Integrating more women into agric value chain

IN Nigeria, female farmers engaged in agriculture and contribute significantly to poverty reduction.

Chief Executive, Ganiyy Vogue Services, Mrs Agboola Folasade Ganiyat, quit her job at Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) to pursue her dream as a farmer who has achieved a sustainable source of livelihood.

A graduate of Zoology from the University of Jos, Plateau State, she started planting cassava in 2015 after the general elections at Osiele in Ogun State on four and half acres and yam and vegetables on three acres.

At the moment, her vegetables are on two acres, one for green vegetables and the other for water melon. She had worked almost single-handedly to achieve the right mix of farming.

The business has become her main source of income. But getting there wasn’t easy. She has had to stay strong and focused. She has worked on various farming projects but the common theme is empowerment.

Anything with the potential to raise revenue, and generate jobs would be on her radar. She is working on processing cassava into various bio-fortified products.To further the cause, she received training in entrepreneurship and good manufacturing and marketing practices.

Mrs Ganiyat speaks on the opportunity agriculture offers her.  It allows her to forge alliances outside her community.

At the moment, harvesting is going on at her vegetable farm in Mawuko in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital. But she is facing a lot of challenges moving her produce. It was tug-of-war taking her produce to lbereko market last Tuesday for sale.

Her words: “There was no vehicle to convey the items once. A motorcycle that moved thrice between the farm and the market took about 45 minutes to drive one-way trip. It’s not that easy transporting produce to end users from the farm with bad roads and no vehicle.”

For her, life as a farmer is not easy, especially for rural women, whose contributions and successes have only recently begun to receive the attention they deserve.

She noted that women farmers were facing a lot of challenges in agriculture. This is in addition to their roles as wives and mothers.

She said there was a need to support female farmers who were struggling to maintain their livelihood because of climate change, land depletion or a lack of tools and agricultural knowledge.

She said the dream of socio-economic empowerment of Nigerians would not be fully realised without empowering farmers who were living at the nation’s periphery.

According to her, female farmers are strong and resilient, and given the opportunity and adequate support, they could prove to themselves – and to the world – that they could thrive, leading and contributing in ways that benefit not only themselves and their families, but entire communities.

She believes that an investment in women is an investment in the future as it benefits not only the women themselves, but also their families and communities

Not only in Nigeria but across the world, women’s contributions to agriculture are significant.The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimated that if women had the same access to productive resources as men, they could increase yields on their farms by about 30 per cent. This could raise the agricultural output in developing countries by five per cent, which could, in turn, reduce the number of hungry people in the world by 12 to 17 per cent.

Despite their contributions, Ambassador for Food Systems, Thought for Food Foundation, Sarah Fagoyinbo, said women farmers were not adequately equipped to succeed. In fact, the odds are stacked against them.

She said women remain at a disadvantage due to their inability to access land, markets, innovation, farming knowledge, funding, education and training platforms.

She noted that an inclusive approach, all the way from policy to implementation, was essential to bring women working in agriculture into the mainstream and to empower them with direct access to knowledge of improved agricultural practices.

She added: “I am not satisfied with the level of integration of women into the agricultural value chain. But I know there is a room for improvement.

“My recommendations to improve the situation is for the government to replicate what FAO has been doing to support women farmers in any other parts of the world. The first is the improvement of capacities of women farmers in agrifood value chain, through training, special support for market orientated production, value addition. Of course enterprise development, business-to-business networking, financial empowerment.

“Secondly, special institutions should be supported to promote gender sensitive value chain. These include managing gender gaps and making available such services to women in agro food sector. It can be done via advocacy workshops, targeted at policy and decision making groups, mostly find in Ministries of Agriculture.There should be training of trainers targeted at the National Extension Service officers.

“Thirdly, making knowledge and product tools available.”

The Chief Executive, Yoda Express Nigeria Limited, Mrs Yetunde Adamu, canvassed the promotion of gender transformative approaches, saying this not only improves the value chain, but also the well-being of women and their families. However, she observed that the standard approaches to addressing women’s economic empowerment in agriculture were not sufficient, adding that more needs to be done to achieve lasting benefits to improve the quality of life for women and their families.

Mrs Adamu said she was interested in any programme that would integrate more women into the agricultural value chain.

“In Ekiti State, there are more women and young men in farming. If more women are given all the tools needed, we will do more than we are already doing. A lot of women are in garri production. If you give them more materials such as fertiliser, and all that, we will do better. We need people that will be taking the products from us. If I am producing like 10 tonnes of garri, and cassava flex yearly, I need to know somebody that will take them off me, so I can get my money back.

“If I am able to do that, I can pull in more women to do the programme with me. Even if it is planting of sweet potatoes or ground nuts, there are more women that can do that. There is the need to provide more security for women in the farms because a lot of them are being assaulted by strangers and female members. We have issues with access roads to the farms and irrigation during the dry season,” Mrs Adamu said, adding: “It could be a game-changer to bring more women to agriculture.”

For Senior Programme Officer, Justice Development and Peace Commission, Florence Bassey, believes it has become clear on need to rethink all aspects of the food system to favour women.

She said women farmers need the right tools to succeed – and that requires the government to re-orient food systems so that female farmers were given opportunities to thrive, and to be fairly rewarded for the work they do.

According to her, women farmers perform most of the big farming jobs, from sowing to harvesting, yet their access to resources is less than their male counterparts.

She noted that the voices of women farmers needed to be heard at the policy and implementation levels if the government is to realise the dream of a progressive Nigeria.

 

Source: The Nation News

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