World Food Day 2012: A Do or Die Affair

‘’For every two bags of fertilizer given to a man, a woman should be given four’’.

This is how the leader of the FCT chapter of ActionAid Nigeria’s facilitated network of smallholder women farmer’s cooperatives in Nigeria bluntly put it at a press conference organized by ActionAid Nigeria to mark the 2012 World Food Day. "The women deserve double portion" she says.

"The women deserve double portion"

Women are the predominant actors in the Nigerian Agricultural space constituting between 60 to 80 per cent of the agricultural labor force. They are responsible for carrying out 50 per cent of animal husbandry related activities and about 60 per cent of food processing yet, their access to agricultural services and involvement in agricultural policy formulation is by far lower than the men such that one is forced to wonder how far ahead our road to eliminating hunger in Nigeria is.

This year’s world food day provided another opportunity for us to answer the question of eliminating hunger in Nigeria. Smallholder women farmers it is.

Acknowledged, Nigeria has demonstrated some level of commitment largely by the development of the Agricultural Transformation Agenda, a plan which takes a departure from previous agricultural policies calling for increased food production, reducing losses among others. But I wonder, how can we achieve economic growth using agriculture as a veritable tool and quash the tide where over 60 million Nigerians go to bed hungry, when the smallholder women farmers who produce the bulk of the food for domestic consumption are not specifically targeted by government agricultural policies or when their voices do not count?

How can we eliminate hunger in Nigeria when despite the changing climate, our government has not incorporated sustainable agricultural practices as a means of rejuvenating the sector and serving as insurance to thousands of smallholder famers especially the women? Will hunger ever be deported from our land with our government investment in agriculture grossly inadequate as it has consistently disrespected its own signature on the Maputo declaration wherein she pledged to allocate 10% per cent of its annual budget to agriculture?

Women have little or no access to land. The processes for accessing support and credit largely alienates smallholder women farmers. This is surely not the way to go if truly, we must eliminate hunger in Nigeria.

Nigeria is currently at the verge of an obvious food shortage following the floods that have continued to ravage the country. Thousand of farmlands have been washed and food crops destroyed.

 But If Nigeria must increase food production and yields, reduce post harvest losses by 50 per cent, half the proportion of households and persons who are food insecure and create a reign of food security as detailed in the Agricultural Transformation Agenda, then it is imperative that there must be a fundamental shift in agricultural policies and how these policies are formulated. Agricultural policies must largely focus on smallholder women farmers and the process for their formulation must be made transparent and participatory such that the voices of these women count.

Increased access to land and agricultural inputs, credits and support, eliminating land ownership practices that exclude the majority of those who feed Nigeria is not negotiable.

Increased access to land and agricultural inputs, credits and support, eliminating land ownership practices that exclude the majority of those who feed Nigeria is not negotiable.

Eliminating hunger in Nigeria is no joke, it is serious business thus government must increase investment in agriculture. The Nigerian government at all levels must respect the accord it entered on behalf of the Nigeria people in the Maputo Declaration and begin a process for achieving the allocation of 10 per cent of Nigeria’s annual budget to agriculture.

This is not the time for mere verbal commitments as we witnessed in the past but a time for commitments that is marked by relevant action. If the problem of hunger in Nigeria will ever be tackled and won, then the smallholder women farmers are the answer and supporting them is a ‘do or die’ affair.

If the problem of hunger in Nigeria will ever be tackled and won, then the smallholder women farmers are the answer and supporting them is a ‘do or die’ affair.