By Nasiru Yusuf Tsakuwa
Despite multi-million Naira interventions in agricultural sub sector by federal and state governments, smallholder women farmers in Jigawa State complain of being sidelined from the scheme of things.
Almost all the small holder women farmers interviewed in this report decried how they were left out of the agricultural programmes of federal and state governments.
This is coming at the period the federal and state governments claim to attach priority attention to agriculture as a means of attaining food security and job creation.
Majority of the farmers in the country are smallholders and greater percentage of this are women. According to National Gender Policy in Agriculture, women constitute 49 per cent of the country’s population.
Also, they carry out about 80 per cent of agricultural production, 60 per cent of agricultural processing activities and 50 per cent of animal husbandry and related activities, yet they have access to less than 20 per cent of agricultural assets.
Hajiya Asma’u Idris of Ganji in Kirikasama Local Government Area of the state, sums up the lot of women when she said that she has never seen a woman who benefitted from government agricultural support. According to her, no woman was selected among the beneficiaries of Federal Government Anchor Borrower Programme in her community.
Hajiya Asma’u regretted how womenfolk were left behind in the scheme of things, observing that the present administration in the state does not support women farmers as done in the past.
The smallholder farmer lamented that women have not received the anchor borrower loan, unlike their male counterparts. “Women farmers have not received the (anchor borrower) loan.
But I saw men who received fertilizer, pumping machines, spray machines, and insecticides. “The programme has not involved women farmers’ association. It came through traditional rulers.
From District Head to village heads down to ward heads. “Though they have distributed the forms to all households, but they did not involve women farmers.
Our prayer is, they should consider women farmers in the subsequent schemes. “We used to get government intervention. The previous administrations used to periodically support farmers with seeds and fertilizer.
But we are now left with no option than to replant the grains we produced each farming season. “We no longer get government’s subsidized fertilizer. I never heard of any woman farmer who gets the allocation of fertilizer or seeds from government.
The present administration does not pay attention to the plight of women farmers talk less of organizing training on modern farming techniques for them,” the woman farmer stated.
Mrs. Idris identified flooding as the major challenge to smallholder women farmers in Kirikasanma Local Government Area. She noted that she is yet to recover from last year’s loss due to flood.
“Our major environmental challenge is flooding. We don’t experience shortage of rainfall here. Last year, flooding swept away our rice farm before it gets to maturity level. We lost everything. The government has not offered any intervention,” she said.
She also alleged that agricultural interventions are politicised because, according to her, politicians reap the benefits meant for practicing farmers.
“The major challenge now is if government introduces a programme to support farmers, some politicians will go and register a mushroom farmer’s association within seven days and get all the intervention.
“My appeal to state governments is they should desist from politicizing agriculture. They should identify and support real farmers irrespective of their political affiliation,” she appealed.
After the interview, her husband, Alhaji Idris Muhammad Ganji took this reporter round her farm, where she grows maize, tomato and pepper using water pump.
At Gagiya town of Guri Local Government Area, a cluster of smallholder women farmers interviewed under the leadership of Hajiya Bintu Ahmad reechoed the same complaint of government neglect. Mrs. Ahmad, who also said she has never met a single woman who benefitted from government agricultural loan, called for their inclusion. “We have never received any government loan. They gave men, but not women.
I initially thought the loan was meant for men only,” she said. Hajiya Ahmad identified attacks by violent herdsmen as the major challenge to women farmers in Guri Local Government. She said that some herdsmen send cattle to their farms and destroy crops in their presence and they cannot challenge them due to fear of being attacked or killed.
“Our major security challenge is herdsmen who are terrorizing our farmland by destroying our agricultural produce. They sometime send their cattle into your farm in your presence; you cannot challenge them if you are conscious of your safety. “Sometime they used to invade our farm during harvesting period and leave us with nothing.
They force us to harvest agricultural produce in rush. “If we lodge a complaint at police station, they retreat and return shortly afterward.
They sometime threaten us to sell them the remnants of produce to them. If you refuse to sell, they direct their cattle to eat it in the night. If you take them to authorities, they pay you less than what they take,” Hajiya Binta Ahmad said. She lamented how lack of adequate knowledge of modern agricultural practices exposed them to preventable disasters like floods.
“In many instances, floods swept all the produce before harvest. Where you suppose to get 12 bags, you may end up harvesting two. Being a woman, one hardly gets professional advice on how to minimize the impact of flood in our farms,” she said. Sadly, because of the losses she has incurred, her son’s education has suffered because she used to take care of that responsibility for the family.
Speaking in a similar vein, a member of the group, Talatu Ibrahim, of Gagiya town in Guri Local Government Area confirms herdsmen invasion and attacks as their major obstacle. She appealed to the government to provide better security for the people. “I grow rice, grain and sorghum. My major problem is herdsmen invasion into my farm. They are posing a serious challenge to our farming; they do send cattle to eat our produce especially when we are about to harvest,” she complained.
On the accessibility of agricultural loan, Mrs. Ibrahim said: “We don’t get government agricultural support.
They only gave men.” Another smallholder, farmer, Kahu Abdullahi from Gagiya town, said as a widow she ventured into farming to take care of her seven orphaned children. She explained that with the little money she generates from farming, she was able to support the marriage of her two daughters and finances the education of the other children.
For Maryam Musa of same town, flood is the major setback, and she is yet to recover from last year’s loss. Musa, who revealed that she supports her husband in sponsoring the education of their children, said she invested about N50,000 on her farm last year but only got one bag due to flood.
For access to inputs such as seedlings and fertilizer, she explained that they used to buy seeds and fertilizer in the market, but they are unable to buy enough now because the prices have gone up. “We used to buy seed and fertilizer in the market.
Sometime we can hardly afford enough quantity of fertilizer,” she lamented. Also Hafsat Dan’abba from Auyo Local Government Area direction also decried a situation where she has never enjoyed government agricultural intervention.
She said she had once applied for anchor borrower programme, but was not lucky enough to secure it. She alleged that government officials in Jigawa State do not plan for women farmers to benefit from agricultural programmes.
She called on state officials not to concentrate on men folk alone, but women farmers also in such programmes aimed at ensuring food security. Dan’abba regretted how her farming suffered a setback last year due to flood and Covid-19 lockdown, which was worsened by flooding. “Flood washed away my entire farm last year. I lost everything.
This, coupled with Covid-19 lockdown, has also worsened our condition. These have affected this year’s farming because we don’t have funds to buy enough fertilizer,” she lamented.
She appealed to the state government to allocate a certain percentage of agricultural intervention to women farmers and enjoined officials to desist from diverting interventions meant for farmers to family and friends. “The main problem is politicians divert most of government intervention to their family and friends who do not have any business with farming.
They end up selling the equipment. The real farmer will never sell agricultural inputs and farming implements received from government.
“I have never benefitted from any government agricultural scheme. I once filled a form and attached my picture for anchor borrower scheme, but at the end they told me my form was lost. I missed it. And nobody asked me to fill another form.
“They (government officials) don’t want engage women farmers. They once invited us when the Minister of Agriculture visited Jigawa about five months ago.
We received rice seedlings and small pumping machines that cannot be used in the farm. It is one-inch machine that cannot pull water from well,” she lamented. Dan’abba told this reporter that she spends over half a million Naira annually on her children’s school fees in secondary schools and tertiary institutions. She revealed: “My husband is dead.
I rely on this farming to take care of my seven children. I feed them, cloth them and sponsor their education with it. “My eldest son is a graduate, his younger brother is undergoing HND programme, two others have completed NCE programme, one girl is in Level lll, another is waiting admission, one boy is undergoing Diploma programme and my youngest daughter is in secondary school. “I used to spend N500, 000 to N600, 000 on their education annually.
This excludes feeding. “I grow rice, maize, wheat and watermelon. My appeal to government is to support women farmers with agricultural inputs and farming implements. More especially rice processing equipment.” Another farmer, Hajiya Zulai Sabo of ‘Yankwashi Local Government told this reporter that the last time she received government subsidized farm inputs was seven years ago. On Anchor Borrower Programme, Hajiya Sabo claimed that she has never seen a woman who benefitted from the scheme.
She said she applied for several government programmes, but to no avail, to the extent that she is contemplating boycotting government agricultural support.
“I cultivate two farmlands where I grow tomato, onion and peeper during dry season and maize in the rainy season. “We have applied for government agricultural loan several times, but we are yet to get it. I am now contemplating to boycott any government intervention in agriculture.
“Sometimes, I pay some money for registration. I have never seen any woman farmer who benefitted from anchor borrower scheme.
“With this farming, I feed my family and assist others. My children are also into farming. Our appeal to government is to support us with seed, fertilizer and grant or soft loan. This will make Nigeria achieve food security.
“Government should use agriculture to address security challenges facing the country. If youth are fully engaged, they will not take arms against fellow citizens or government,” said her. For Malama Ramatu Dahiru of Dutse, in the Jigawa State capital, the story is different because she was opportune to secure a Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL) loan two years ago. She, however, complained about conditions of paying back the loan, which she said left them with little or no dividend.
She said: “Two years ago, I secured a grant from NIRSAL for sorghum farming from Federal Government. We were grouped into a cluster of 50 women, where each person received N120, 000 per hectare. They used part of the money to buy fertilizer, seed, and insecticide for farmers and the remaining money to pay for labour.
“We pay back immediately after harvest with agricultural produce. This affected our dividend because the price is low.
But if they allow us more time for price to stabilize we would have gotten more dividends from our work.” Interestingly, there is one positive story that Dahiru has to tell as she showed our reporter how she makes charcoal with post – harvest waste. She said she learnt the skill at a training organized by a Non Governmental Organisation ‘Break-Free from Plastic Initiative’ sometime ago.
She said she uses charcoal as an alternative to firewood, which negatively affects women and children’s health. “I have been supporting my family with my produce. My household used the millet and beans I harvested last season.
Women can engage in agriculture to support their family. “Even if they don’t have a farm, they can rent. This would go a long way in reducing the economic hardship of the family,” she stated.
Commenting on the problems that small holder women farmers face, the Acting Provost of Federal College of Agricultural Produce, Kano, Dr. Halimah Modupeore, advised them to form cooperative societies in their respective communities that can be used to support each other.
On the menace of flooding, Dr. Modupeore attributed the challenge to climate change being experienced across the globe. She advised women farmers to seek knowledge to be able to know what to plant, when the temperature changes and how to handle crops properly during flooding. Efforts to get the response of Jigawa State Commissioner of Agriculture, Col. Muhammad Alhassan (rtd) on the allegations raised by the women farmers were not successful.
During our first meeting in Dutse, the state capital, the commissioner requested to know the questions and that the interview should be rescheduled to a later date to enable him get all the information needed. He, however, rejected several attempts by this reporter to grant the interview at a convenient time to him.
After our initial meeting in Dutse on June 9, a reminder was sent to him on June 15 (14:44), via a text message, he said he had many official commitments on the scheduled day and suggested another day.
He however failed to reply another text message sent to him seeking clarification on same day.
This reporter has also sent another reminder to the commissioner via whatsApp on August 16 (3:52), then a phone call on August 17 (14:12) another text message on August 19 (10:44) and finally the questions were sent via whatsApp on August 22 (23:30) but to no avail.
However, in an interview published by ICIR in July, the Jigawa State Director of Admin and Finance in the state Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Hamza Adamu, who spoke on behalf of the commissioner, said that the government is fully aware of the women farmers’ group and that the ministry is doing its best to ensure their agitations are addressed as another rainy season draws near.
“No responsible government will ignore the plight of people, particularly women who greatly contribute to the GDP of the state,” Ibrahim said.
“The government did her best and made available some funds for compensation and I am very sure some of them were reached out to,” he affirmed. Available data showed that Jigawa State Government has, indeed, accorded the plights of farmers, including smallholder women, in the state little attention. In 2019, N8.67 billion was budgeted for agriculture, which was 5.5 per cent of the total budget of N157.5 billion with no single plan for smallholder women farmers.
Also, in 2020, N10.88 billion was also appropriated for agriculture, which surpassed the preceding year by 25.5 per cent with an increase of about N2.2 billion. Yet the sector continues to remain in a pitiable state.
Also, in 2021, N12 billion was budgeted for the agricultural sector, which was 7.7 per cent of the total budget of N156.58 billion of the state, without any provisions for smallholder women farmers in the state for over three years, leaving these women hopeless and at the mercy of their own effort.
This negligence is against the Federal Government and the United Nations agenda, which include empowering rural women farmers to be self-sufficient and contributing to avert the problem of food security.
While presenting the 2020 budget, the state governor, Alhaji Muhammad Badaru Abubakar claimed that over 12, 394 farmers have benefited from the goat breeding programme of his administration. He also claimed that over 75 per cent of the state’s empowerment expenditure was directly related to the farmers.
The state budgeted N12.1 billion in the year 2021, which is relatively higher than the N10.2 billion budgeted for agriculture in the year 2020, he says. The governor claimed this is to significantly “expand agricultural production by bringing more land under cultivation with more innovative farming practices that will scale up the level of mechanisation, ensure timely access to quality agricultural inputs and extension services.” Yet, following the breakdown of the 2021 budget for the Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of Women Affairs, the reporter observes that no provision was made to address the issues of smallholder women farmers, despite their agitations and call for assistance.
In 2020, in the aftermath of the devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on their business, smallholder women farmers in the country under the umbrella of Small-scale Women Farmers Organisation in Nigeria (SWOFON) came up with a Charter of Demands which include: access to free or subsidised farming inputs/organic fertilizer, chemicals, pesticides, and hybrid seedlings; provision of gender friendly machinery for increased productivity such as harvesters, tillers, hand sprinklers, plows and planters; access to grants to support increased production as well as subsidised loans without interest rates or single-digit interest rate; the building of storage facilities like silos for seed preservation and agriculture business and provision of community policing and/or security patrol with local vigilante groups to improve security conditions within communities and local government areas; and construction of rural road networks for easy access to markets. None has been addressed in the state to help solve the rising issues raised by these women.
This report was made possible with the support from International Budget Partnership (IBP). Tsakuwa wrote in from Kano.