Fuel subsidy removal and declining climate conditions have been identified as some of the factors worsening small-scale farming for women in Nigeria by members of the Smallholder Women Farmers Organisation in Nigeria (SWOFON).
The women decried the rising cost of transportation, fertilisers and implements during a press briefing organised by International Budget Partnership (IBP) on Tuesday, August 22, in Abuja.
“The ensuing rise in the cost of farm inputs and transportation has had profound implications, particularly on smallholder women farmers who are the backbone of our agricultural industry.
“The removal of fuel subsidy, which has led to an undeniable increase in transportation costs, is unduly affecting the livelihoods of smallholder farmers who rely on affordable means of transportation to transport their produce from the farms to the market,” SWOFON National President Mary Afan said.
She added that farm inputs such as fertilisers, seedlings and agrochemicals have become more difficult to access due to transport challenges.
“Processing of farm produce, especially those that require petrol-powered engines, has also been paralysed by this policy direction.
“Similarly, this new reality is further compounding the woes of smallholder women farmers in Nigeria who are still grappling with the high cost of fertilizers and other agricultural inputs whose prices has since become exorbitant following the Russia and Ukraine war,” she noted.
While states like Jigawa have subsidised the cost of fertilisers, the women state that this has not helped the situation due to declining purchasing power.
Ramatu Dahiru, who represented the Jigawa State SWOFON Coordinator, stated that access to the subsidised products was limited and shared the challenges associated with accessing the products.
“They have politicised that one because from the grassroots, you have to go through the Ward level, through the Councillor, before you can get it. So when our women went there to procure, they told them that they can only get one bag. Those that are capable of buying can only get one bag. One bag is not sufficient for their farms,” Dahiru said.
They also alleged that interventions by the government were not directly targeted at smallholder women farmers, who were mostly affected by the flood.
The women also called for strengthening early warning systems on climate conditions by relevant agencies, gender-sensitive equipment and urgent palliatives measures.
SWOFON National Vice-President and Cross River State Coordinator said data collection exercises by the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET) in 2021, aimed at monitoring rainfall and planning for future climate issues, were not completed by the organisation.
“I remember some two years ago, NIMET gave us as farmers -I was one of the participants- they gave us some instruments that we placed in our farm. And we were recording the level of rainwater. Every day, we did it religiously. And we kept the documents, but they never came back to collect them. So we became like a point of ridicule.
“The instrument was there in the farm; any time it rains, we would run to collect the level of water. So I have been wondering why that project just stopped like that. I went to NIMET’s office in Calabar to submit my document because we needed the information to help our farmers against the next rainy season. But nobody seemed to know what was really happening,” she said.
Noting that some equipment had been provided in the past, the women said they were hardly sufficient for a large number of smallholder women farmers in the country.
In 2021, The ICIR reported that smallholder women farmers deal with the adverse effects of the changing climate conditions in Nigeria.
Ijeoma Opara is a journalist with The ICIR. Reach her via firstname.lastname@example.org or @ije_le on Twitter.