The Federal Government and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) have expressed commitment to strengthen their collaboration with women to enhance productivity, nutrition and income generation.
Mr Musa Bukar, Director, Project Coordinator Unit, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security and Dede Ekoue, IFAD Country Director, gave the assurances on Friday in Abuja.
The duo spoke at IFAD and French Development Agency (AFD) Value Chain Northern (VCN) Nigeria Project Mission wrap-up workshop.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the overall goal of the VCN is to contribute sustainably to poverty reduction, enhanced nutrition and better resilience of rural population in the northern states of the country.
Ekoue said that in designing VCN, the organisation and other stakeholders would ensure that specific interest of women were prioritised as gender inequality carried a high cost for the economy.
She emphasised that IFAD, Federal Government and other stakeholders would be working on gender transformative approach that could empower women to enhance their productivity in agriculture, enhance the production and income.
Ekoue said that women empowerment was crucial as everyone gained, including the household and the nation, when women were empowered.
“Women empowerment is critical because it is good for the growth of agriculture, income and nutrition.
“When women have more money, they will invest in the nutrition of the family; so, nutrition will also be important.
“So, this is really important for us in line with the gender policy for agriculture developed and approved by the Federal Government of Nigeria.
“During the field mission we did everything possible to meet as many stakeholders as possible and we met over 350 actors, including farmers, youth, women, civil society organisations, private sector and governments.
“One element we think should be strengthened is the representation of women in the design process because women were less than 20 per cent of the stakeholders we met during the field work.”
Ekoue said the priority intervention the mission observed in the course of the field work was first; to make sure that the farmers had access to critical inputs to improve their productivity.
She said that the second priority was to work on the ecosystem of agriculture in the area of infrastructure that could help them enhance their production.
“The third element that is important is access to finance; farmers are always complaining about high cost of loans and also the delay in getting this funding.
“The fourth critical issue is for us is connecting the farmers with the markets; that has already been done through the Value Chain Development Programme (VCDP) Commodity Alliance Forum (COF).
“So we are going to adapt the COF also in the northeast and northwest so that more farmers can have access to market where they can sell, their products.
The country director who said priority would as well be given to youth employment, adding that the project would support entrepreneurship of young people.
“This is part of our support to the country to appease and stabilise some of the areas in the northeast and northwest that are challenged by conflict or tension.
“All of these will work together to ensure resilience; resilience to climate shocks, resilience to fragility, and what is even more important is they work together to reduce food insecurity in the region,” she said.
On his part, Bukar said the workshop as a wrap-up session towards the design of the new pipeline project termed “The Value Chain in Northern Nigeria.’’
The project, according to Bukar, will be co-funded by the AFD and IFAD and piloted in eight states of Borno, Yobe Kano, Jigawa, Katsina, Sokoto, Kebbi and Zamfara.
He said that no fewer than 456 direct beneficiaries would be captured in the project while 900,000 to one million persons across the states would indirectly benefit from the project.
According to him, the meeting is to collate responses of stakeholders from teams that visited the three zones regarding gaps in previous project, harmonise the responses and come up with a better project design.
“The value chains we are targeting are maize, rice, millet, cowpea, and sorghum; these are major staple food crops in most states in northern Nigeria.
“There was initially a project called the Climate Change Adaptation and Agribusiness Support Programme, which was also funded by IFAD, the project was closed in 2021.
“So, we went on field work to meet with the beneficiaries of that project and the direct participant to find out the gaps.
“The project is looking at agricultural technology transfer, rural economy, climate change adaptation programme, that’s the Climate Smart Agriculture; these are the gaps that we want to fill.
“We will also include the agricultural technology innovation that is Information Communications Technology for Development (ICT4D); we want to digitalise the agricultural sector, in terms of information dissemination, digitalise inputs distribution and data gathering because this is digital age,’’ he said.
Also, Xavier Muron, Country Director, AFD said the organisation had been partnering with IFAD globally in financing family agriculture.
Muron said the organisation had already invested in Nigeria agricultural sector on Rural Access and Agricultural Marketing Project (RAMP) .
“The idea basically is to connect remote areas, farmers to their customers, so we work through food corridors to prevent post-harvest losses specifically and also make sure that farmers will get value from what they produce,” he said.(NAN)