When African governments and donors treat the agricultural sector in Africa as a commercially viable sector, there is a potential to create millions of jobs and dollars in revenue. This is in line with the Sustainable Development Goals 1, 5 and 9 (Poverty, gender equality and economic growth, respectively). Supporting the agriculture sector, agro-allied businesses and specifically women farmers, boosts the national economy, increases national food supply and exports, empowers women and provides healthier food choices for our families.
Growing non-oil commodities diversifies national wealth creation and when we support female farmers and agro-allied business and entrepreneurs, we are helping them to dream big and to expand their farms towards exporting their Nigerian-made products. As noted by Tony Elumelu, local farmers need “investments that promote mechanized farming and processing, as well as capital to provide key infrastructure supportive of sustained growth in the agriculture sector.”
Increase national food supply and exports
As a nation, we need to look inward in terms of food security and supply of home grown products for consumption. Looking inward also means not being heavily reliant on imported or processed foods including baby foods. One must be able to provide children and the entire household the very best in nutritional value, while saving money, by buying locally; thereby, enhancing Nigeria’s food security and local consumption.
Also by supporting the local female farmers, we are directly powering entrepreneurial investment, supporting women-owned businesses and most importantly helping to put money back into her household that will feed her children.
Research (by the United Nations’ Women) shows that a woman’s economic empowerment can have positive influence on her health, educational pursuits, and that of her children. It also increases her access to information, and equips her with skills to grow a business – which all affect the growth and health of her household, the community and supports all efforts of sustainable development. Women make up 70% of the world’s working hours and earn only 10% of the world’s income and half of what men earn. This leads to greater poverty, slower economic growth and a lower standard of living.
Empowering women farmers can also come in the form of promoting women co-op societies to enhance the growth of women-led wealth creation within communities, conducting vocational skill training with business capital tools, promoting small-scale industries and commercial activities among women – with a tailored focus on women in rural areas, and increasing the number of women accessing finance.
Providing healthier food choices for families
Healthier meals are simply those that are not highly processed, and are fresh from the farm to the table because they provide nutrients in their raw state and are generally more nourishing. For the moms who are the captains in selecting the meals for the household, please note that the more you deviate from that which is natural, the more risks you are taking when feeding your children and household. Natural whole foods should be the number one option for feeding the household especially when you factor in the by-products of highly processed foods, some of which can lead to cancer, and other health-related issues all adding up to a high infant and maternal mortality rate.
The way a child is fed during the very critical infant age, can affect the child into adulthood and the entire duration of his/ her life. This is why it is extremely essential to give your child the daily vitamins and minerals required for healthy living and these are primarily found in whole unprocessed foods. The organic grains, beans, yams, fruits and vegetables found in the local market are all acceptable here.
These and more are just some of the vital reasons to support women in agriculture. Farming holds a special significance in building the national economy. The agriculture sector is key in sustainable development and its overall effect in industry diversification is vital for Nigeria’s prosperity. In countries around the world today, both developed and underdeveloped, sustainable farming is encouraged for national food security.
The Abuja Declaration on Participatory Development holds that: “sustainable development can only be achieved with the full participation of women.” Programs and activities should be developed to encourage women farmers. For some women to participate in growing the agricultural sector, potential farmers must be provided with seed capital, access to inputs, crop seeds, credits and extension services, as well as accessing the necessary machinery and training. There are many types of farming that women farmers can pursue: poultry and fish farming, rearing of snails and piggery farming, to name a few. Food processing, especially dried foods, such as fruits and other perishable foods, are on the rise. Dried fruits and foods such as plaintain chips can be processed in different ways and sold for economic gains for the farmer, the processor, the exporter and the nation as a whole. All of these are more than sufficient reasons why women should be aggressively and deliberately positioned for economic empowerment.