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Women farmers identify challenges in the sector

By Leo Sobechi and Ijeoma Thomas-Odia
04 March 2018   |   4:26 am
Despite contributing about 70 per cent in food production, processing and marketing, women farmers claim they are still highly disadvantaged...

A woman using mechanical weeder

Despite contributing about 70 per cent in food production, processing and marketing, women farmers claim they are still highly disadvantaged, as they are yet to have special support and assistance to realise their potentials in agriculture.

Some of their concerns include, the area of budgetary provision for agric infrastructure and farm settlement scheme; the need for inputs and machineries; threat of herdsmen attacks; access to farmlands; and dearth of female extension workers, among others.

Aside the challenges, a handful of the smallholder farmers, who spoke with The Guardian, raise serious concern relating to farm produce.

A representative of the smallholder women farmers in Osun State, Mrs. Janet Olaleye, with 15 years farming experience, said women are more involved in livestock and crop farming, accounting for a larger percentage of farmers in that area of agriculture. “But some of our challenges are access to land, finance to run the farms, and access to farm inputs. We need appropriate access to technological tools like harvesters and driers so that women can operate them to ease farming.

“We also get exploited by marketers; after planting and harvesting, sales become a problem especially when the produce is in season and in excess, the market women under price them and we can’t take it back to our farms, but if we have driers we can dry them and store so that when the produce is out of season, it will be available all year round.”

Olaleye, who disclosed that there are nine farm settlements in Osun State, appealed for the dedication of one of the settlements to women farmers, to assist them in producing more food. “We also demand female extension workers and access to loans that are flexible. If we can’t get grants we should be given loans at the right time to help farmers plan with the season. You cannot give a N50, 000 loan and ask farmers to pay weekly, what kind of loan is that? Loans should be given appropriately so that after harvest the farmer returns the money. Only men have access to these loans in most cases.”

To Mrs. Fasakin Adesola Oluwayemisi, representing Kwara State, herdsmen attacks have being serious encumbrance to her orange-fleshed sweet potatoes; tomato and green pepper farm. “I had to start all over again and changed location too. This time, I got my farm close to a male farmer who can protect my farm and raise alarm when the need arises.

“We experienced water dryness last year, a river that has never dried up in the last 18 years did and we had to run around for another source of water. We also have issues of women who don’t have access to farmlands; when some women have issues with their husbands, they are stopped from farming and this truncates their effort. Women cannot always be depending on their husbands before they can take on farming.”

While speaking on behalf of women farmers in Benue State, Mrs. Joyce Tarka said: “Women have challenges with fertilizer distribution and participating in loans, it is really difficult having women engage in long term farming, because they don’t even own the farm themselves.”

Cecilia Ndu, who represented women farmers in Enugu State, identified access to farmlands as their major challenge. “We rent a plot of land from the men for about N2, 000 whenever we want to plant. Fertilizer is quite expensive and we don’t have money. I am grateful to the Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre (WARDC) for taking us through advocacy programmes that has opened our eyes to making our demands from the government and for the first time we are recognised. However, more women are still not reached, we cannot boast of taking on agriculture in a larger scale.

“Most of our seasonal produce only boom in the first month of harvest because it’s in excess and then we only dry and store the produce for the next planting season. Our women are not making it in agriculture, they just sell the little they can produce, which is not good enough.”

In the same vein, women groups are urging the Federal Government to implement policies that would support climate-resilient agriculture to boost rural women smallholder farming, and address hunger and poverty in the country.

Founding director of Women Advocates Research and Documentation Center (WARDC), Dr. Akiode-Afolabi regretted that “despite their roles, women lack access to agricultural inputs and finance and have less than 14 per cent land holding rights, while culture, traditions and discriminatory laws continue to deny them equal access to government programmes at national and state levels.”