Every women is a star says a Maggi advert. But every woman is a champion in the agricultural sector.
The issue of food security lies strongly in the chain of sustainable production of food and women plays a significant role in attaining the much concerned food security. Let me explain some of the several aspect of the value chain in which women’s involvement is critical.
a. Farm and Field Activities:Counting in figures revealed that millions of women work on the farm as farmers and farmer workers. Regardless of gender disparity, majority of women own their own farm land while few of them work as hired labor and family labor for their husband and relatives. The range of activities women performed on the farm as farmers include production of food crops and cash crops such as vegetables, maize, yam, rice, cowpea, millet, palm oil, cassava etc.; family labor and hired labor to clear and weed farm land, separate stalk, harvest produce and transport to the produce to the market or ban using their carrier basket and bicycle.
b. Processing Unit: Another area where women constitute a powerful force is the processing unit. Harder will one pick a processing unit in the agricultural sector without the dominance of women. Taking a lead from rice processing, cowpea processing, millet processing, cassava processing and palm oil processing, women are major players in this chain. On two different occasion, I had visited the palm oil processing unit in Ijebu-ode and Iju-Itaogbolu in Ondo state where women remove the palm oil fresh fruit, boiled and filter until it is ready for sales. These observation reveals how women took their time to process agriculture produce of their choice. Good example of processing examples also include:
• Cassava processing and utilization- pancake, flour and odorless fufu
• Processing and storage of maize garri, cassava flour, tapioca, maize flour, malted maize drink, corn meal, pap (wet and malted maize flour).
• Processing and utilization of soybean into soymilk, flour paste and soy meal
• Processing and storage of fresh tomatoes into tomato paste.
• Rabbit meat processing and utilization
• Processing and storage of melon
• Cocoyam processing and utilization into cocoyam flour for soup thickening and cocoyam chips etc.
c. Marketing and Trading Unit: Women are good seller as well as good buyer. Backed in the village where women aggregators will walk through the farm to buy-off the harvested cassava and yam produce to sell off to the larger market. Studies have revealed the long reign of women in the marketing aspect of the value chain with their tentacle wide spread to retailing and wholesales of agricultural produce. Having visited some notable markets with special attachment to Mile 12 market and Idi-oro markets in Lagos state, it is no doubt that bulk of women are exploring the potentials in the agricultural sector.
d. Research and Extension Field: Quite a number of women has arouse for the needed transformation in the agricultural sector. Not only do they see themselves as champions but also as change agent who can represent women interest in the agricultural sector and in decision making process as well as policy formulation. NIWARD, AWARD to mention few, of those representing women’s interest in the agricultural sector.
e. Champion in Utilization: Women are of course champions in pricing of agricultural commodities and its utilization. It is often said in pidgin language that “soup wey sweet, nah money kill am”meaning every sweet and delicious meal is a function of money but I want to believe that there a person behind the preparation that actually brought out the aroma. After engaging in production, marketing, processing, women still end up cooking meals for the children and husband. “They (women) play vital roles in the maintenance of our families, investing as much as 90 per cent of their income in the families compared to 35 per cent for men,’’. Indeed, every women deserve applaud for their tireless effort.
Although, women’s role in agriculture cannot be capture at once in a blog post but NIWARD continuous activities explains it more. Hence, there is need for government and other stakeholders to extent their arm of agricultural transformation to women, especially those in the rural area.
This blog post is written to mark a year remembrance of my beloved mother who passed away on Wednesday, 29th April 2015 but spent her last breathe to send my brothers and I to the university with her hard earn income from both agricultural and non-agricultural related work.
Photo Credit:Seun James TaiwoPhotograhy