Dr (Mrs) Ifeyinwa Anyanwu is the Head, Gender Unit in the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. In this interview in Abuja, she explains Federal Government’s plans to achieve food security and sufficiency in Nigeria.
Please explain the National Gender Policy in Agriculture launched by your department in Abuja,Thursday?
It is a document to be used to reduce vulnerability of women in agriculture; the vulnerability of small holder farmers who are predominantly women. You recall that women are the disadvantaged and marginalised group in terms of access to agricultural input. Therefore, we want to ensure that we enhance agricultural input and equally empower women so that there could be food security and sufficiency in Nigeria.
Which group of the women are involved in this programme?
To actualise the policy, the Gender Unit collaborates with stakeholders and the development partners: Women in Agriculture, Civil Liberty Organizations (CSOs), Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs), even the media. It took us five good years to come up with the well researched document which has 11 thematic objectives. Of course, all of them are geared toward the empowerment of the small holder farmers.
Among the objectives are to addressing the deficits in terms of capacity, by building the skills and competency so as to put them in a strong position and identify gender issues in agriculture and and how to bridge gender gap.We are equally looking at how to bridge gender inqualiity. We are also looking at enhancing women access to input, such as land, finance, information technology, and even input by small holder farmers – women training technology that would enhance the women in agriculture.
It is one thing to launch this in Abuja and another to extend it to states, local government areas and the small farm holders among the women in different vards scattered all over Nigeria. Do you have it in plan to extend this to them?
I want to inform you that rural women across the five geopolitical zones participated in this. You know that I told you that this took took us five years to do. There had been collaboration between the federal and state ministries. Recall that agriculture is on the concurrent legislative list. So the policy is targeting the rural dwellers; the poorest of the poor, that is the women in agriculture.
Why did the government linit this to the women to the exclusion of the men?
Women are the gatekeepers of the agriculture, because they produce the food we are eating. Of course there are gender disparities. Women carry out about 70% of agricultural production; 60% of agricultural processing activities and; 50% of animal-husbandry related activities and yet this segment of the society has less than 20% access. This is an impediment toward realisation of food security in the country.
Therefore if you empower this segment in the society, you are empowering the entire nation; you are enhancing food security; you are reducing crimes and criminaliteis, because agriculture is not only an issue of economic venture, but also a security to the nationa. But once a nation sees that it is able to feed itself, it reduces crime and crminality in the society.
How do you empower them; is it through finance or provision of crops and farm implements?
We have staregic plans of empowering women, which includes ensuring that we mobilize them toward having access to finance, which is key to agricultural productivity. We are going to galvanize women in their groups and linking them up with Bank of Industry, BoI and Bank of Agriculture, BoA where they will be able to access fund. As I said earlier, we shall ensure that they have women training technology. We are equally ensuring that the issue of climate change are addressed, because climate change is a scorge that has a devastating effect on agriculture and women are actually proportionately affected by adverse wether condition occationed by climate change. The unit intends to do everything within its power to adapt a strategy toward reducing the vulnerability of climate change on farming.
How do you differentiate the real farmers from political farmers and how do you monitor them after the empowerment?
We have a dosier of farmers’ information across the nation. In the six geopolitical zones, we have their contacts, numbers and where they belong; the women group that the ministry have. We get in tourch with them through their NGOs. So the NGOs stand as medium through their empowerment. We don’t empower them individually, but through their NGOs so as to get to them in order to achieve the aims.
Having been talking about women alone, inorder to make agriculture viable and ballance it, do you have any plan for the men; their husbands?
Yes we do. Gender is all about men and women. We have a progromm known as gender justice; where there will be a forum where the men and women will have shared responsibilities in case of access and control. You know that in a family setting, because of the vulnerability of the women, some of them have access, but they don’t have control over the resources. We plan a workshop on that where you have family; men and women will come and we give them the advantage of having shared responsibilities in terms of funds that come to the family.
What would be your message to farmers in general?
Let them bring themselves together in groups so as to access the offer the ministry is giving to them in terms of access to agricultural inputs.