Women farmers in Nigeria have called on stakeholders in the agriculture sector to devote more attention to their activities so as to overcome the various challenges bedeviling their productivity and contributions to national development.
FarmingFarmersFarms gathered that women make up about 43% of the global agricultural labour force, and in Nigeria, they make up about 70% of the country’s agricultural workforce and also contribute to almost 70% of the country’s food production. In spite of their enormous tasks, women in agriculture still face several roadblocks in the line of their duties, some of which include; restricted access to land; limited opportunities to education, credit facilities, farm input, training and advice, technology and crop insurance, finance, marginilisation, societal beliefs and insecurity, among others.
Corroborating this, data obtained from a study conducted through the Value Addition Biennial Review Toolkit (VABKIT) by ActionAid in 2022, reflected the realities of smallholder women farmers across Nigeria’s 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja. The study shows that only 18% of smallholder women farmers have access to processing facilities, 16.60% have access to storage facilities, 13.50% have access to off-takers/access to markets, 9.60% have access to transportation for agricultural produce and 42.30% have access to training. While on extension services, smallholder women farmers have access to only 5.26% farm demonstrations and 19.47% farmers’ field schools and on agricultural credit, they have access to less than 23% of existing credit facilities.
On agricultural insurance, smallholder women farmers have only 4.77% access and on access to and control over land, about 59% of them have access to land, 29.77% have control, while only 11.23% are engaged in land governance discussions. In separate interviews, some of the women farmers shared their views with FarmingFarmersFarms on the various challenges encountered, and the way out. The women are of the opinion that if they are well supported, they will be encouraged to do more than what they are currently doing. The Chief Executive Officer of Chitola Farms Limited, Chi Tola Roberts, said that marginalisation is still a varying challenge that cuts across the entire agricultural value chain and that access to capital or funding is another challenge.
Roberts said that the government needs to look into how to properly fund women in agriculture and its value chain and that, over 60% of the thriving small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the agro value chain are owned by women. “Women are the ones driving this sector. I am proud to be one of them. But funding has been the limitation. Women, properly funded and supported, will turn the economy of this country around. The Chief Executive Officer of Arcom Treasures, a coconut processor, Aolat Idowu-Agbelekale, identified lack of facilities and technical knowledge as challenges facing women in agriculture, stating that farming activities today have gone beyond the hoe and cutlass, so also beyond primitive knowledge, but that unfortunately, most of the technologically-advanced skills and even basic tools that enhance planting, weeding, ploughing, harvesting and post-harvesting, are not accessible and available to female farmers.
“We live in a society where people are still of the notion that womenfolk’s contributions to the workforce are not very important, hence little attention are given to women in business and when it comes to agriculture, it is the same. In fact, some believe that agriculture is predominantly men’s business, hence little or no attention is given to women in agriculture. She also noted that 50% of agricultural produce is lost before harvesting due to bad agricultural practices, which lead to poor yields and that, out of 50% survived harvested produce, only 20% to 25% make it to the market due to poor road infrastructure.
“In fact, in some cases, the percentages are even lower because the road networks to most farms are very bad and in a very deplorable state while in some cases, reaching out to the city is a major challenge because our highways are also bad as well”. Idowu-Agbelekale said that zero interest loan and grants should be made available and bottlenecks should be reduced in accessing such funds, revealing that daily, rate of high blood pressure, depression, suicides are increasing among farmers. She said most farmers operate without insurance because they don’t have the knowledge of it, and even for few that are aware, they can’t afford it, adding that farmers should be encouraged with more incentives such as provisions of high yield seedlings, seeds, fertilizers, basic farm tools, and training to enhance their productivity.
An agripreneur, Edobong Akpabio in her view, identified cultural discrimination from land ownership and that a lot of the communities still denies women the right to own land, saying “They are not allowed to buy nor inherit land. The land they require for farming is given to them by their male relations, who can withdraw such benevolence, as it may suit them. This is not sustainable for any farm business”. According to her, poor access to education is another challenge, which she noted, as women in farming have no way of learning about new and improved farming practices. “Where farming education is provided, location and timing may not be favourable as they are beset with all kinds of responsibilities in the home and in the quest to make a living”, as Akpabio also said in spite of all the news on funding given to women in business, very little actually gets to the large number of women in agriculture that need it.
“Sometimes, they are declared ineligible by the unfavourable conditions set, their poor literacy status, which make them lack the financial capacity to be better productive”, she added. Akpabio noted further that some government policies and activities are unfavourable to women farmers, and that they suffer from poor road conditions and are routinely extorted by agents of government on the roads and markets, among others. While proffering
She noted that the department of agriculture at the local government level should provide women farmers with useful training and education on good farming practices and quality and affordable materials. According to her, there should be target funding provided, as may be useful to women farmers. Idowu-Agbelekale, in her view, called for a reduction in various road taxation on the major highways across the country, stressing that these ‘taxation’ on the highways are carried out by miscreants, who are under one contractor to the council such that, these constitute hindrances that propel the high cost of agricultural produce. She said training that promotes and encourages Global Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), should be made available to women farmers, adding that insurance implementation on agriculture produce must be encouraged to mitigate against losses due to floods and diseases, to mention a few.