From Petrus Obi, Enugu
Rural women in Enugu State have added their voice to the call on both the state and federal governments to implement the Malabo Declaration reached in 2004.
The women who had the support of Trust Africa converged under the aegis of Small Scale Women Farmers Organization in Nigeria (SWOFON), a women farmers group formed in 2012 by a few at the national level, which has continued to grow strongly across the states.
Since then, SWOFON has been carrying out advocacy, trainings and encouraging women farmers from the rural areas to the national level.
Thus, at the Enugu gathering, the rural women came out to lend their voice to advocacy for the 10 per cent Malabo Declaration, a demand for agriculture from the budget.
The Enugu State Chairman of SWOFON, Mrs. Lovelyn Ejim, noted that the major discourse by the women was how Enugu State has fared in making sure the value chain distribution of items in the state was effective, especially for the women.
“From our score card we have found out that it is low so we want to voice it out so that they can step it up.
“The women tried to highlight their problems which include lack of good roads to transport goods from the farms to the market. They also complained about lack of good market setting where one would be sure that as you are bringing your goods to the market there is a buyer.
“Then during the period of product glut, you find out that there is no avenue for preservation. If there is product glut there should be a preservation mechanism so that you don’t just sell for selling sake or you pour it into the gutter. Like in the case of Okro, we usually pour it into the gutter because there is no other value you can get out of it.
“There is fund, yes, but the bottleneck to access the fund is what we have been crying for them to remove. There is never a time in this country that fund is not allocated to agriculture, it has been there, but accessing the fund is the problem. They will need your collateral, for a woman what do you have as collateral, nothing. They will need referees; nobody will sign for you if your husband is not there. And most of the women, the majority of them are widows so who signs for them? If you bring your son they will tell you he is not of age; all these are bottlenecks. Sometimes you may provide all that is required but bureaucracy will frustrate you. From this table to that table, from this office to that before, it comes back the season has gone. So, all these things we want them removed and the percentage of interests should remain at one digit.
“Anchor borrowing Programme states that you have to collate names, put them together and forward it to the leaders of rice farmers who in turn forward same to the government. The government on its part processes it and sends it to Abuja. The returning process, so that it will come back to us for implementation is still hanging, and planting season is almost over. So what is needed of us we have done but what they need to do they have not,” he said.
For 70-year-old Mrs. Pauline Chukwu from Ihie in Awgu Local Government Area of Enugu State, farmers in the state can feed the entire country with enough support from the government.
“Yet, the little one we strived to cultivate, the Fulani herdsmen will destroy our crops. Even in the face of the current economic recession, we would have had food in abundance if not for the herdsmen.
“At my age I will be beaten by the rain, the sun and at the end of the day I will starve because of the activities of these herdsmen. Government must assist us with assessable loans and try to checkmate the activities of herdsmen and we would feed this country,” Mrs Chukwu maintained.
At the end, the rural women farmers agreed that the major problem facing them in rice farming in Enugu was land preparation.
“We have the land but they are still filled up with big trees, tick bushes, so it is key to rice farming in the state. If Enugu can prepare all the lands they have for rice farming they will be the wealthiest in Africa.
If only they can be sincere and use all the mechanisms they have to clear all the areas suitable for rice farming they can feed this country and even the entire Africa.
“This is because we have enough land, we have willing farmers, our land produces good quality rice and our rice is sweet. The taste of our rice because of the soil is sweet but we are not doing anything about it. Enugu rice is better than what they have in Abakaliki, I must say it, because I know the data”, Mrs Ejim, who is the national woman leader, Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria, said.