From Esther Akaa, Lafia
Agriculture plays a vital role in advancing women’s economic empowerment and mitigating the impacts of climate change in West and Central Africa.Women are often the backbone of their communities, yet they encounter barriers that keep them from reaching their full potential. According to UN Secretary-General António Guterres, the disastrous effects of climate change make their plight even worse.There is therefore no doubt that women are crucial change agents who strive for development and there is need to recognise their significance.
According to research, the majority of unpaid caregiving and domestic work is done by women especially in rural communities and families, making up a sizeable percentage of the agricultural labour force, including informal jobs. Women significantly improve food security, nutrition, land use, natural resource management, and climate resilience while also enhancing agricultural productivity. Thus, there is need for womens role in agriculture to be strengthened and measures put in place for them to cope with the current climate crises.
In Nasarawa State, the story is not different as the rural women constitute a great percent of women and people who engage in agricultural production either to provide food for their families as well as for economic purposes. However, these women are been challenged by the effects of climate change ranging from extreme weather events, such as droughts and floods, disrupt crop yields which leads to food insecurity and economic instability.
Speaking in an interview with one of the women farmers in the state, Mrs Patricia Onoja, said women farmers in the state have lost a lot of food crops due to the effects of climate change. According to her, due to the flooding that occured in various parts of the state in 2022, farmers lost their crops especially rice which has affected food production in the state
“Women farmer’s in the state have been faced with climate change challenges that is seriously affecting the rural women in agriculture.We lost all our farmlands to flooding last year even as the finances we got was through loans.
“We were given loans that enabled us to buy fertilisers, farm inputs such as seeds and those financial institutions gave us conditions to return certain bags of rice but, unfortunately we couldn’t due to the losses due to flooding. It has become an extended loan for another year and we are finding it difficult to repay the loans,” Onoja said.
Onoja advocated for budgetary allocation on agriculture to encourage mechanisation and the application of technology in agriculture.
She also called on the government to enhance the capacity of women by teaching them new farming techniques in order to increase agricultural productivity in the state for the benefit of society as a whole.
Another rural farmer in the state, Mrs Justina Bala, said rural women were facing climate change challenges such as flooding, hot temperature, pest and diseases that had affected food production in the state.
“Women are the backbone of the nation and we support our husbands in providing for the family but we do not access finances to purchase farm inputs. The government should train us on modern ways of farming and also they should be allowed to participate in decision making process of government,” Bala said.
She, therefore called on the state government to provide resources to rural women farmers and build their capacities on modern farming techniques to improve agricultural production.
On his part, the Permanent Secretary, Nasarawa State Ministry of Agriculture, Isah Muhammad Eyah said the state government was committed to the practice of year-round farming aimed at achieving food security, hence the provision of farm inputs to farmers across the state.
“The state government has been collaborating with the Federal Government and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) in the value chain development programme for rice and cassava farmers.
“The government also monitors the process of planting & harvesting of these crops. Some farmers were given herbicides, sprayers and were trained on how to use them .
“We also subsidise the price of fertiliser to farmers. For instance, last year fertiliser was sold at subsidised rates to farmers and distributed across the 13 local government areas of the state in order to assist them,” he said.
The permanent secretary however said that the effects of climate change namely; flooding, high temperature, dry weather, pest and diseases among others were impacting negatively on farmers in the state.
He said the state government will continue to do it best in ensuring that farmers including women are trained on the modern ways of farming aimed at mitigating the effects of climate change crisis in the state in order to increase food production.
“Although our extension workers are inadequate but the state government is working out modalities to employ more to guide farmers on how to use farm inputs; seeds, fertiliser, herbicides, pesticides on their farms.
“We have also made provision for improved seeds that can withstand the hash weather condition & yield properly and our women who are into small scale farming are encouraged to engage in irrigation farming or dry season farming.
“Those involved in mechanised farming are supported by government through tractor hiring services , although the programme collapsed because of the change in government but efforts are currently ongoing to bring back the programme back on track in order to strengthen food security in the state,” he added.