The recent fire incident at the popular Kugbo Furniture Market has triggered a lot of controversies and speculations as such an incident occured about the same time last year. CALEB ONWE reports
The women were mostly smallholder farmers. They came on the invitation of the Federal government which deemed it fit to respond to the women’s distress call over the negative effects of COVID-19.
It was learnt that the women have been complaining to government at all levels, that since the outbreak of the pandemic, life has become tougher for them.
According to the women, COVID- 19 and its consequential lockdown, crippled their farming activities, as well as reduced the economic base of their households.
National President, Smallholder Women Farmers Organisation of Nigeria ( SWOFON) , Mrs. Mary Afan, said government’s response was timely. Afan was particularly elated with what she described as the micro machinery inputs provided to them.
She said that some time last year, women across the country, symbolically returned the local hoe to the museum.
According to her, the local hoe can no longer stimulate the needed productivity in the farms nor guarantee food security on the country.. Afan lamented that insecurity in parts of the country was hitting the smallholder farmers badly.
The cases of the women from the northern parts of Nigeria where terrorists and bandits reign supreme, are said to be more deplorable. The women who constitute a major percentage of both smallholder farmers, and available agricultural labour force there, no longer have access to the farms.
This is due to the facts that the terrorists and bandits see the women as easy prey. Inside Abuja learnt that the government through the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, responded to the women’s distress call for several reasons. Minister, Alhaji Sabo Nanono, said that apart from government’s desire to achieve sustainable food production, there was also a deliberate measure to revive the livelihoods of the women.
Nanono noted that the first phase of planned programmes for the women , include the distribution of free agricultural inputs to 7,500 women farmers. The inputs are both different micro machineries and variety of crops.
He said the inputs will enable Smallholders Women Farmers build production assets, create jobs ,achieve food and nutrition needs.
‘’The Ministry is supporting the women with value kits (planting materials, growth enhancer and agro-chemicals) in yam, cassava, potatoes, soybean, rice, maize, sesame, ginger, sorghum/ millet, cowpea and horticultural crops. In addition, nutritional value kits will be distributed to the women today. ”
The choice of the crops is based on comparative advantage to its production. Again, because women are disadvantaged in land inheritance in Nigeria, the use of sacks and vertical farming are being popularized and the techniques would be demonstrated.
‘’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,”
Nanono said. Minister of Women Affairs, Mrs. Pauline Tallen described the programme as a worthy lifeline for the women. Tallen noted that any government policies and programmes that focus on women needed the support of all stakeholders. According to her, women are key to development of Agriculture and other sectors of the economy.
The minister stressed that the policy lays emphasis on adopting strategies that would help facilitate the growth of small businesses through improvements in agriculture and land use which are fundamental in addressing the plight of less vulnerable groups and the attainment of food security.
Minister of State for FCT, Dr. Ramatu Aliyu disclosed that the FCT administration has also started reaching out to women in the rural areas.
Aliyu also confirmed the cry of the women about the adverse effects of COVID-19 on the a agriculture sector.
She implored all relevant stakeholders to adopt new measures towards mitigating the impacts of the pandemic on all economic activities. “It is no longer news that Nigeria’s agricultural sector has been adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Therefore, we must use every opportunity to proffer measures on how to better support all the production systems towards mitigating the impact of the pandemic.
We must evolve better strategies to build on what we have already been doing in our different ways and synergize efforts towards our collective desire to attain food security. There is no better time to act than now.
“With a large percentage of small-holder farmers, the FCT Administration has put in place an Input Support Initiative which is a strategy that is aimed at increasing access of farmers to critical Agricultural inputs such as fertilizers, agro-chemicals, pesticides, feeds, irrigation equipment to support all year farming amongst others,” she said.