Women Agriculture Empowerment: The need to support and celebrate women as well as advocate for continued gender equality for women in a world dominated by men knew no bounds all through the past week as women all over the world celebrated the International Women’s Day whilst pressing for progress in every facet of life, as was the theme. So much that a hash tag was created to trend its many spheres which all goes to buttress the point that time for women is now.
Foundation for Partnership Initiatives in the Niger Delta (PIND) was not left out of this. PIND in conjunction with Cara Development Foundation and the African Youth Development Foundation organized a one day outreach, last week in Umukabia Ogodo, Ngor Okpala, Imo State to mark this year’s International Women’s Day. The outreach aiming to celebrate women rural farmers, showcased the contributions of women farmers to the rural economy while drawing attention to the constraints limiting them from maximizing the immense opportunities in their respective agricultural value chains.
Women of Umukabia Ogodo, Ngor Okpala, environs in Imo State have had their fair share of constraints limiting them from maximizing the immense opportunities in their respective agricultural value chains. Rural women account for 70 percent of agricultural labour, and 80 percent of food production in Nigeria. About 40 percent of women in the Niger Delta are into agriculture. Some of these constraints include lack of support from government and development institutions to facilitate their access to agricultural inputs such as fertilizer, improved seedlings and extension services as this would help to add value to their agricultural products in terms of processing and marketing and in the long run grow rural economy.
Added to that is lack of access to agriculture loans made available by governments and lending institutions. Most women blamed the complex paperwork and collateral requirements for frustrating their access to such facilities.
Women farmers identified limited access and control of farmland as a key challenge to expansion and growth. The Aladinma women for instance decried allocation of very inadequate portion of land to women to share for commercial farming. Coupled with the unchecked menace of herdsmen and their wanton destruction on farmlands, who have caused destruction to many innocent farms based on several clashes, posing the ultimate threat in discouraging more people to heed government’s call to Nigerians to invest more in agriculture.
However, with the help of PIND support as well as several Government agencies there has a silver lining at the end of this tunnel. Even though the women expressed the desire to have more support in this regard.
Participants said PIND has added value and continued to add value to agricultural development and peace building in the Niger Delta, especially in rural communities in Imo State. They called for closer collaboration among government, PIND and rural women farmers in PIND’s target communities. The various stakeholders said it was necessary to expand PIND’s intervention to more communities in the state to enable more women to benefit from PIND’s support for rural transformation.
The outreach was with the theme: “Time is now: Transforming Lives of Rural women in Small Businesses and Agriculture.”
The programme was attended by 310 representatives from Government, civil society groups, traditional and religious rulers, media as well as associations of women in the agricultural value chains. Representatives of women in agriculture from Umukobia Ogodo, Ohaji Egbema, Njaba, Nnerie, Eziorsu and staff of agricultural department of Ngor Okpala Local Government attended. Journalists from various media houses also attended the outreach. The forum featured goodwill messages, presentations, drama and interactive sessions.
The women farmers displayed their agricultural produce such as cassava, honey, pumpkin and melon. They also showed participants their agricultural tools, and shared progress made since being introduced to new technologies and farming strategies. They showed how their engagement with PIND and partners had resulted in increased and bountiful yield. They also displayed agricultural tools they have adopted, showing they have made progress since they were introduced to new technologies and farming practices. During the outreach the rural women farmers interacted with government agencies, service providers, civil society organizations and the media.
Majority of the clamour from women resonated from support; support to ease the difficulties experienced by women farmers’ in accessing agricultural inputs such as fertilizers, improved seedlings, extension services and tractors to add value to agricultural products in terms of processing and marketing.
As well as increased efforts made to assist women farmers to diversify and expand the variety of crops planted, processed and marketed to grow and sustain the economy.
It would be quite interesting to learn that women have slowly taken over things. Right from the advocacy laid by Folorunso Alakija, One of Africa’s richest black women, to Oby Ezekwesili and now, Foundation for Partnership Initiatives in the Niger Delta (PIND). Women need to be encouraged that the world is within their grasp, and the time for their inclusion at the “helm of every affair” is imperative. Taking a cue from the activities of the Umukobia Ogodo, Ohaji Egbema, Njaba, Nnerie, and Eziorsu women, it is expected that a change in the way food is produced is expected in the aforementioned communities.
Women are continually committed to building a home and Agriculture is the basis of any Nation’s survival as people must always eat, not just to survive but to keep body and soul together. Women in Agriculture means that there would be no need for hunger in countries again, since women are committed to ending hunger by means of reasonable support from Government agencies, civil society groups, concerned individuals who are willing to give their all in supporting the cause for women.