With the recent attempt by governments at all levels and development partners in the agricultural sector in ensuring that small holder farmers benefits from all forms of agricultural interventions, it is apparent that such farmers have started gaining ground as they are being encouraged to form groups for easy access to such interventions.
Some farmer groups have lauded the innovation, saying it has encouraged many women to go into agriculture as a business.
The intent behind the group formation cannot be far from food insecurity and the need to eradicate poverty.
Smallholder farmers work tirelessly on less than a hectare of land. Most of them, especially women farmers, are poor, they struggle to produce only what they can feed their families with and they are only few.
Women farmers face multiple challenges. They often work in depleted soils without access to improved seed, fertilizers, irrigation or financial help; they routinely confront all sort of agricultural discomfort with little or no expertise. These women farmers are also faced with inadequate information, lack of strong organized groups and low motivation among other issues.
However, with the engagement of international donor agencies especially Sasakawa global 2000, whose major objectives were to raise the crop management skills of front-line extension staff and smallholder farmers in order to increase crop production and productivity taking into consideration the size of Nigeria, this trend is said to have been arrested by encouraging these farmers to form groups.
According to the coordinator Sasakawa Africa Fund for Extension Education (SAFE) project, Professor Oladele Idowu, the challenges for smallholder farmers are numerous and extremely difficult to master individually, adding that these were what gave rise to the idea of integrating small producers and processors in their different groupings of Farmer Based Organizations into modern value chains.
In places like Malamawa Dongoli Village in Kiyawa local government area of Jigawa State, women farmer groups are now fully engaged in farming as a business. They have adopted the use of SAMNUT 24 groundnut seeds variety, which has a high yielding capacity.
According to a member of the group, Malama Indo Lawal, the new variety was introduced to them by Sasakawa. She added that when individual smallholder farmers are struggling to keep up with the new agricultural trends, Sasakawa had succeeded in educating the women farmers to work together as a recognized legalized entity in order to strengthen their voice in accessing a lot of intervention meant for small-scale holder farmers.
“We are presently more comfortable in agribusiness because we are in groups. Things have been made very easy for us unlike when we are operating on individual bases, and this has made us stronger when others are still struggling to be on their feet,” she said.
However, Professor Sani Miko of Sasakawa global 2000 Nigeria said Sasakawa Africa Association (SAA) and Sasakawa Africa Fund for Extension Education (SAFE) have been in existence for some time now in a number of countries, and works toward strengthening farmer organizations, especially that of women. According to him, the process starts by identifying success and failure factors of such organizations in their different environments, assessing market demand, market prices and other market forces, to identify bankable commodity value chains for commodities that would respond to market opportunities, competitive business models of the selected commodities in such areas.
According to Malama Amina Meha of Gidanbawa Village in Tudun Wada Local Government Area of Kano State, the formation of farmer groups has accorded them access to the new technology that offers them a simpler way of producing high quality maize in larger quantity in the same space they were using before. She added that members of her organization have benefitted a lot from various interventions courtesy of being in a group. The same applies to women farmer groups in Kano, Jigawa and Gombe state.
“We never knew the advantages of being in a group. Access to new techniques is made easy for us and we are presently doing great along the value chain of what we have been producing. Sasakawa brought a very good venture to our doorstep. It is very important that women should form organizations to actively venture into agribusiness,” said Malama Amina.