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Empowering Smallholder Women Farmers To Achieve Food Security In Nigeria

By George George Idowu

Women play a crucial role in providing food on our tables. In most cultures and local communities women are vested with the responsibility of providing food.

This ranges from farming, harvesting and preparing the meals for the entire household.

However, this all-important players in the food production chain are ignored or forgotten often times. This is more so as most of these women are uneducated and therefore unable to seek financial or other agricultural support from relevant authorities.

Nigeria, like other countries are experiencing food shortages, propelled by climate change and harsh weather conditions.

A fortnight ago, United Nations Agencies warned that nearly 55 million people will struggle to feed themselves in the coming months in West and Central Africa as soaring prices have fuelled a food crisis.

The agencies comprising the World Food Programme (WFP), the UN children’s agency UNICEF, and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in a joint statement said the number facing hunger during the June-August lean season had quadrupled over the last five years.

It is with this, that the need to include smallholder women farmers in agricultural programmes have become imperative.

Recently, a group, the Small-scale Women Farmers Organisation of Nigeria (SWOFON) called on government at all levels to facilitate the availability and accessibility of farming lands specifically for smallholder women farmers’ cooperatives.

SWOFON’s appeal underscores the pressing need for proactive government intervention to mitigate the challenges faced by smallholder women farmers and ensure sustainable agricultural development in Nigeria.

The group’s National President, Fatima Gunmi, emphasized that securing dedicated farming lands would greatly enhance women’s opportunities for land ownership and control. She said this will ultimately bolster food production across the country.

Gunmi highlighted the rising costs of leasing land for farming, noting that prices have escalated from N20,000 per hectare to as high as N35,000 and N40,000 in various states. This substantial increase, she noted, poses a significant challenge to improving food production capacity in the country.

The SWOFON president emphasized the urgent need for investments in labour-saving machinery and the reduction of exorbitant prices of agricultural inputs like fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides, which are impediments to agricultural productivity.

Gunmi also stressed the importance of gender-friendly and labour-saving machinery to boost the productivity of smallholder women farmers, who she said contribute between 70 to 80 percent of agricultural productivity in Nigeria.

“The escalating costs of both manual and mechanized labor are becoming prohibitive for smallholder women farmers,” Gunmi stated, highlighting the necessity of timely provision of farm inputs by all levels of government for the current farming season.

She also lamented the recent hike in fuel prices which hindered women farmers from engaging in dry season farming.. she lamented that this development led to reduced productivity during this year.

Gunmi, therefore,urged the government to support smallholder women farmers by providing irrigation systems, including solar-powered water pumps and boreholes, to enhance dry season farming activities.

 

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