By Alex Abutu
Aujara is a small, densely populated community in Jahun Local Government Area of Jigawa State where most of the populace are rural peasant farmers producing groundnut and other crops which are sold immediately after harvest or preserved and sold at a later date.
A majority of these farmers are women who suffer untold hardships during the planting, weeding and harvesting of the crops but have to sell them at such a low cost that when quantified, it shows they are losing money.
This group of women, in their late 30s and 40s, are house wives who are passionate about farming, most of whom are bread winners in their homes. Their passion for farming appears to be on a serious decline because proceeds from their farms, in the face of rising costs of production, are leaving them poorer after each harvest.
But recently, succour may have come their way as a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) project installed in the community is helping them add value to their agricultural produce and turning the tides for them.
The project known as the United Nations Development Programme-Energy Commission of Nigeria (UNDP-ECN) Solar Powered Agro Processing Cottage Industry was initiated in 2017 in partnership with the Energy Commission of Nigeria and has two components targeting women. One is the solar powered groundnut processing project while the other is the solar powered borehole.
These projects utilise renewable resources to meet their energy demands, especially for agro-processing. The establishment and operation of this “green” cottage industry, allows agricultural produce to be processed faster, at reduced cost, and with less harm to the environment.
The arrival of the two projects, according to members of the community, has made farming meaningful to them as more members of the community now farm groundnuts.
“With this development, we shall soon become the leading groundnut farming state in the country, says Hajiya Amina Yusuf, Chairperson of the Aujara Women Association who manages the projects.
“The project has helped us to add value to our groundnut, we no longer harvest and take to the market, we now process it into oil, kwuli-kwuli and other products from it. We now make more money than when we were selling the groundnut straight to the middle men,” Amina added.
According to her, more women have taken up farming of groundnut as they now have a place to quickly process it into other products and make money for the upkeep of their families.
Mrs Maimuna Aliyu Bashir, an aged woman in the community noted that the projects have brought immense benefits to them as they are saved a whole day’s task of trekking to other villages to process their groundnut. “Now we don’t have to trek a whole day to other villages to process our groundnut, we can now do it here as quick as possible and also save money, time and other forms of harassments we face when we trek to other villages.”
The project has not only made groundnut processing easier but has also provided the community with safe, clean water from the solar powered borehole.
Unlike the 10 other epileptic boreholes in the community, the UNDP-ECN solar powered borehole is available to the community 24 hours daily and does not require generators or fuel to function, serving a vast majority of the over 400,000 inhabitants.
The youths of the community have also benefited from these projects as they are charged with the responsibilities of operating the machineries and the borehole. Arrangements have also been concluded to train the youths on maintenance procedures for the various machines in use.
The district head of Aujara, Alhaji Aminu Dan Mallam, was full of praise for the cottage industry saying that it will assist the women of the community to quickly process their farm produce into other marketable products thereby making more money from their farms.
He also pledged the Chiefdom’s support to the project and promised to mobilise security to ensure equipment at resources centres were safe.
Abutu is a Freelance Science Writer and Media Consult.