By Dayo Johnson
AKURE—FEMALE farmers, under the auspices of Women in Farming Association of Nigeria, WOFAN, in Ondo State have alleged marginalisation despite their huge contribution to food security.
President of WOFAN, Mrs. Olayinka Oladapo, said this after participating in the Strengthening Advocacy and Civic Engagement, SACE, project; Inclusive Agricultural Governance Cluster inauguration and anchored by the Life and Peace Development Organisation, LAPDO, held in Akure.
Mrs. Oladapo said: “We never knew how government arrived at policies made for women, particularly those in the Agricultural sector. Their inputs and opinions were never sought to be included in such policies, yet, they were made for them.
“As a woman and also a farmer, there will be tremendous improvement in what women do when government intervenes and that will definitely in turn, improve the society we live in.
“I want to tell government that the only way to build a better society is to build the woman. When you empower a woman, you empower a nation.
“Advocacy and legwork by women farmers in Ondo State have paid off for the first time as the state government included women in its annual budget.
“The Inclusive Agriculture Cluster anchored by LAPDO influenced provision of a new line item tagged: Agro Women Initiative for women smallholder farmers in the Ondo State 2018 agricultural sector budget, with an initial sum of N2 million allocated to the initiative.
“After visiting the wife of the state governor, Betty Akeredolu, an engagement with the State Commissioner of Agriculture and interaction with the state House of Assembly on terms for budgetary allocation we have a success story in this area, because in Ondo State, we never had a line in agriculture for women. But through this intervention, they were able to get women into the budget line.”
She, however, urged the state government not to see this “as business as usual. We want them to implement everything they have on the budget to the letter, so that at the end of the day, the women can smile.”
Commending the SACE and LAPDO for enhancing the capacity of women to take part in governance, she said: “Before now, when you talk of budget tracking, we didn’t know anything about it. Government just comes up yearly, proposing budgets, implementing budgets. But when you talk of women in agriculture, we don’t really know that aspect.”
In his remarks, a consultant on the status of policy environment for small scale holders’ women farmers in the state, Kazeem Balogun said: “Over the years, there is a policy that promotes gender involvement in Ondo State, but there is currently no evidence to show that the policy is implemented to the letter to promote development of smallholder women farmers.”
Balogun lamented that the policy, which exists in the state, was dated back to 2005, is obsolete, “because it does not promote modern techniques of farming.”
Balogun said: “In terms of budgetary allocation to agriculture as a sector and to women farmers, the state has not fared too satisfactory” between 2011 and 2017, it averaged 2.3 percent.
“There was a remarkable difference in 2017 where 5.1 percent of the state’s budget was allocated to agriculture by the present administration.
“So what we just did was, we watched government do it, despite the fact that it was going to affect us, we didn’t even know how to engage them. We didn’t even know how to do it. But through the capacity building we have gotten from LAPDO, we have been able to get involved in governance issues. It is now better for us to engage government and really get our trade improved,”
Benedicta Ogeoke, a fish farmer and a member of WOFAN, said there is need for female farmers to get involved in governance in the state.
Ogeoke, a graduate of Fisheries, said: “With the series of workshops and seminars women farmers have attended, their capacity has been developed “to know what to do and what to demand for. We are not just sitting down as onlookers but now we can participate because our eyes have been opened that we are stakeholders and if you don’t advocate for what you need, what you deserve, nobody will do it for you.
“So it is a big eye opener and we believe that as time goes on, we will begin to engage the government”.
We’ll address the marginalisation—Ondo lawmaker
The Chairman, House Committee on Agriculture, Ondo State House of Assembly Kuti Towase said the lawmakers in the state are prepared to support the polic.
Towase said: “On the part of those of us who are in the State House of Assembly, we are prepared to support every government policy and initiative that would impact positively on the economy of the state and even on our people.”
The Executive Secretary of LAPDO, Franklin Oloniju said that plans are on to commence the development of a policy that will integrate female farmers in the state.
Oloniju said women in cassava, cocoa and fish value chains, commercial banks, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and other relevant key players, are involved in the development of the policy which will, at the end of the day, ensure that small holders’ women farmers are carried along in the scheme of things in the agricultural sector.