By Emeka Nwokocha
Small-scale Women Farmers Organization in Nigeria (SWOFON), Environmental and Rural Mediation Centre (ENVIRUMEDIC), Delta State Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources, have expressed the need to strengthen collaboration in order to harness and improve productivity in agriculture sector so as to achieve food security in the state.
This was made known during a one day programme, tagged, “Dissemination of Community Score Card On Smallholders Women Farmers’ Access to Delta State Cassava Development Programme 2019-2022,” organised by ENVIRUMEDIC with support from ActionAid Nigeria, on Wednesday 10th May 2023, at Orchid hotel, Asaba, capital of Delta State.
Speaking at the event, the Senior Programme Officer for ENVIRUMEDIC, Mr. Lucky Enegide, said that the community score card was the outcome of an assessment of the implementation of the Delta State Cassava Development Programme 2019-2022″ carried out by SWOFON and ENVIRUMEDIC, stating that the community score card would draw government’s attention to the limitations that Smallholders Women Farmers encounter in accessing the State’s Cassava Development Programme. He added that such information would spur the government to addressing the limitations and fostering development in the agriculture sector.
While presenting the community score card, Mr. Alex Okekporo, Programme Officer for the Scaling-Up Public Investment in Agriculture (SUPIA) project, stated that the assessment relied on the data collected from 228 smallholders’ women farmers drawn from 12 local government areas across the three senatorial districts of the state.
He outlined the objectives of the assessment to include:
To assess smallholder women farmers access to the Agric Ministry’s Cassava Development Programme in the state; to provide information on smallholder women farmers’ rating of their access to the Programme, to government, media and the public; to advocate for improved and increased access of smallholder women farmers to the cassava development programme; to engage with policy makers at different levels with a view to achieving an increase in investment and “qualitative” spending in agriculture that targets the smallholder farmers, especially women.
Reeling out the findings of the assessment, Okekporo identified inherent challenges that limited the farmers’ access to the Cassava Development Programme, and the compelling need for the Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources to address the shortcomings.
Speaking, Mr. Emikpe Chinedum of Delta State Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources, commended ENVIRUMEDIC for carrying out the assessment, stating that the information would further enhance the operations of the ministry in future interventions and Implementation of programmes.
He, however, advised that the result of the assessment could be strengthened if ENVIRUMEDIC would make further effort to get from the State’s Agric Ministry, a comprehensive information on the strategies and procedures by which the cassava development programme was successfully implemented, affirming that a good number of the targeted farmers across the state benefited from the programme.
Responding to the bottlenecks in assessing government tractors by farmers, Chinedum, stated that the services of government owned tractors are readily available to farmers whose farm lands would not obstruct the operations of the tractors, stating that the tractors cannot work efficiently on farmlands that have trees and other “obstacles.”
He further advised the farmers, saying, “Farmers that have small plots of farms should endeavour to form clusters to be able to attract better incentives the government provides to improve agriculture in the state, adding that one of the commendable steps by the government to improve agriculture is by encouraging large scale farming.
He said, “Government will assist farmers who have large farms measuring 2 hecters by providing such services as clearing the farm, preparing it for planting, and more, even as he added that women farmers would benefit 50% of the services.
He advised smallholders’ women farmers to acquire contiguous farmlands and easily attract better government incentives that will improve their farms.
Also speaking, the Director of Extension, Delta Agric and Rural Development Authority (DARDA), Ogboru Mamode, representing the Programme Manager, DARDA, said that efforts were being made to strengthen the services that extension officers give to farmers to improve farm productivity. She advised farmers to get themselves acquainted with the operations of the agric officers and ensure they get their information properly documented, and also be abreast of government’s programmes for farmers to be able to key into them.
Mamode applauded Delta State government for its commitments towards development of agriculture, saying, “Currently, there’s ongoing trainings for maize and tomatoes farmers being organized by the Agric Ministry.”
She called on farmers to take advantage of the training to improve their knowledge on how to grow maize and tomatoes.
In the same vein, the Director of Planning, Research and Statistics, Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Ms Aniye Isioma, acknowledged that accurate data of farmers in the state would aid the Agric Ministry to plan better and enhance its impacts on the agriculture sector, saying, “Government is putting modalities in place to ensure that accurate data of farmers will become possible in no distant time.”
The highpoint of the event was a press briefing section and presentation of the recommendations of the score card on measures for addressing poor access, lack of participation of smallholder women farmers in the state ministry cassava development programme among other challenges was presented by Dr. Rachael Missan-Ruppee, State Coordinator, SWOFON as follows:
There should be aggressive awareness creation on the government cassava development program in the State; Smallholder women farmers should be included in designing the cassava development program, to ensure effective implementation; There should be equitable distribution of farm inputs across the state; There should be adequate budgetary allocation to farm inputs in the yearly agriculture budget; There should be timely distribution of inputs to smallholder women farmers; There is need for the inclusion of Smallholder women farmer organizations, CSOs and other stakeholders in policy making processes, to ensure proper needs of farmers are always captured; Data of farmers, especially smallholder women farmers should be available and regularly updated to ease planning; Farmers that do not have farmlands accessible by tractors are advised to move to other locations where tractors can work, to enable them benefit from the cassava development programme; Farmers that have small plots of farmlands are encouraged to practice cluster farming in order to benefit from large scale farming incentives.
Present at the event were members of SWOFON, Senior Officers of the Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources, and media personnel.