By Oswald Agwu
Poor and untimely access to Agricultural inputs have been identified as major impediments to the striving by Smallholder Women farmers towards achieving food sufficiency in Nigeria.
The identification was made during the dissemination of the community score card on Small holder Women Farmers Access to farm inputs in Ebonyi State.
It was an outcome of a study conducted by a non-governmental organization, Participatory Development Alternatives (PDA), under the Scaling up Public Investment in Agriculture (SUPIA) Project, in partnership with Actionaid – Nigeria.
The report was presented Tuesday by the PDA’s Program Officer for the project, Ugochi Joseph, in Abakaliki, Ebonyi State capital.
According to the report, covering four year period (2019 – 2022), greater percentage of women cooperative societies under the Small holder women farmers Organization in Nigeria do not have access to Agricultural inputs to enable them scale up their production.
Where available, the inputs were either misplaced against the needs of the farmers or released outside the seasons of their usefulness, thereby truncating their effectiveness.
Part of the scorecard reads: “On having received farm input from the Government within the past 4 years (2019-2022), 81% of smallholder women farmers indicated that their various cooperatives have not received agricultural inputs from the Government in the past four (4) years. While only 19% indicated that they have received.
“19% of smallholder women farmers affirmed that their various cooperatives accessed the inputs in the month of July and August 2022 while 81% said they never accessed farm inputs at all.
“This means that farm inputs are not distributed on time and yearly to support smallholder women farmers.”
The report recommended among other things, the need for the government to integrate smallholder women in the design of inputs distribution model.
It prescribed that distribution of farm inputs should be done directly to the stakeholders at the grass-roots rather than at the State level so that they can get to the targeted beneficiaries.
The report added: “There should be adequate budgetary allocation to farm inputs in the yearly agriculture budget.
“The State Ministry of Agriculture should work in synergy with the Small Scale Women Farmers Organisation in Nigeria (SWOFON), Ebonyi State and other Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) to be able to reach the targeted farmers.
“Smallholder women farmer organizations and CSOs should be continually invited to participate in policy making processes to ensure proper needs of farmers are always captured.”
In an interview, one of the representatives of SWOFON at the event, Mrs Ifeoma Chukwu, lamented the development whereby government agricultural inputs land in the hands of those who do not actually need it.
She said: “Now is the farming period, and we are supposed to have these farm inputs that we’ve been shouting about.
“They tell us that we have these agricultural representatives in our areas, but we don’t normally see them.
“They keep telling us that they will give and we don’t see anything.
“But after sometime, they will tell us that they have distributed the farm inputs to people that are not even farmers; they share it to political agriculturists, leaving the real farmers.”
Chukwu however, commended PDA and Actionaid for assisting women farmers in Nigeria realize their potentials through their many programmes.
The Permanent Secretary, State Ministry of Agriculture, Mrs Patricia Okiri, represented by Chidimma Obiokoye, explained that the Ministry has policies put in place to integrate women farmers in its agricultural programmes, including extension officers and a desk office for women farmers at the Enonyi State Agricultural Development Programme, EBADEP.
Okiri added: “Another reason why they don’t get the inputs at the appropriate time sometimes, is because of climate change.
“When a forecast is made, nature will always take its course, and when that happens, it will alter all the plans that has been made by the government.”
On the area of increasing access to inputs, the head, Women in Agriculture desk of EBADEP, Mrs Favour OKouwa, advised the women farmers to always take advantage of their umbrella body to press home their demands with government.
She further advised them to increase advocacy visits to concerned ministries, departments and agencies.
The event offered Civil Society Organizations, SWOFON, government officials and the media the opportunity to dialogue on the prospects and challenges of Agriculture towards ending hunger in Nigeria by 2030 in line with goal two of the Sustainable Development Goals, SDG. We