The Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Thursday, empowered 7, 500 smallholder women farmers in North Central geopolitical zone as part of measures to cushion effects of the Coronavirus, COVID-19, pandemic that left women farmers in limbo.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mohammad Nanono, handed over the inputs for onward distribution to the beneficiaries, which run into millions of Naira.
The rollout of the agric input palliative and distribution to the women farmers and processors was made by the Minister of Federal Capital Territory, Mohammed Bello.
Nanono said: “We are here today to roll out the distribution of agricultural inputs of about 7, 500 smallholder women farmers from North Central States and the Federal Capital Territory, FCT.
“As you maybe aware, one of the cardinal points of this administration is to increase production and reduce wastage. To achieve this there is deliberate policy of 35 per cent inclusion of women of the Ministry’s activities.
“However, today, the activity is different because all women affair to alleviate the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on them, and it is also in line with the 2021 International Women’s Day, IWD, with theme ‘Choose to Challenge’.
“Today, my Ministry is choosing to challenge the unequal access to productive inputs between men and women by rolling out the distribution of inputs to women smallholder farmers and processors as part of our commitment to gender equality and women’s empowerment in the agricultural sector.
“Today, the Ministry is supporting about 7, 500 women with value kits (planting materials, growth enhancer, and agro-chemicals) in yam, cassava, potatoes, soybean, rice, maize, sesame, ginger, sorghum/millet, cowpea and horticultural crops. In addition, nutritional value kits will be distributed to the women today. The choice of the crops is based on comparative advantage to its production.”
However, the Minister pointed that, “For the last 22 years, there has been decline on extreme poverty globally and then came the COVID-19 pandemic, and with it, massive job losses, shrinking of economies and loss of livelihoods.
“Women, who were socially and financially disadvantaged, were disproportionately affected by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent economic recession that followed. Weakened social protection systems have left many of the poorest in society unprotected, with no safety nets to weather the storm.
“The recently released report shows that the pandemic will push 96 million people into extreme poverty by the end of 2021 and 47 million of whom are women and girls.
“Women typically earn less and hold less secure jobs than men. With plummeting economic activity, women are particularly vulnerable to layoffs and loss of livelihoods. The resurgence of extreme poverty as a result of the pandemic has revealed women’s precarious economic security.”
According to the Minister, there are initiatives deliberately undertaken to promote gender equality and empowerment of women in line with the targets set in his Ministry’s Economic Sustainability Plan, Agric Gender Policy, National Gender Action Plan (N-GAP) for Agriculture, Agricultural Sector Food Security and Nutrition Strategy Documents aimed at ensuring increased opportunities for women.
He also maintained that the Ministry and its research institutions are working towards making Nigeria self-sufficient in good quality seed and its availability to farmers as a foundation for attaining food and nutrition security as well as industrialization.
He added that concerted efforts are made by his Ministry to improve rural infrastructure including rural roads, boreholes, irrigation facilities, solar lights, markets, and others as enablers for improved agricultural performance for farmers and processors in the rural space.
“I urge the beneficiaries to make judicious use of these inputs, materials, and equipment to produce quality food for the nation while calling on other stakeholders to provide similar support to farmers so that together we can defeat hunger/poverty in the country and become self-sufficient in food and raw material production as well as mitigate some of the negative effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic.
The Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, Dame Pauline Tallen, commended President Muhammadu Buhari for the intervention to ameliorate the pain of women during the COVID-19 lock-down and restrictions and lauded the initiative of the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development for using gender lense in addressing agricultural problems in the States.
“Today is a day we have been dreaming for, and I celebrate you Nigerian women, and what we are seeing today is just a tip of the iceberg.
“We thank Mr President for this because it is a known fact that COVID-19 hit the women most. The women went through during COVID-19 pandemic was like the pain of labour women goes through”, Tallen said.
However, she called on Ministries, Departments and Agencies to take the issue affecting women seriously by addressing them if not the country would not make progress.
“Can any home function without a woman? Can any ministry function without a woman? Can any organisation function without a woman? A woman’s place is special, unique, and women are strategic partners in national development.
“As long as you carry women along, and addresses women’s issues half of Nigeria’s problems are solved.
“Women are key when it comes to agriculture, and as we know women farmers do better and they are more in every State.
“We want to assure you that the food security problem can only be addressed if we have more women supported in the field of agriculture”, she stated.
The Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Umar Farouk, while giving her remarks assured the Minister of Agriculture support o continue the initiative for women farmers to be more productive.
She said: “We all accept that we were taken unawares by the COVID-19 pandemic which came and caught us unprepared and shook everything in our lives, and many citizens got infected and recovered but we also lost our brothers and sisters, and the pandemic also affected many livelihoods due to so many restrictions and control measures.
“Therefore, farmers have been hit seriously by in this regard in addition to restricted movement, closure of markets, reduced livelihood of people, and also reduced marketing outlets, and the unavailability and hike of inputs to farmers have really taken it toll.
“It is in recognition of this the Ministers of Agriculture and Rural Development under the directive of Mr President to man a nationwide palliative programme to support our poor and vulnerable farmers, especially our women.
“I congratulate the Minister and I assure him my ministry will support this initiative fully.”