harvest and transport the final product to marketplaces. More than 20 percent of our work is unpaid. It contributes to sustenance and family operations.”

Severe drought like we’ve seen in California stretches through much of Africa as well, from the Horn of Africa in the northeast to Zimbabwe and South Africa in the south.

Lydia Sasu: “My continent of Africa is suffering its worst drought in a generation. The failure of the African skies to pour nourishing rain onto the African soil could cost millions of people their lives. The United Nations predicts that more people in Ethiopia will need food assistance next year than in war-torn Syria. Drought in Africa is so bad, that it’s like living in a war zone. It’s different from the drought in California.

In Africa farmers lack access to credit, land and labor. We suffer from illiteracy, poor management skills and bad or non-existent infrastructure. The delivery of extension services is skewed. And although agriculture is essential, it’s also held in low regard.

One major problem is that we don’t benefit from the latest technologies. Throughout North and South America, farmers take genetically modified crops for granted. From Africa, we look on in envy, wishing we could use the same tools to overcome weeds, pests and drought. We don’t need handouts from wealthy countries. We just need the same opportunities to succeed.”

Sasu was born into a farming family in Ghana and became passionate about helping women farmers after seeing her own mother struggle to make enough money to feed her children. Lydia received an education, studying agriculture and home economics at the University of Ghana.

She co-founded the Development Action Association (DAA) in 1977.  The Association operates in 50 communities and 98% of the beneficiaries are rural women. The DAA focuses on empowering women, improving literacy and helping with business development skills like bookkeeping.

She initiated World Rural Women’s Day training sessions targeting women farmers using local languages to communicate effectively with policymakers. Ms. Sasu’s support has allowed women in the community to be viewed as assets with valuable advice and a key part of the solution.

Lydia Sasu was presented the 2015 Kleckner Trade & Technology Advancement Award on Tuesday, October 13 in Des Moines, Iowa at a Global Farmer Awards Reception hosted by Truth About Trade & Technology Foundation / Global Farmer Network and CropLife International. The award has been given annually since 2007 and recognizes a global farmer who exemplifies strong leadership, vision and resolve in advancing the rights of all farmers to choose the technology and tools that will improve the quality, quantity and availability of agricultural products around the world. It was established to honor Dean Kleckner, Chairman Emeritus of the organization. Previous award recipients are Rosalie Ellasus, Philippines (2007); Jeff Bidstrup, Australia (2008); Jim McCarthy, Ireland (2009), Gabriela Cruz, Portugal (2010); Gilbert arap Bor, Kenya (2011) Rajesh Kumar, India (2012) V. Ravichandran, India (2013), and Ian Pigott, United Kingdom (2014).