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.
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