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SWOFON trains women farmers across Nigeria on addressing agricultural challenges

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Representatives of over two million small holder women farmers from across 36 states, on Monday in Uke, Nasarawa State, began a three-day training to address challenges facing women farmers.

The workshop, organised by the Small Scale Women Farmers Organisation (SWOFON), of Nigeria is meant draw up a schedule on a planned national campaign to further drive home the need for women involvement in the agricultural sector.

Some key issues to be tracked from all states during the workshop include: non access to gender friendly machineries, lack of access to farm inputs, lack of gender specific budgetary allocations, non access to credit facilities and non participation in budgetary processes.

The National President of SWOFON, Mrs Mary Afan, said the training was meant to build the capacity of the farmers on the planned campaign, scheduled to take place in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and five focal states.

She said the states are: Niger, Anambra, Nasarawa, Jigawa and Oyo.

“We want to embark on a campaign for increased investment in the agricultural sector, especially in favour of small holder women farmers.

“We want to organise this campaign in five selected states, sponsored by International Budget Partnership.

“We have called all 36 state coordinators and we are going to round it up with a national campaign which will hold in Abuja,” she said.

She said the campaign would focus on some challenges often faced by women in the sector including, “lack of access to finance, lack of access to input and one big challenge is access to land which is based on the culture and norms of our people.

“In most of the places women do not inherit land and as farmers we have a big challenge around that area because if you go into farming you either go into borrowing or you hire before you farm.

“We also advocate that government looks into such policies that deny the woman and the cultural norms to be changed.

“That is why we are in constant visit to the traditional rulers who are the custodians of culture to look into those norms that deny a woman from inheriting land.

“The campaign that is coming up is a very big campaign looking at the registered number of the members of our organisation.

“We have over two million registered farmers across the 36 states and we are trying to see how we can mobilise these women to come out for this campaign.”

The president further noted that until women were mainstreamed into agriculture and given the necessary support, the full benefits of agriculture would not be achieved.

“Why the campaign. We actually have a lot of issues with respect to budget allocation and budget processes.

“Farmers in general, when they are making the budget, we are not consulted. We only see that the budget is passed. We are not part of the process of budgeting.

“We want to be actively involved in the budget process so that we can actually tell them what we want and when we want it.

“Secondly, we have a lot of issues around access to input and access to finance.

“A lot of our women have been hearing about good plans by the government, releasing huge amount of money for small holder farmers especially women, to access 60 per cent.

“These loans are not being accessed by women.

”Because if you go to the bank to open an account, you live in a rural area where you do not have electricity or water and they will ask you to present NEPA or water bill and if you cannot present, your account is inactive.

“They will tell you if you cannot provide those documents, your account will be deactivated and it denies a lot of women from accessing such benefit meant for them.

“If you look at the activities that these women carry out, about 80 per cent to 85 per cent of the workforce of labour in the agric sector is done by these women.

“But when it cones to having the dividend of what they are doing they are not really being considered.”

Afan said one of the major panaceas to achieving food security was to pay attention to the plight of small holder women farmers adding, “if you are talking about food security and you remove a woman from the equation you will not achieve it.

“Women are very key in the agric sector. If you talk of planting they are there, in harvesting they are there, processing they are there, marketing they are there.

“This is a very huge population why are they being neglected? That is why we want to make this one very clear to the general public.”

She stressed that if Nigeria was serious with meeting up with food security in 2030 and women were not mainstreamed, it would be difficult to achieve.

CJM/DCU

Edited by Donald Ugwu