There is no doubt that women play important roles in agriculture but they are also exposed to many risks – from different sources. These women also face a lot of challenges whiles playing their respective roles in the agricultural value chain.
Safia Yahaya says the major challenge women farmers face is insecurity.
Safia Yahaya, 48, a mother of two who cultivates three crops in Kogi State, shares her experience with PREMIUM TIMES.
PT: Which crops do you cultivate?
Mrs Yahaya: I cultivate rice, cassava, and cashew.
PT: When did you start farming as a business?
Mrs Yahaya: I started farming about 20 years back.
PT: Land is often a major problem for women farmers. How have you overcome this in the last 20 years?
Mrs Yahaya: I started farming in the village where I made use of the family land until I relocated to town where I bought my own land.
PT: What is the size of the land?
Mrs Yahaya: The land is five hectares. Not very big.
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PT: Nigerian farmers always find it difficult to get quality seeds. How do you get your seeds and where?
Mrs Yahaya: You are very correct and I am not exempted from these farmers. Sometimes, I get my seed myself, I have to preserve some of the seeds that I have. I get some from the anchor borrowers programme like in the rice aspect where I get rice for planting from the rice farmers association.
PT: How did you select these crop? And why are you not cultivating beans, sorghum and other crops?
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Mrs Yahaya: I considered the soil, what grows well on our soil. I chose them because that’s what’s good for our land. If you plant something not good for the land you might not have much yield, so I plant these as they give me much yield. Secondly, for business. I farm to make money and take care of my basic needs.
PT: Have you heard of improved varieties?
Mrs Yahaya: Yes I have, like seeds from ABP are improved.
PT: Five hectares of land is quite large, do you use machines?
Mrs Yahaya: Yes I use machines, but gender-friendly machines like power tillers.
PT: Where do you get your machines from?
Mrs Yahaya: I bought one and sometimes the ministry of agriculture gives to farmers but we pay a percentage of the charge before they give us.
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PT: Do your children assist you on your farm?
Mrs Yahaya: I don’t use my children as labour on my farm like I would employ labourers. They follow me to my farm to do the farm work when they want to and they are free while I hire labour from outside.
PT: What is your average output?
Mrs Yahaya: I mainly take record for rice. So before the flood came this year, I had already harvested almost 20 tonnes of rice.
PT: How do you preserve your crops after harvest?
Mrs Yahaya: I use the warehouse, which is not so big. I really do not cultivate, harvest and store. There are middlemen who gives money to farmers to cultivate and then take from the produce. I happen to be among farmers who run the business like this, so I don’t have much to put in the warehouse.
PT: Do you also consume from your produce?
Mrs Yahaya: I am a family woman so some of my produce get home for my family, then I sell also because that is the major reason I started farming business .
PT: Where do you sell your produce?
Mrs Yahaya : Aside from the middlemen who get some of the goods, I sell at Kogi State International Market.
PT: How do you manage disaster on your farm like flooding?
Mrs Yahaya : At the earlier stages there are always signs. If these signs are seen, the crops are not allowed to dry before harvest so I harvest them and take them home to dry.
PT: How do you preserve the goods you don’t sell?
Mrs Yahaya: This is very rare because of the middlemen transactions. But in situations where I have leftovers, I put them in sacks and put in the house.
PT: Does your husband support you?
Mrs Yahaya : Yes, he does. He does help me financially and physically as he follows me to the farm.
PT: Do you get support from the government?
Mrs Yahaya: We do get little support from the government but this support is not sufficient for us.
PT: Have you benefited from any palliative?
Mrs Yahaya: No, I have not benefited from any palliative.
PT: Do you experience discrimination from male farmers?
Mrs Yahaya: Yes, and this is often. You know men always have that attitude in anything they are doing. They feel they are superior to women. When inputs are brought to farmers the men do take it first and then what will be left will not be sufficient for the women folks.
PT: Have you been harassed because of your gender?
Mrs Yahaya : No. I have not been harassed because of my gender.
PT: Are women harassed in your state because of gender?
Mrs Yahaya: Yes. We are like in a situation where inputs are given and we are to take first, men always insists on taking first which is therefore harassment.
PT: What will you describe as your biggest challenge in farming?
Mrs Yahaya: My biggest challenge in farming is insecurity. We cannot go to the farm when we want to again. Before, we could go as early as 5 a.m. and then before 10 a.m. we are back. But now, we have to go in clusters. When you are ready, some people are not; so you have to be patient as there is kidnapping around.
PT: Is there anything you want to request for?
Mrs Yahaya: The major challenge is insecurity, so I want the government to help us tackle insecurity for women in farming because when you see what is consumed, 70-80 percent is from the women.
PT: Where do you see change?
Mrs Yahaya: The change has started. In fact, it started when the present administration led by President Mohammed Buhari came on board. we realised that farming is a business. He supports farming through different means like the CBN and so many other means. So farming is a business, not slave work.