Nigeria: Women fight climate change through agricultural output
By Odimegwu Onwumere
Women farmers and environmentalists in Nigeria are doing everything possible to control the effects of climate change on agriculture.
In a two-day awakening seminar arranged by the Women Environmental Programme, WEP, in partnership with the Federal Ministry of Environment for Extension Service Officers held in Makurdi, Benue State capital recently, the Executive Director WEP, Mrs. Priscilla Achakpa ostensibly decried that Nigeria was in to lose about $500 billion to climate change by 2020.
At the meeting where Achakpa was stood-in-for by Mr. George Akor, a Director in the Programme, her fears were that the country was headed to trouble if best approach is not taken to inform farmers at all levels, especially the rural women farmers, about the challenging menaces of climate change.
Statistics show that women farmers produce 28 per cent less than men in the Northern Nigeria. It is therefore the idea of many stakeholders in the agricultural and climate change management that the country must implement policies that would favour gender subject, as the lack of women in key areas has not brought about the needed result.
They judged that since the effect of climate change is global, it can easily be tackled headlong if women are given enough room to contribute ideas and frameworks to the fight. They suggested that governments at all levels in the country are not properly putting all measures in place to avoid shortsighted economic development of farmers and women’s industrial expansion.
Environmentalist Greg Odogwu had held that upon all the odds, Nigerian women are not relenting in the battle to save the environment. He made the revelation in ‘Climate change and women’.
“Nigeria is among the nations where the women battle to save the environment and entrench sustainable development. Many women are initiating laudable environmental projects and green lifestyle concepts,” he said.
Professionals are of the view that Nigerian women farmers are weathering all the challenges to their lives and livelihoods to perform. They stem from the brunt of climate change such as floods, droughts, harsh weather, and waning agricultural production.
“The population of Nigeria is growing rapidly. This has made food supply to be grossly inadequate to feed the growing population. This has led to malnutrition, increased rates of morbidity and mortality among the vulnerable groups – infants, toddlers and pre-school children.
“In Nigeria there is mass movement of people from rural to urban areas in search of more lucrative jobs,” said Imonikebe, Bridget Uyoyou, Home Economics Unit, Vocational Education Department, Delta State University, Abraka, Nigeria.
While women are toiling the most to produce household food, deforestation has become a predominant challenge in agriculture. Crops, water sources, and natural resources are becoming scarce. And women are traditionally responsible for the management of these resources and, they are suffering the-largest-part.
Despite clear challenges, Ms. Marie Francoise Marie-Nelly, World Bank Country Director for Nigeria said, Nigerian women are making progress in the agriculture sector, pointing out that women produce 16 per cent less in value terms than men per hectare of cultivated land, adding that the overall figure masks regional differences.
Whilst women are also said to be fighting climate change which has become the most serious environmental threat, they are also making sure they farm to fight against hunger, malnutrition, disease and poverty in the society, through their impact on agricultural output.
“Although, 35 per cent of women are employed in the agriculture sector, and 44 per cent of the country’s female headed households are involved in agriculture activities, only 18 per cent of rural plots are managed by female farmers,” said Ms. Marie Francoise Marie-Nelly.
“Boosting women’s agricultural productivity in Nigeria will require not only giving women access to land, but more critically improved access to finance as well as valuable information,” said Ms. Marie-Nelly.
This disclosure was contained in a research done by the World Bank and the Federal Government, which came as an answer to the suggestions that came out of the Gender Policy Dialogue, organized in 2012 in conjunction with the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID). The breach in production between male and female land administrators, according to sources, remains noticeable at the national level and should also be manifest in some parts of the country.
Bridget Uyoyou identified that the constraints to rural women’s participation in food production, as poverty, low crop yield and difficulty in acquiring loan needed to be addressed through the cooperation of the rural women farmers, community and the government. According to her, the most urgent and effective area that need attention is the area of food storage and processing.
Markus Goldstein, Gender Practice Leader, World Bank, added: “The full potential of Nigerian female farmers will only be tapped if their common challenges and different experiences across regions and social groups are fully acknowledged by agriculture programmes.”