Two young students in Benin
Two young students in Benin

Day 5: My daughter wants to be a farmer

13 December, 2012 | Future of Agriculture: Online Discussion

Many and varied are the challenges we Nigerian women farmers face, from lack of land to uncertain markets to the daily burden of maintaining the household. Working as day labourers brings its own uncertainties. No wonder a future in agriculture is unattractive to Nigerian youth.

By Susan Godwin, Nigerian Farmer

When I think of the future of agriculture, I have to say that the youth here in Nigeria do not want to be farmers. They see it is very difficult. They see how hard we work and how little we have, nothing. I have five children. One of them works in the city and the rest live with me. I have a daughter who is 18. She did not go to school and she wants to stay and be a farmer. Now, everything we do is done manually. Maybe modernization would make it more attractive to them. 

The lack of markets is also a problem. In 2011, we heard that there was a good market for yams in Lagos, so we hired a lorry to carry the yams there. However, once they arrived, they were not off-loaded for three months. By that time, they had spoiled and the money we earned from selling them did not even cover the cost of the transportation!

“We have to hire the land from the men farmers.”

Here, women farmers have lots of challenges. We lack access to land, and the men want to collect the money we get from farming. We have to hire the land from the men farmers. I am married and I have to rent land for myself and for my daughter. Other time they will say you will go to bed hungry and you will go to bed without eating. 

Men also want women to work on their farms, and take advantage of women when they hire them. Only on those days will they give women something to eat. 

Women farmers should be given land so that we can farm. Maybe the government will make a decree to give us access to land. We, the women, have to come together to have a common goal, and then we can go to the government and tell them that this is our problem. 

“With more access to land, we could rotate crops and get higher yields.”

With more access to land, we could rotate crops and get higher yields. The land women get to farm is usually degraded. Men don’t think about the fact that women are farming in order to feed and educate their children, because the men in their households have not done that. There is no access to credit for women. You have to invest out of your own money. 

For women, we have to wake up early, cook breakfast, go to the farm and work there, then gather wood on our way back from the field, and then come home to prepare the family dinner. Men go to their fields and then they come back and they have a rest. They even go out. As for the women, we don’t have time. We are exhausted. But we still have to farm. You can’t think about that. 

What I like about farming is that you control your own schedule. If you want to go to the field and work, then you can. But if you are tired, you can stay home for a day to rest.

“I get no support from the government extension system.”

I want the Nigerian government to help the small-scale farmer, to have access to new methods of farming, even if we have to pay for it. Also give them access to loans. As a farmer, I get no support from the government extension system. And when they come, we can’t even understand what they are trying to teach us because they speak a different language. In the future, if government extension agents could speak local languages, that would improve the situation. 

“If one day, there was no food in the markets, then people would realize farmers are also contributing to the well-being of the country.”

Having education would help my daughter to live better and have more interest in what she’s doing. If she could learn about new farming techniques then that would help her be a good farmer. 

At times, it seems the things that we are doing are not appreciated. So I think to myself, let all of us farmers move to the cities. If one day, there was no food in the supermarkets and in the local markets, then people would finally realize that farmers are also contributing to the well-being of the country. When our children all go to the cities and buy food in the supermarkets, I will still be farming my piece of land. I will not stop farming because that is where my income is. Everything is there. 

Download: My daughter wants to be a farmer


Farming models of the future

Yesterday's discussion continued the conversation on agriculture's use of energy, and also considered the relative importance of changes in policies and consumer demand for achieving sustainability; but how much can poor consumers (including farmers) influence overall market dynamics? Week one of the debate concludes today with three essays on farming models. 
Debenbam proposes an ‘incorporated’ farm model to reduce costs and improve access to market knowledge, industry technology and innovations, and financial tools. Under this business model, each smallholder could choose whether to be a shareholder only, or both a wage-earner and a shareholder. Nicolás Ibáñez proposes three models for the southern Peruvian Andes. Which model or combinations of these will make farming sufficiently appealing and profitable for younger generations so Godwin doesn’t have to worry about her (grand)daughters’ futures?

winners and losers

Great contributions today and the days before! There is a good lot of ideas and positive scenarios for the future.

One thing keeps pondering my mind though which is the effect of large scale production, competition and non-stop quest for innovation. Doesn’t a market economy necessarily come with winners and losers, not to speak of the unequal starting-of people across the globe? The contribution of Debenham is very interesting as he takes a realistic point of departure and combines it with ‘developmental’ wisdom of organizing women and men, and pointing out to the position of women. Godwin’s input shows how important it is that women and men farmers not only get but also seize the opportunity of producing in accordance with the new laws, including land rights. In case not they may lose out and become a marginal, impoverished group. Ibanez and others have described how this could be avoided and how the struggle for identity could turn to into a driver for biodiversity. So maybe a win-win situation exists after all?

World Food Production

"Forecasts indicate world food production must grow at least fifty per cent by 2050, to feed a population of nine billion people. Can this be done in a way that eradicates hunger and preserves the environment?"

I suggest the above is the wrong question.   The question should be can the world support nine billion people,  and why should we even try?

A UN Scientific study in 2007 indicated the world is heading for 9.2 billion by 2050 which was stated as being way beyond what the world can support.

It will be our children who will face shortages of the necessities for life followed by conflict and death for many.   Is that what we want?

I wish Oxfam would help our existing population,  and promote acceptance by us all to show our love for our children by having no more than will replace us.   Any other approach will bring disaster,  is that what Oxfam wants?