Women, Agriculture and Climate – By: Nasir Yammama

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Mowing in agriculture is, by far, some of my most fulfilling moments because of the multifaceted nature of the sector and the access to the human condition that the sector offers. It was one of those Ikigai (Japanese concept referring to something that satisfies its sense of passion and purpose) moments for me last week when I was asked to moderate a panel at the 4th conference of the Women Enterprise Alliance (WenA) in Abuja. WenA is a non-profit organization whose mission is to produce diverse, world-class entrepreneurs who meet the needs of an ever-changing market in Nigeria and across Africa. In collaboration with its partners, the NGO designs advocacy programs for women in line with the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The theme of the conference was “Rethinking the Paradigm Shift in Agriculture and Initiatives to Improve Food Security” and it was headlined by the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Mohammad Mahmood Abubakar, who spoke about agribusiness in developing and emerging economies as well as answered a variety of questions from the packed house Ladi Kwali at the Sheraton in Abuja.

It was exciting for me because the conference as a whole was conceptualized to explore innovative solutions that address the challenges faced by SMEs along the agricultural value chain, a topic in which I had a genuine interest. . Directed by Aisha Babangida, who is the founder of the organization, the objectives were to foster sustainable growth and development of the agricultural sector through innovation and technology, identify investment opportunities for expansion and growth of agribusinesses, developing the agribusiness value chain and creating an enabling environment for market access for entrepreneurs.

I have known Aisha for many years and have enormous respect not only for her passion for entrepreneurship and finance, but also for her advocacy for the empowerment of women by working to increase women’s rights and providing them with resources that can help transform their lives. So, despite a tough week of travel and work, I was thrilled to attend the conference in hopes of contributing to the incredibly valuable work of WeNA.

The panel I moderated was to discuss a different but no less important topic; “Sustainable Agriculture: Towards Food Security in the Midst of the Pandemic and Climate Change” and there was a remarkable list of panellists consisting of Ms. Monica Maigari, an OXFAM Food Hero and Community Leader, Engineer Suleiman Hussein Adamu, Minister of Water Resources, Dr. Andrew Kwasari, Principal Special Assistant to the President for Agriculture and Ms. Beatrice Eyong, UN Women Country Representative, represented by her Deputy, Lansana Wonneh.

Agriculture is vital to the Nigerian economy, employing about 70% of the population and contributing about 22% to GDP. Many researchers claim that agricultural labor is mainly provided by women (60-80%) using simple hand tools, and that women are heavily engaged in processing and marketing (a fact that has been corroborated by Mrs. Monica Maigari of our panel in a very moving story of her life and work in agriculture).

Despite the critical role women play, a comprehensive understanding of women farmers’ contribution to food security and the economy is lacking. Policy making, planning, extension services and market development are based on a partial view of reality that does not serve women smallholder farmers and underutilizes their capacities to contribute to the economic and social development of the country. In addition, women are often faced with mobility constraints, which is a major constraint to the expression of their needs in the public and economic sectors as well as their ability to seize opportunities and underlines the need for better dissemination of information. These limitations prevent women farmers from fully accessing economic opportunities and playing a central role in their own development.

One of the key observations is that Nigerian agribusinesses are unaware of the great production potential of smallholder farmers and especially women farmers. Another observation was that women farmers lacked market information and had to sell their produce on the farm for deflated prices or unable to sell their produce at all. Moreover, the public sector has largely neglected market linkages and prefers to target farmer productivity through the distribution of inputs and indirect (mostly ineffective) support for agricultural extension.

For the past five years I have worked with the UK charity OXFAM in Nigeria to develop technology around women in agriculture and train them to collect information such as farm size, access to market and preferences regarding input and output markets, the performance of the agricultural extension system and other government interventions. The aim was that, when aggregated, this information would provide visibility to women farmers and evidence of how effectively public policies and markets are proving to meet the needs of women as food producers and consumers. The platform was also to be used to connect women farmers with input suppliers, other women farmers and buyers. Thus, the information will not only be used by the women themselves, but also by their support associations, their business networks, civil society organizations and donors in order to access better support and market opportunities.

During this WeNA conference, I had a remarkable conversation with the panelists on productivity-enhancing technologies, climate-smart agriculture, resource efficiency, agricultural and development policy as well as the inclusiveness and empowerment of women in the agricultural sector. The voice of Ms. Maigari, a local woman from Madakiya in Zango-Kataf, Kaduna State, was clear in the room, as her story illustrated not only the resilience of Nigerian women in agriculture, but also their ability to excel and provide for themselves and their community. the right conditions.

My other panelists were equally insightful. Mr. Lansana emphasized the UN position on inclusive development in agriculture and other sectors and Dr. Kwasari eloquently charted the course for sustainable implementation of agricultural technology and innovation policy in the in the midst of an economic and climate emergency. The Minister of Water Resources also offered educational insights into the efficiency of water and other resources in the Nigerian agricultural sector, reiterating the absolute need for sustainable and climate-smart solutions in a rapidly changing world.

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