The Small Scale Women Farmers Organisation of Nigeria(SWOFON) has commended efforts made by women farmers in the country in contributing to food security in spite of the numerous challenges they are facing.
The President of the organization, Mrs. Mary Afan, made the commendation at the end of the group’s Annual Farmers’ Forum in Abuja.
Afan said in spite of their challenges that ranged from poor access to credit, inputs and other facilities, women farmers had proved that they were a strong pillar.
She said, “this is a forum where every year we come together to share experience, engage with government officials to see how we can have space as smallholder women farmers to be able to access whatever the government has for smallholder farmers,” she said.
The president noted that some of the high points of the forum was discussion around having access to finance, inputs and other issues affecting women farmers.
She said the organisation was not resting on its oars in ensuring that smallholder women farmers had their needs met.
“Some of our women have testified that they have been able to access processing machines through our organization and the SMEDAN program that is going on in the states because of the organised structure we have,” she said.
Afan called on government and other stakeholders to assist women farmers where necessary, to enable them to contribute their quota to the development of the nation.
She said: “We still want the government to involve smallholder women farmers in the budget process because we want them to capture the issues that affect us.
” I also want a specific amount of that budget to be targeted at smallholder women farmers,” she said.
She further said, “we have also been advocating that Nigeria is a signatory to the Malabu declaration which says each African government should commit 10 percent of the total budget to the Agriculturalists Sector.
“If there is an increase in the agricultural sector, we will be able to feed the nation because we will be able to expand production and it is something that will actually help us.
On the border closure, she said, “some of our women said the border closure is a benefit to us because you can see rice has now become a hot cake.
” We are able to sell even at an increased price and even though Nigeria is a signatory to the African Free Continental Trade Agreement, the border closure is giving us a strength to see how we can stand.
“We can actually feed ourselves, we can actually produce what other people need. We just understand that Ghana said they are the major exporter of Shea butter and this Shea butter they are exporting is from Nigeria.
” When the border was closed, they had nothing to export. So, it means that Ghana depends on Nigeria to get her Shea butter for the export.
“This is opening our eyes that we need actually to plan very well to have a large economy of scale of whatever we can produce,” she said.
Mr. Jaye Gaskiya, the Vice Chairman of the Board of Trustees of SWOFON, said the forum, an annual gathering of the organisation, was meant to help the farmers to strategize on how to improve on the successes recorded so far.
He said, “one of the key takeaways from here is, as someone, who saw they organization when it started some years ago, I feel fulfilled and proud.
” The second takeaway is that building on their successes, we are seeing a situation where the stakeholders are seeing that rather than reinventing the wheel, they will invest in establishing cooperatives and the rest of that. They now know that they have existing cooperatives that they can go to.
“One of the things that SWOFON has been doing in the last year is the registration of women farmers across the country and they are tracking this in every state of the federation.
” So at the end of this exercise, we will be able to have accurate data in terms of the number of active women farmers in the federation.
He called on men across all sectors, particularly in the Agricultural Sector to support women if the economy must move forward.
He said,” My background is participatory governance and democratic development. There is no way you can have participatory governance if it does not include all the gender and particularly those in society that are marginalized.
“We all know that our society is patriarchal. Women are culturally marginalized and structurally marginalized.
“My advice is very simple, people ought to understand very clearly that, the way we are created, we stand on two legs.
If we attempt to walk on one leg and one hand, we are not going to be able to do anything, and there is a reason why there are two genders and two sexes.
” It means that society cannot move forward without the collaboration of the two. So it is a question of creating the mechanisms for equity to happen in such a way that everybody can contribute his quota and everybody can be enabled to realize their full potentials.
“So, you are not doing yourself a disservice, you are not undermining yourself by promoting the empowerment of people who are marginalised. In fact, you are actually building yourself when you do that.
The National Coordinator of SWOFON, Omaboyowa Roberts, said the importance of the forum was to create a platform for accountability, transparency, and strength.
She said the organisation had recorded a lot of projects in 2019 including advocacy, policy engagement with the African Union, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development of Nigeria, state governments and other stakeholders.
Roberts added that the forum created platform to strengthen some of the gaps observed over the years like improved financing and building of partnerships and linkages.
” We believe that with the cross border agreement and with the opportunities coming through the Agriculture Promotion Policy, there is a need and emphasis to strengthen collaboration across sectors.
“We are going to be planning our annual 2020 plan to see the successes we can leverage on and the platforms and opportunities to leverage on as an organization,” she said.