Limitations against prosperity of women as farmers
According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), female farmers account for 40 per cent of the global agricultural work force. They also represent close to 50 per cent of the world’s 600 million smallholder farmers, often responsible for the provision of food and water for their families.
In Nigeria, women supply 70 per cent of agricultural labour; 50 per cent of animal husbandry related activities and 60 per cent of food processing, yet they are faced with severe constraints, which have not only created gender gap, but also reduced their productivity and contribution to food security.
The challenge is mainly the lack of access to land, seed, water, market, technologies and agricultural resources. This, indeed, has widened the gender gap in the sector.
However, the lack of access to fund seems crucial. The most crucial of the challenges is lack of access to fund. Reports have it that female farmers lacked access to government’s support – agricultural loans and grants, a development that has inadvertently hampered the goal of addressing food insecurity in the country.
The Chief Executive Officer, Oreka Farms Limited, Obafemi Owode Local Council, Ogun State, Bose Ruth Suberu, who described lack of access to finance as an impediment negatively impacting their productivity, said the loans, grants and other incentives are mostly shared among the government officials who allegedly present fake names of farmers.
She said: “In some cases only the big farms benefit from such because they want pictures to show the world that they are doing it right. Just like other industries, inequality also exists in our profession too, as such before a woman gets a benefit, multiple men have benefitted. Funds meant for agriculture are being embezzled. While smallholder farmers work hard to feed the population those who are not farmers have access to the fund to enrich themselves.
“One of the challenges women face in agriculture is access to fund, we work hard to break barriers and compete in a male dominated profession and all efforts to expand keep aborting because we are not able to meet the terms and conditions.”
Suberu said access to land is another serious issue, based on the fact that “in most African culture, it is believed that women are not entitled to inheritance nor have a right to own a land, as such, getting land becomes an issue for a woman farmer.
“Insecurity has made female farmers to abandon their farms and seek refuge in the city and in a profession they have no passion for, women are kidnapped, raped and killed in farms.”
To the Co-founder, Farmvilla Resource Centre, Ago Amodu, Saki East Local Council, Oyo State, Yinka Adesola, the largesse from government most times doesn’t reach female farmers because most sensitive offices are male dominated.
“There is tendency to take care of their gender before the others. Female are considered to be second citizen, hence not factored into those programmes.
“Most female in agriculture cannot till the land by themselves, hence we pay more for the same work men will pay less. Men count it as demeaning working in female owned agribusiness structure. It’s tough getting labourers, even when the female is willing to pay more,” Adesola said.
The owner of Fresh Field Organic Farm, Ibadan, Oyo State, Mrs Olajumoke Awosika, insists the terrain is very unfriendly, challenging and frustrating.
She said: “From our end in the Southwest, we have not really been getting much. From all indications, the agricultural supports are exhausted in the North, that’s the truth. We are not really getting it here.
“For instance, I got approval for the Agri-Business/Small and Medium Enterprise Investment Scheme (AGSMEIS) loan with the Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL), I went through the training, I did every necessary things and N10m was approved for me. I met all the conditions, but by the time they got to us, the handlers told us they are no more disbursing.
“They told us it has to be disbursed from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), later we heard it has to be disbursed through NIRSAL. By the time we got to NIRSAL, what we heard was that the money had been looted. They later called those of us who were yet to receive the loan; I told them I was no longer interested.”