Women farmers have recorded some successes in increasing food production and poverty reduction. Against this backdrop, there are many initiatives to support more women farmers. DANIEL ESSIET reports.
Hunger and food shortages creating nightmares for many families in many countries. But in Africa, women have risen to the task. They have been recognised for their commitment to providing food for their communities and beyond.
One of them is Yemisi Iranloye, chief executive, Psaltry International, a cassava processing company. She is working for the betterment of smallholder farmers. She runs a cassava business with a farm and factory where she makes over $12 million yearly.
Psaltry International produces food-grade starch and high-quality cassava flour. Her clients include Unilever, Nestlé, Nigerian Breweries and Promasidor.
She started a farm with about six staff members. Today, she is a success story. She built the success of her business on an inclusive business model that places smallholder farmers at the centre of operations.
Though operating from Uganda, Dr. Emma Naluyima is one of Africa’s most-successful farmer and businesswoman. She runs a profitable one-acre plot farm, an integrated venture for crops and livestock.
She has a piggery, fish pond, a banana plantation and vegetable gardens. She also has a poultry, produces biogas and runs a veterinary clinic.
Her success is an innovative integration of crop and livestock production, based on recycling of farm resources to provide natural fertiliser and pesticides as well as biogas. Her farming techniques include planting a type of grass for her animals that grows in just six days. Her six-plot farm is being showcased as an example of profitable and environmental-friendly agriculture.
In 2019, she and Baba Dioum of Senegal, won the Africa Food Prize worth $100,000 at the African Green Revolution Forum.
Her farm One Acre Limited is divided into quarters. On one, she keep pigs, another cattle. The third, she grows matoke or cooking banana. On the last, she has fish, and fodder for the animals, vegetables and fruits.
Popularly known as ‘Mama Pig’, Dr. Naluyima makes a fortune from her farm. She earns more $3,000 a year from selling milk. In a space of eight by 15 metres, she harvests 10,000 kilogrammes of fish in six months, generating on the average about $25,000 in six months.
She has been sharing her knowledge with other farmers.
Her aim is to make farming appealing to the youth, by showing them how to make a living from agriculture. With the success stories of Naluyima and co, organisations are making efforts to empower smallholder farmers, in particular women, in West Africa by providing them with financial support, training and technical expertise.
This aligns with the Africa Union’s Agenda 2063 and United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for food security and gender equality in Africa’s agriculture which support efforts to alleviate poverty, more especially across gender lines.
Senior Vice President, West Africa, OCP Africa, Mohamed Hettiti, believes that women and youths are vital to agricultural transformation in Africa.
To this end, he said his organisation was investing in the economic empowerment of women farmers, He added that it would have a high return on investment with a multiplier effect on the continent’s productivity and inclusive growth of the continent.
In Africa, he notes, women in agriculture are facing a lot of challenges such as limited access to quality input, cultivatable land, inadequate training and low extension services which result in poor yields and livelihoods.
Hettiti said OCP Africa launched the Women in Agribooster initiative in Nigeria. Since 2017, he said the programme had reached about 15,000 women farmers.
His words: “The programme also helped in mitigating the negative impact of COVID-19 on women in agriculture and ensuring that they continue to produce food crops for their communities. An example is Hajiya Rabiu, whose husband is out of job and is the bread winner of her family. Last year was another farming season for Hajiya Rabiu – a rice farmer from Zaria in Kaduna State – and like the previous seasons, her yield is usually between 1.5 and 1.9 metric tonne(MT)/hectare. To improve her yield and make a better living, Hajiya Rabiu enrolled for OCP Africa’s Agribooster Offer.’’
Having participated in the project, she realised up to four metric tonnes/hectare from her rice farm.
Through the programme, he said OCP Africa had supported women to increase their sources of livelihood, support their family and given them a spotlight in the society.
This year, OCP Group celebrated the International Women’s Day with a webinar on women in agriculture. Themed “Perspectives on the situation of women farmers”, the panelists highlighted women’s role in family farming. One key point of the forum was that despite women’s essential role in ensuring a stable environment in the household, they remain a subject of marginalisation in the agricultural sector, where they struggle to access resources, technology, and agricultural loans.
The panelists agreed that lack of access to a proper education remained an alarming issue that could further decimate the status of women farmers within societies, underlining that with support, African women could represent a lever for agricultural development.
Last year, the Support Women Entrepreneurship in the Agrifood sector in Nigeria (SWEAN) trained 293 women in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, and Zaria, Kaduna State, to help address the gender imbalance in the agro-food processing sector. The training aimed to develop the skills of women agripreneurs and increase their access to local and international markets.
The experts were drawn from the Federal Institute of Industrial Research, Oshodi (FIIRO), National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Nigeria Export Promotion Council (NEPC), Nigerian Stored Product Research Institute (NSPRI), Small and Medium Enterprise Development (SMEDAN), Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), and International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA).
Participants were trained on food processing and fortification, branding and packaging.
The Project Coordinator, Sougrynoma Zaïnatou Soré, emphasised the importance of the training.
”Women often have the least access to information, services, and training to improve their agricultural activities. The SWEAN project has chosen to focus, particularly, on women, including marginalised groups, to enhance their skills in critical areas that would boost their businesses and increase their revenue,” he said.
Promoting women’s enterprise development
Nestlé Global has been working with public and private partners to increase the income of smallholders. One of these is the conditional cash transfers to solve several problems with the cocoa supply chain.
Nestlé plans to spend 1.3 billion Swiss francs ($1.4 billion) on the initiative by 2030. The company’s income accelerator programme “compensates cocoa farmers in West Africa, for avoiding harmful actions such as child labour and deforestation by paying them cash to keep their children in school and protecting the environment around their farms.”
Each farmer who participates will get an additional 500 Swiss francs yearly, which is a 20 to 25 per cent increase in yearly income, according to the Manager, Nestlé Cocoa Plan, Darrell High.
High said the company had seen progress with past programmes to incentivise farmers to take specific action, but that it wanted to do more.
Nestlé piloted the conditional cash transfer programme with 1,000 families last year in Côte d’Ivoire, and the company would now incorporate lessons it learnt as it scales to 10,000 farmers in the country who are part of 18 cooperatives. If that larger programme is successful, it will be scaled to the rest of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana in 2024, and the rest of its global cocoa supply chain by 2030, he said.
Nestlé Chief Executive, Mark Schneider, said: “Our goal is to have an additional tangible, positive impact on a growing number of cocoa farming families, especially in areas where poverty is widespread and resources are scarce, and to help close the income gap they face over time.
“Building on our longstanding efforts to source cocoa sustainably, we will continue to help children go to school, empower women, improve farming methods and facilitate financial resources.
“We believe that, together with governments, NGOs and others in the cocoa industry, we can help improve the lives of cocoa-farming families and give children the chance to learn and grow in the safe and healthy environment they deserve.”
Through a robust monitoring and remediation system instituted since 2012, 149,443 children have been assisted to protect them against the risk of child labour, and 53 schools have been built or refurbished. This system is now the industry standard by which companies monitor their supply chains.
Also, Nestle has been supporting women farmers to increase coffee cultivation with improved practices. In Rwanda, thousands of women benefitted from a programme organised by Nestlé in collaboration with the Kahawatu Foundation.
It aimed to offer training in good practices. They were taught about financial literacy, global coffee prices, pruning and weeding to mulching and harvesting.
Also, Nestlé has been training farmers in Ghana and Nigeria through the Grains Quality Improvement Project (GQIP). It was launched in 2007 to tackle mycotoxin contamination in collaboration with IITA.
Mycotoxin is a natural, fungus-based contamination that can cause immune problems, impaired development in children, and liver damage in both humans and animals. About 30 per cent of cereal crops are lost to contamination, caused by the humid environment, poor drying and storage practices.
About 56,000 West African farmers, among them 24,000 women, have been trained to reduce mycotoxin contamination in Ghana and Nigeria.
In Morocco, the Government’s Morocco Plan (GMP) is driving the development of its agricultural potential. So much has been done to support women in income-generating activities and enhance socioeconomic development.
In the fisheries sector, 10,000 women have been supported with shellfish and other seafood.
Last July, UN Women, in collaboration with the Department of Maritime Fisheries and Japan, organised a workshop on sustainable fishing in the coastal village of Oualidia where healthy collection methods, authorised fishing areas and biological rest periods were discussed — to ensure that these natural resources are preserved for future generations.
Last year, Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) hosted leading African women to explore how their platforms could help women across the continent.
Commissioner for Rural Economy & Agriculture, African Union (AU) Commission, Ambassador Josefa Sacko, President, AGRA, Dr. Agnes Kalibata, and UN Special Envoy on Food Systems Summit, among others, discussed how women could bring change to agriculture and food systems. The discussions also explored how to inspire a groundswell of successful women agribusinesses.
Sacko, who was the keynote speaker, reiterated African Union’s goal of gender equality as a fundamental human right and an integral part of regional integration, growth and social development.
She highlighted the AU’s strategy for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment (GEWE) to ensure the inclusion of women in Africa’s development agenda.
Participants said women were key players in the sector, and exploring how their organisations could not only help women across the continent, but also find solutions to endemic inequalities in the sector that continue to undermine women’s capacity to respond and recover from the impact of COVID-19.
Source: The Nation Newspaper