As SWOFON expresses pain, frustration over high loan facilities
By Gabriel Ewepu and Fortune Eromosele – Abuja
As farmers continue to grapple with challenges in the agricultural sector, ActionAid Nigeria, AAN, Thursday, called on Federal Government to ease access to loan facilities by rural women across the country.
Food and Agriculture Program Coordinator, AAN, Azubike Nwokoye, made the call during a roundtable meeting on access to agricultural credit for smallholder women farmers.
Nwokoye said the issue has been an impediment over the years to the productivity of women farmers who have been the powerhouse of food production and currently still feed over 200 million mouths in the country and West Africa.
He said it is a social responsibility and action plan by AAN and has become imperative to call on the Federal Government to consider policies that would ameliorate this challenge experienced by women farmers.
According to him, government financial institutions, the Central Bank, Bank of Agriculture, Bank of Industry, BoI, NIRSAL, and even commercial banks are to feel the pulse and plight of women farmers who have been the strong workforce in the agricultural sector and do a review of its policies on accessing loans.
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He said: “That’s why one of the strong recommendations is that the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and the State Ministry of Agriculture should create a budget plan, a yearly budget plan on strengthening access to credit.
“The yearly budget will help. If it is consultants that FMARD will get to support different women cooperatives to be able to access the available funding. The process will ensure that other services will be accessed, given the right support, and they should be able to pay on time.
“Due to the security situation in the country and even issues of climate change, paying back the loan could be difficult, that’s why we mentioned the agricultural insurance to go hand-in-hand with the credit facilities.”
However, women farmers under the auspices of Small Scale Women’s Farmers Organization in Nigeria, SWOFON, in the country have expressed pain, frustration over high loan facilities with conditions that are difficult to meet following.
They said the rigidity of getting loans for farming is affecting their productivity and supply of food to Nigerians, therefore need government intervention on their condition.
Speaking on the issue, Secretary, Small Scale Women’s Farmers Organization in Nigeria, SWOFON, Nnanna Mercy, called on the federal government to be gender-sensitive in designing financial programmes that will make women farmers have easy access to loans facilities.
“For farming activities, it has been good and bad. For every woman, especially in accessing agricultural loans, it is very difficult. The government, as you know, is business-oriented and as you know is not favourable to rural women. The way it is designed makes it difficult for the average woman-farmer to access.
“The government finances are mostly accessed by portfolio farmers, political farmers, because when you design a program for rural women and you are telling them to bring level 14officer as a guarantor, or you are telling them to bring a landed property, these are constraints that are really affecting rural women.
“What we are saying is that we should be gender-sensitive in designing our financial program, owing to all these constraints that women are suffering, let us streamline it to the womenfolk, in such a way that there should be some kind of understanding.
“Gender sensitivity should be considered and looked into; neglecting a woman in the agricultural sector is like neglecting agriculture. It is a fact that a woman contributes about 70 percent in the agricultural workforce, and then you neglect such a huge amount of people?”, Mercy said.
On his part, Deputy Director, Gender and Youth Department of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Mohammed Bashir, said the Ministry is concerned about rural women farmers and is putting in place solutions that will ease grievances.
“Basically, since agric is going to be pursued as a business it is going to operate in a private sense. But there are a lot of problems that are bedeviling the financial sector, institutions, access to grants by women.
“Most of our farmers especially women are illiterates, we believe that no matter how the government must assist in seeing that this process is considered, the Honorable Minister haven discovered that, has made arrangement to see that we really reach the genuine farmers among the women”, Bashir stated.