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GENDER ISSUES IN FARMING SYSTEMS
RESEARCH AND EXTENSION
THE ROLE OF WOMEN FARMERS IN THE CHOOSING
.... ..... ... .. .............. ... .. SSPECIES..FOR.AGROFORESTRY.. FARMING. SYSTEMS .. .
IN RURAL AREAS OF GHANA
1985/86 HUMPHREY FELLOW
ISARD, COLORADO STATE UNIVERSITY, FORT COLLINS, U.S.A.
(COORDINATOR/DIRECTOR, RURAL AGROFORESTRY AND
FORESTRY FOR DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM, GHANA)
PREPARED FOR THE INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE
ON WOMEN AND DEVELOPMENT: "GENDER ISSUES
IN FARMING SYSTEMS RESEARCH AND EXTENSION"
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA; GAINESVILLE, FLORIDA
26 FEBRUARY 1 MARCH 1986
THE ROLE OF WOMEN FARMERS IN THE CHOOSING
OF SPECIES FOR AGROFORESTRY FARMING SYSTEMS
IN RURAL AREAS OF GHANA
Choosing of species that satisfy food, nutrition, fuelwood and health
problems of farm families is an important factor for promoting acceptability
- of- an 'agroforestry 'package ;"Ghanatan farmers" have a rich traditiobn''f Con- .' -'"
serving certain trees on their traditional agroforestry farms as to provide
basic forest products. The paper reviews a case study survey conducted to
identify useful local species for an initiated agroforestry farming system
research and development program in the forest-savannah transitional zone of
Ghana. Analysis of the data showed that women farmers are better conserva-
tors and more resourceful than their men counterparts. It is recommended
that researchers consider their direct involvement, especially during formal
and informal surveys for collecting data on agroforestry species. Tradi-
tional subsistence agroforestry farmers, mostly women, capable of selling
between 45-50% surplus products, acknowledged the benefits of agroforestry
and suggested the most useful trees for new agroforestry systems. A proposal
of on-farm research effort involving some selected species to be conducted
through joint women in agroforestry and "barefoot" agroforesters'* projects
is briefly explained.
*An agriculturist/forester with basic training in agroforestry who has set-
tled within rural farming community as a full-time farmer, on-farm
researcher, and an agent for extension services to farmers using his/her
farm as demonstration farm to promote transfer of agroforestry technology.
Many definitions of agroforestry (5, 6, 17, 33) with common structures
and objectives have been published. Agroforestry as a farming system
involves organizing available resources to produce forest tree and agricul-
tural crop/livestock products on the same piece of land either simultaneously
or sequentially for the well-being of the farmer. There are three basic
types of agroforestry systems: (i) agrosilviculture or agrisilviculture sys-
tem (integration o.f forest $rees with agricul tural crops)j; (ii ) silvopasto-
rial system (integration of forest trees with farm animals or livestock); and
(iii) agrosilvopastorial system (integration of forest trees, agricultural
crops and livestock). When species and technology are well chosen and effi-
ciently managed, agroforestry provides productive, protective and other
socio-economic benefits to the farmer on a sustainable basis. Viable agro-
forestry alternative to other systems is productive on marginal lands, and
meets rural dwellers' diverse food and forest products demands. It minimizes
farmers' pressure or encroachment on national forest reserves.
Out.of Ghana's 23*854 million hectares of total land area, forest now
occupies only 1.7658 million hectares (11). An estimated annual deforesta-
tion rate of 22,000 hectares was recorded for 1981-85 (9). The annual rate
of loss of productive and unproductive woodlands (land degradation) was esti-
mated at 20,000 hectares and 30,000 hectares, respectively, for 1980-85 (9).
In 1980, an estimated annual rate of forest renewal was only 3,000 hectares
(8). Total annual planting rate of fuelwood and pole plantation between
1981-85 was estimated at 700 hectares (10). These figures clearly indicate
that the afforestation efforts (mainly public) are insignificant compared to
the high rate of deforestation. The adverse effects of deforestation and
land degradation are concentrated in the interior and coastal savannah. Both
processes are taking place at an alarming rate in the forest savannah transi-
tional zone (FSTZ).
The agroforestry system (taungya) has been practiced in constituted for-
est reserve since 1929 (31). The tradition of conserving certain useful for-
est trees on farms outside the forest reserve (traditional agroforestry) is
as old as rural farming activities in Ghana. Agroforestry outside forest
reserves within the moist tropical zones of West and Central Africa as a sub-
stitute for shifting cultivation within bush fallow has been anticipated
(14). Increased income for the farmers through the sale of the planted tree
crops in addition to improved food crops due to a more site rejuvenation
under the tree crop has also been anticipated (14). Experience has shown
that agroforestry is based on locally productive, ecologically sound and
conservation-oriented activities which can be done most efficiently by local
people. It cannot be done by government project interventions or punitive
enforcement of law (32). To save the FSTZ of Ghana from environmental haz-
ards of deforestation, land degradation and desert encroachment, successful
agroforestry systems implemented by the local people on their marginal lands
are required. These systems should utilize local species, be flexible, sus-
tainable, resilient, economically attractive and acceptable to the local
population. They should be administered through a true interdisciplinary
spirit (not competition between disciplines) and by an efficient program
which considers males and females of all socio-economic levels equally.
Women farmers who must (i) produce subsistence crops on increasingly
degraded soils, (ii) walk further for water, fuelwood and fodder, and (iii)
identify and gather herbs to treat family health problems are principal suf-
ferers from environmental degradation (12, 13). Severe disruption of the
hydrology balance through high deforestation rate, widespread soil degrada-
tion and erosion (27, 1) leads to drying up of streams and the responsibility
for fetching water becomes more tedious and time consuming for women farmers.
Involvement of women in agroforestry project definition, design and implemen-
tation is highly desirable but in most cases they are excluded (12). Reluc-
.. -..-.tance on the part of-malTe'forest" XteLns on -off'i al s"to' Work Wtith'"fL emale Tis
well documented (30). In Ghana, the role of women in promoting forestry
development is not recognized. Their significant contribution to agricul-
tural development is underestimated. Despite their deeper knowledge and
experience in traditional agroforestry (Qwusu-Bempah, unpub.), women farm-
ers' involvement in formal and informal agroforestry surveys is insignificant.
A major constraint for conducting feasibility studies on new agrofores-
try projects in Ghana is lack of data on the old (traditional) agroforestry
areas. An initiated Rural Agroforestry and Forestry for Development Programs
(RAFDP) is a response to this development constraint. Agroforestry Farming
System Research and Development (AFSR&D), which is a development program of
RAFDP, embarked on data collection in 1981. The main objective of this sur-
vey conducted by an AFSR&D team was to identify useful local tree species
from which some would be chosen for designing on-farm research trials for
areas in the FSTZ of Ghana. Through an interdisciplinary team approach,
joint projects of women in agroforestry and "barefoot" agroforesters would
conduct these trials to come out with the best species alternatives for par-
ticular areas of the FSTZ.
The study covered the forest savannah transitional zone of Ghana
(Fig. 1). A distinction was made between women and men farmers. Each gender
was given equal attention during the home and on-farm interviews conducted.
Information was collected randomly from 1,200 men farmers and 1,200 women
farmers from 240 villages of the study area. Two hundred and forty members
(mainly students and teachers) of the Agroforestry Club and Conservation
Society, native to the randomly selected villages, collected the data during
Christmas holidays of 1981 and summer holidays of 1982. It was envisaged
that interviewing women farmers directly with well-formulated specific ques-
tions during the formal and informal surveys would enable a researcher to
obtain accurate information (28). Quite often gender-biased researchers link
several problems to gathering accurate data on women. However, documented
useful methods for gathering accurate information about farm women which were
utilized for this study (21, 22, 23, 26, 29).
Differentiation of shifting cultivation from other types of farming was
a problem during the analysis of data for this study. A ratio R (percentage)
expressed by the length of the cultivation period (C) times 100, divided by
the length of the fallow period (F), was applied. Thus,
INTERIOR SAVANNAH ZONE
SSite of the traditional .
agroforestry farm studied. *
j Forest reserves.
CM Charcoal making
TC Tobacco curing
SC Shifting cultivation COASTAL SAVANNAH ZONE
IR Intensive ranching
TE Timber exploitation
BH Burning as a means of hunting
MEC Mass fuelwood collection for sale
FCD -* Collection of fuelwood for domestic
MCS Mass collection of medicinal plants
CMP Collection of medicinal plants for
family health problems
CSR Clearing of sacred/riverain/
watershed forest for farming
Fig. 1. Map Showing the Study Area: Forest Savannah Transitional Zone of
Source: Drawn by the author.
R = --x 100
adapted from previous studies (19, 25) was used. The system is shifting if R
is less than 33% (long fallow), semi-shifting or semi-permanent when R is
between 33 and 66, and permanent cultivation when R is greater than 66.
Names of tree species were collected in local dialects (Brong, Asanti, Ewe).
With the help of a botanist and relevant textbooks (31, 18) the botanical
names were identified. Herbal practitioners and craftsmen were consulted to
confirm the farmers' experience with the use of the named trees and shrubs.
Names of agricultural crops which combine well with the trees and the live-
stock incl aing" domesticae wldI e which rely on'. forage of the trees and
shrubs during dry season feeding periods were also recorded.
An approximately one-hectare farm of a woman farmer from Cheremfaso vil-
lage besides the Cheremfa River (Fig. 1) was selected and the species con-
served were studied (Table 5). Slide pictures of some of the identified
species were taken. A diagrammatic presentation of the farm was drawn
(Fig. 2). A model design of an on-farm research trial plot was proposed for
a typical FSTZ village farmer. Some aspects of diagnosis and design method-
ology developed in a previous study (17) was used.
RESULTS AND DISCUSSIONS
Farmers' Family Structure, Goals and Farm Types
For the 2,400 households included in the study (Table 1), 25.3% were
found to be de facto headed by women. This figure falls within the 25-33%
range estimated for all households in the world (4). Male out-migration,
death of husbands, divorce and desertion/abandonment were the main reasons
for farming offered by the household headed by women. On average, women
farmers listed 57 forest products that could be harvested or produced from
the nearest forest reserve. The men farmers listed an average of only 14.
Individual farmers gave complex, varied and usually tacit responses in
the survey. However, seven important goals were recorded (Table 2). While
food, nutrition/shelter and domestic fuelwood/energy were the top priorities
of the women farmers, higher income and better clothes/social status were the
most important for the men farmers. Both groups of farmers complained that
the higher their children get educated the more they neglect them and shun
the rural life. The male farmers failed to realize that nutritional status
of the family has direct effect on productivity and hence income. Malnutri-
tion leads to low physical development resulting in low productivity and that
in turn leads to low income (3, 16, 24, 34). But agroforestry as a farming
system could be programmed to provide adequate food, nutrition, fuelwood and
medicinal plants requirements of a farmer's family (7).
Eight types of farmers were identified in the study area (Table 3).
A majority of the farmers were found to be shifting cultivators (45.46) and
permanent subsistence farmers (43.5%). Almost all the permanent subsistence
farmers are women. Extent of tree species conservation, incidence of nutri-
ent cycling and consideration of household food, nutrition and domestic
energy demand (fuelwood) were found to be relatively high for the subsistence
system of farming. However, option of varying capital, income generating,
and labor productivity were found to be lower for permanent subsistence farm-
ing compared with commercial farming. Areas where permanent subsistence
farmers were found to be selling 40-50% of their farm surplus but who were
cultivating relatively small-sized, highly productive land areas had better
The highly productive subsistence farmers were found to be those prac-
-.. ticing-traditional -agroforestry: .They could -lst-several trees-which-combine- '
well with their crops and improve the yield of crops around them. According
to this group of farmers, when the weather is favorable, the yields are high
but the produce fetches a low price in the market. However, they are better
off than their counterparts who are commercial farmers since they make addi-
tional income from their forest tree products to add to their income. They
keep more domestic livestock than others. Thus their ability to withstand or
survive adverse financial periods is significantly higher than any of the
other types of farmers. Though their production rate is lower compared with
the commercial farmers, they are better risk avoiders.
The commercial farm group (8.6%), of all farmers has the least percent-
age of women farmers. Their labor productivity, rate of capital use and
income were found to be relatively high. However, their consideration for
household food, nutrition and domestic energy (fuelwood) was found to be low.
They are poor conservators of forest trees and very exploitative, especially
those engaged in intensive cattle ranching. A farmer whose labor produc-
tivity is relatively high (commercial) but purchases all his family food,
especially in some remote areas where food costs are high, was found to have
far lower living standard than a less productive (subsistence farmer) who
raises all or most of his or her family food and sells lesser surpluses (15).
Deforestation Activities, Suggested Species and Conservation
Eleven important deforestation activities were identified during the
survey (Table 4). Men farmers were found to engage in these activities more
than the women farmers. The rural farmers were particularly concerned with
the loss of medicinal plants. They attributed this to the clearing of the
riverain sacred forest formerly reserved by traditional taboos close to vil-
lages. To them even lesser known species are a potential source for healing
unknown diseases. Almost all useful species named by the farmers have a role
in solving their health problems (Tables 5 and 6). Since women farmers are
more concerned with household health problems (Table 2), they know more about
the uses (Table 1) and some still conserve them against deforestation activi-
ties (Table 3) through traditional agroforestry practices (Fig. 2). Forest
guards of the Forestry Department complained of encroachment of the national
reserved forest by shifting cultivators, charcoal makers, medicinal plants
gatherers and sometimes firewood gatherers.
Farmers named 658 plant species and suggested that those with multiple
uses should be integrated with agricultural crops. Some of the most impor-
tant ones with multiple uses are listed in Table 5. The species are listed
according to the interviewed farmers' priorities (in case they are being
Table 1. Farmers' Household Type and the Average Number of Forest Products
They Know by Age Group.
Household de facto Listing of Forest 2
Age Total Number Headed by Women Products by Farmers
Group of Households No. % Main Reasons Men Women
161 (86) 10 6.2 Male 6
391 (204) 121 30.9
920 (510) 237 25.8 Divorce and
928 (400) 240 25.9 Divorce and
Total 2,400- (1,200) 608 25.3 Average: 14 57
Number of women farmers' in brackets.
2Average number of forest products that can be harvested from
natural forest reserve (nearest whole number).
Source: Compiled by the author.
Table 2. Goals of Farmers in the FSTZ of Ghana.
Products Men Farmers Women Farmers
in Order of Percent Order of Percent
Achieving Priority of the Priority of the
Needs Needs Needs Men Needs Women
and Shelter High 3 89.6 1 100.00
Domestic Fuelwood/Energy High 6 82.9 2 98.6
Health/Medicinal Plants High 4 73.4 3 95.2
Higher Income Low 1 99.8 4 97.4
Better Clothing and
Social Status Low 2 92.3 5 88.9
Education Low 5 93.1 6 79.8
Cultural Values Moderate 7 83.7 7 75.4
Source: Compiled by the author.
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Table 4. Types of Deforestation and Land Degradation Activities in FSTZ of
Contribution Contribution Extent of Extent of
to to Land Men Women
Deforestation Degradation Farmers' Farmers'
Types of Activity Rate Rate Involvement Involvement
-... ... ..,. -Charcoal maki.ng..(.CM).. .-...ii gh ..----... Low -.----" High ---.---.... -Lew ...- ---
Tobacco curing (TC) High Low Moderate Moderate
collection for sale
(MEC) High Moderate High Low
Collection of fuelwood
for domestic use
(FCD) Low Low Low High
Mass collection of
medicinal plants for
sale (MCS) Moderate Low High Low
medicinal plants for
problems (CMP) Low Low Moderate High
(SC) High Moderate High Low
(IR) Moderate High High Low
Clearing of sacred/
forest for farming
(CSR) High Moderate High Low
Burning as a means of
hunting (BH) High High High Low
(TE) Moderate Low High Low
Source: Compiled by the author.
Table 5. Forest Tree Species Suggested by Farmers for New Agroforestry
Systems (in order of priority in FSTZ of Ghana).
Roots: (i) with spices, it is used to treat jaundice and
gastro-intestinal conditions; (ii) for treating convulsion
(burning or steaming it); (iii) decoction used as seda-
tive; (iv) extract of root-bark used as eye drop and anti-
-dote for poisoning -iassisttovomiting- of poison). *. -- -.
Trunk: (i) extract of the bark mixed with pawpaw juice is
used to preserve cola from kola weevil; (ii) infusion of
the bark used for fever treatment; (iii) used for domestic
Leaves: leaves mixed with the sap of plantain stem are
applied to swellings and sprains or chopped leaves stewed
with animal fat are applied to swellings.
Root, trunk bark and leaves are all used as external
application for rheumatic pains.
Bark of trunk commonly macerated in water along with
spices used to mitigate or remove fever.
Infusion of the bark of the trunk is drunk in cases
of snake-bite and arrow-poisoning.
The latex (found in all parts of the tree) is used
medicinally to encourage lactation.
Decoction of the bark is given after childbirth to
assist delivery of the placenta.
One of the common and useful trees for carving of
stools, plates, etc.
(i) Pomade prepared from fruit is rubbed on the limbs
for rheumatic pains.
(ii) Decoction of the bark when crushed fresh is used to
(iii) Bark is crushed and used as an enema for
(iv) Whole fruit either cut into two pieces or whole is
put into soup and taken to strengthen the body
against illness, especially after childbirth. It
imparts pleasant taste to the soup.
(v) Trunk is good for fuelwood.
(vi) When fruit is crushed with sheabutter, it is very
good for treating fever.
(i) Root bark is aromatic, when pulverished and made
into a poultice, it is applied for swellings and
(ii) Boiled with cereal foods it is qiven for fever.
(iii) Root bark boiled along with red-pepper in rice water
is used to relieve toothache.
(iv) Extract of root-bark in alcoholic drink is given to
women after delivery to relieve pains.
(v) The bark is used with spices to remedy paralysis.
Source: Compiled by the author.
assisted to integrate them in their farming practices). Since poor soil fer-
tility was one of their major problems, they asked for nitrogen fixing trees
which are also capable of providing day season feeding for their livestock.
The subsistence farmers interviewed were mostly keeping sheep, goats, poultry
(chickens and ducks), rabbits and domesticated wildlife like grasscutters
(Thryonomys swinderianus). Commercial farmers were more interested in cattle
and pigs. The study showed that an agroforestry package which integrates
these local livestock with forest trees to ensure adequate forage for sheep,
goats and cattle during dry seasons would be readily adopted by the farmers
in FSTZ of Ghana.
Conservation and sustainable exploitation of natural forest species are
still practiced by some women farmers, despite the numerous deforestation
activities (Table 4) going on. Figure 3 is a diagrammatic presentation of a
woman farmer's farm which was studied during the survey. She was able to
identify 82 different plant species. She was able to recite their uses
(Table 5) and to provide some historical background of some of them. She
lamented that none of her children and grandchildren are interested in the
conserved plants. The possibility of losing them through deforestation
activities is high when she becomes too old to farm. This was her major con-
cern, and she repeatedly attributed this lack of conservation and sustainable
exploitation consciousness of the young generation to education.
The study indicated that the farmers lack the tradition of raising tree
seedlings and cultivating them. Considering their interest in these species,
there is the need to embark on a program aimed at examining the most impor-
tant species for food, health, social and economic reasons (2) and including
their cultivation in the national land use system (20).
The Agroforestry Farming System Research and Development (AFSR&D)
Program, adopting some survey, planning, designing and implementation strate-
gies outlined by farming systems specialists (15, 28), has initiated a proj-
ect to utilize some of the useful ideas and tree species identified during
the survey. An interdisciplinary collaboration including a coordinator whose
special function has brought the disparate insights and skills of various
scientific specialties together is undertaking this on-farm research project.
Field layout of typical new agroforestry on-farm research for FSTZ is illus-
trated in Figure 3. It is a joint project of barefoot agroforesters and
women in agroforestry projects. A revolving fund which will engage two stu-
dents (Women in Agroforestry Project) and one barefoot agroforester (Farmer-
Researcher-Extension Agent) and eight local collaborating farmers per site is
being solicited. Researcher, farmer, and joint researcher/farmer-managed
trials are considered in the design. The field design adopted involves
paired treatments per farm, analysis of variance calculations and t test for
significance (28). A reestablishment of "sacred" forest forms part of the
joint project. Local plants species used in Tables 5 and 6 as well as for-
eign species (Leucaena leucocephala and Gliciadia speium) are being
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Table 6. Uses of Some Mixed Agricultural Crops, Forest Trees and Conserved
Plants in a Woman Farmer's Traditional Agroforestry Farm Studied in
the FSTZ of Ghana.
Leaves wrapped around meat some hours before cook-
ing help make it tender.
Used in the treatment of catarrh, chronic diar-
rhea, hay fever, sores, tumor and ulcer.
Ripe fruit serves as good dessert or eaten as
Used to treat heart diseases.
Leaf-juice used as an enema and effective cure for
Crushed seed used for several diseases and for
A decoction of leafy stems and leaves used as bev-
erage for vomiting, diarrhea and congestion of the
Leaves when put in hen-houses kill lice.
Good shrub for dry season feeding of livestock.
(i) Immature fruits boiled are taken as a remedy for
(ii) Half-ripe fruit used for treating bladder
(iii) Warm infusion of leaves used to foment spider
(iv) Ripe fruit eaten as food and good for slimming.
While young shoots eaten as salad.
(v) Leaves ground with copper or brass fillings and
palm oil are effective in healing ulcers.
(i) Infusion of the plant is drunk as a stimulant.
(ii) Hot drink of its infusion used to ward off cold
and prevent fever.
(iii) Fruit juice taken as remedy for gonorrhea.
(i) Pounded bark is taken by women to increase
(ii) Extract is drunk or rubbed on the head for
(iii) Children play with the red flowers when their
parents are working on their farm.
(iv) Boiled bark of the trunk is drunk to treat
(v) Cocoyams qrown beside this tree are very high
(i) Used to make baskets, baby cots, tables, chairs.
(ii) Used to make fish traps.
Source: Compiled by the author.
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Planning, design/field layout, and implementation strategy were formulated
with both men and women farmer involvement. The farmers were the source of
the following ideas:
(i) Local and foreign species with multiple uses which are relevant to
rural well-being should be considered.
(ii) Reestablishment of riverain/sacred forest and integration of medicinal
plants in agroforestry should be considered in the planning.
Though a long-term project, when efficiently implemented, farmers would not
only experience improved site rejuvenation and increased income (14) but also
improvement in the hydrology (27, 1) which could be observed by the farmers
from where they fetch water (W in Fig. 3).
FINDINGS, RECOMMENDATIONS AND CONCLUSION
Following are some of the findings deduced from farm surveys conducted in the
rural FSTZ of Ghana.
(i) Food, nutrition, health and energy (fuelwood) are more important to
women farmers than income, clothes, and social status which are compa-
rably more important to men farmers.
(ii) Traditional subsistence agroforestry farmers (mostly women) capable of
selling between 45-50% surplus products acknowledged the benefits of
forest trees and proposed the most useful trees for the new agrofores-
(iii) Multiple purpose local trees like Rauwolfia vomitoria, Alstonia
boonei, Tetrapleura tetraplera and Faqara xanthoxeyoides as well as
foreign species like Leucaena leucocephala and Gliriadia speium have
high potential of being accepted by farmers in the FSTZ.
(iv) Women farmers were found to be better conservators and more resourceful
than their men counterparts.
(v) An agroforestry package which integrates local livestock with forest
trees to ensure adequate forage, especially for sheep and goats during
the dry season would be readily adopted by the subsistence farmers.
A similar package favoring cattle would be favored by commercial farm-
ers. [These are expectations based on the results of the survey.]
(vi) Plants with medicinal or healing properties had the highest proba-
bility of being accepted for both agroforestry and conservation
Following are some recommendations that could utilize the numerated findings
to promote rural development through agroforestry and conservation projects.
(i) Researchers should consider the direct involvement of women in the
formal/informal survey, project planning, designing and
(ii) Researchers in Ghana should consider further research on species rec-
ommended by the farmers.
(iii) National and international agencies should consider community efforts
like RAFD and promote attempts to involve women in agroforestry and
(iv) Planning and designing of agroforestry on-farm research project with
rural farmers would enable a researcher incorporate their useful ideas
to solve rural problems.
Women farmers and subsistence farming are vital components of total agrofor-
estry systems, hence there is the need to recognize their roles in the choos-
ing of species.
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