ENE OKWANIHE, Abuja
The Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development in Nigeria has distributed farm inputs and equipment to over seven thousand five hundred smallholder women farmers in the North Central region of the country to improve production, food security and mitigate against the effects of COVID-19 on women farmers.
The distribution is targeted at ensuring that women farmers, whose farming activities were affected by the impact of the COVID-19 recover, cater for their family and contribute to food security.
The women were drawn from all parts of the North Central region of the country to receive inputs for the wet season farming and processing machines for the harvest period.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development in his keynote address said the move is a deliberate attempt by the government to bridge the gender gap by supporting Women in agriculture whose means of livelihood was almost brought to a halt because of the COVID-19 Pandemic.
“There is no chance for the welfare of the world unless the condition of women is improved. It is not possible for a bird to fly on only one wing.” I have deliberately undertaken initiatives aimed at promoting gender equality and empowerment of women in line with the targets set in our Economic Sustainability Plan, Agric Gender Policy, National Gender Action Plan (N-GAP) for Agriculture, Agricultural Sector Food Security and Nutrition Strategy Documents aimed at ensuring increased opportunities for women”
On Rural development Mr. Nanono said “We are making concerted efforts to improve rural infrastructure such as rural roads, boreholes, irrigation facilities, solar lights, markets etc that are enablers for improved agricultural performance for our farmers and processors active in the rural space”
On availability of land for women the Minister said the Ministry is addressing the issue by introducing sacks and vertical farming techniques to the women.
“Again, because women are disadvantaged in land inheritance in Nigeria, the use of sacks and vertical farming are being popularized and the techniques will be demonstrated”
Mr. Nanono added that besides the distribution of inputs to the women, the ministry is also distributing production and processing equipment in an effort to reduce drudgery, improve efficiency, reduce cost of production and improve quality of product and produce from the operations and in the long run reduce post harvest loses.
For the Minister of state for Agriculture and Rural Development, Mr. Mustapha Shehuri, the Ministry is working towards making Nigeria self-sufficient in quality seeds production.
“The Ministry and its research institutions are working towards making Nigeria self-sufficient in good quality seed and its availability to farmers as a foundation for attaining food and nutrition security as well as industrialization”
He said the Ministry is supporting breeder and foundation seeds production and linking up with the private seed companies to make certified seeds available to farmers.
Mr. Shehuri also noted that if Nigeria wants to exit from its mono economy which is crude oil, it has to make a major impact in the agricultural sector which if well harnessed would bring about reduction in unemployment, create wealth and food security.
The Minister for women Affairs Dame Pauline Tallen in her remark commended the Agriculture ministry for factoring women in its efforts towards addressing the country’s food problems.
She said women farmers are doing very well in the sector and should be encouraged.
“ women are key when it comes to agriculture, the statistics are clear that women farmers do better, take for example the North Central has more women farmers, you to the South East we have more women farmers handling strategic farming inputs that have changed the lives of their community and their states. And if we keep supporting them the better for us”
Speaking on behalf of the beneficiaries, the National President Small Scale Women Farmers in Nigeria Mary Afan, said the women would utilize the inputs while assuring that the efforts would go a long way in reducing the prices of food items in the market.
She further called on the government to ensure the farms are secured enough for women.
“These equipment that are gathered here, we going to make that by next farming and harvest season we would have more produce and the cost of food would also reduce”
Our only plea now is for the government to ensure there is security in the farms so that we women can go to our farms and cultivate during this farming season, if that I assure you that we going to have food security in our country” she added
Some of the inputs distributed to the 7,500 women included value kits (planting materials, growth enhancer and agro-chemicals) in yam, cassava, potatoes, soybean, rice, maize, sesame, ginger, sorghum/millet, cowpea and horticultural crops.