By Favour Sokolayam Jacob
The Small-scale Women Farmers Organisation in Nigeria (SWOFON) in partnership with ActionAid Nigeria held its South-South regional forum in Calabar, Cross River State on the 11th and 12th of August and South-West forum in Ado Ekiti, Ekiti State on the 15th and 16th of August 2016.
The fora was to build capacity, advocate and establish the SWOFON state chapters in the South-South and South-West regions of Nigeria. The programs were divided into two parts; capacity building on the first day by representatives of ActionAid Nigeria and ActionAid International which included Ms. Constance Okeke, Mr. Azubike Nwokoye and Mrs. Blessing Akhile. The second part which took place on the second day comprised of interactions with duty bearers. The duty bearers in Calabar who attended the forum included the Project Manager of Agriculture Development Project in Cross River Dr. Mrs Ubi and Honourable Nkoyo, a former member of the House of Representatives who is also the focal person for Special Intervention programs by President Muhammed Buhari in Cross River State.
Women farmers from Edo, Delta, Cross River and Akwa Ibom states attended the South-South forum in Calabar.
While women farmers from Lagos, Ondo, Ogun, Osun and Kwara States attended the South-West forum in Ado-Ekiti.
Also in attendance were the directors of the federal and state ministries of Agriculture and Rural Development sent in their representatives as well.
In Ekiti state, day one comprised of building the capacity of the women on networking and forming a coalition while day two encompassed meeting with duty bearers. Day two in Ekiti State was somewhat different compared to day two in Calabar because the women expressed themselves and advocated for their issues through role play. The duty bearers present during the South-West forum included the Permanent secretary of the ministry Agriculture and Rural Development of Ekiti State- Engineer Abegunde, the Ekiti State chairperson of the chamber of commerce- Chief Kola Akosile, Dr (Mrs). Ubeku who is the women focal person of Economic community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the representative of the Project Manager of the Agriculture Development Project in Ekiti State. The private sector was not left out as representatives from Agro Nigeria Ventures Limited (AVNL) sensitized the women on the use of power tillers.
The forum in Calabar ended with the representative of the cooperative commission promising to reduce the requirement for registering a cooperative by fifty percent for farmers and the Cross River State chapter of SWOFON setting up a leadership team. Ekiti was no different as the chairman of the chamber of commerce reiterated the availability of funds and credit facilities which farmers can easily access.
The Participants came as representatives from different farmer groups like Women in Agric (WIA) Association of Small Scale Agro Producers in Nigeria (ASSAPIN) and All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN) among other organisations.
SWOFON is a coalition of women farmers associations and groups across Nigeria started with the support of ActionAid Nigeria in August of 2012 and exists with the goal of advocating for and supporting women farmers especially those in rural areas to spur rural village economic development, increase food production through capacity building of smallholder women farmers to demand for their rights and privileges from the duty bearers while serving as vocal and visible pressure group on behalf of small holder women farmers in Nigeria.