WITH ONE VOICE, WE CAN CHANGE THINGS

By Halima Oji

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Rights holders and Duty bearers in Kaduna during the Interactive session

A Coalition of small-scale women farmers associations and groups under the platform of SWOFON an Initiative of ActionAid Nigeria converged in Kaduna and Bauchi states respectively for its North-West/North-East Regional Fora in their numbers representing various states in the two geopolitical zones to include: Kastina, Kano, Kebbi, Zamfara, Sokoto, Kaduna, Adamawa, Gombe, Borno, Taraba and Bauchi states. The aim was to equip them with the relevant information; tools and resources to engage the Duty-bearers at all levels and get that which they are entitled.

The event kicked off in Kaduna with two days of activity lined up. Day one saw Ms. Constance Okeke, International Manager, Public Finance for Agriculture ActionAid International facilitating the session on Network and Coalition building and Azubike Nwokoye, Programme Advisor ActionAid Nigeria taking the participants through skills and strategies in Policy Advocacy. While the second day presented a one on one interactive session between the Rights holders and Duty bearers.

Amongst the government officials in attendance in Kaduna were Mrs Vasti Shamaki Head of Unit Horticulture Ministry Agriculture Kaduna state, Mr Vincent Ahamin, Bank of Agriculture and Mrs Esther A. Duniya, Divisional cooperative Officer Kaduna South.

Participants wasted no time in bringing to light the many issues and challenges abound to small-scale women farmers in Nigeria. Dije Saidu a participant from Kano expressed sadness in the difficult processes involved in getting a NAFDAC registration done. Lack of access to fertilizer, loans/high interest rate, markets were the other issues repeated by the farmers. Without mincing words they demanded that government must stop the discrimination against women and include them in all stages of policies and budgeting to have their interests represented.

Responding, Mr. Vincent Ahamin of Bank of Agriculture reassured the farmers of the Bank’s commitment and that there was no form of discrimination against women or the poor. While admitting that the interest rate at 12% and 14% is high, the women farmers can through the SWOFON platform liaison with the Central Bank of Nigeria to get it reduce to a single digit. He also encouraged that they take advantage of the bank’s Grow and Earn More (GEM) programme target at smallholder holder farmers.

Mrs Vasti Shamaki from the Ministry of Agriculture advised that farmers make use of organic fertilizer (manure) as it is 90% better than chemical fertilizer and produces more yields. That they need to understand that government is unable to provide enough fertilizers at the moment for all farmers and timely too.

In Bauchi state it was no different as the same issues and challenges were spotlighted. The participants from Borno and Adamawa lamented over the inability to access their farm lands due to the insurgency in many parts of the North East and urged the government to intensify its efforts in tackling the Boko Haram sect for good.

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Ayuba T.Ishaya speaking on government commitment to Agriculture

Duty bearers from Bauchi state include Ayuba T. Ishaya – Director Planning Research and Statistics Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources Bauchi state, Daniel I. Abraham – Assistant Director Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Aisha Muazu – Board Member ActionAid Nigeria and Charity Nyalanke – Deputy Director Women in Agriculture amongst others.

Mr Ishaya speaking, reassured the women farmers of government commitment to providing the necessary farming inputs, access to lands and other incentives. Also the government plans on buying directly from the farmers in the near future to ease markets challenges and transport cost.

Other government officials in Kaduna and Bauchi states commended ActionAid Nigeria for the laudable opportunity, encouraged the participants to make positive use of SWOFON platform and reach out to other women farmers to join in order to be a  force to reckon with.

The National President of SWOFON, Sarah Yapwa while appreciating all in attendance, also encouraged the women farmers to go into all types of farming in order to earn more.

 

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Duty bearers and Right holder in Bauchi

At the end of the fora, the women farmers having identified advocacy issues ; Who to Advocate to; Key Message; How and when; promised to start mobilizing and follow-up on government  policies and promises.together with one voice, we are stronger and can change things” remained the key message.

 

SWOFON is an ActionAid Nigeria initiative and has subsequently spread in 34 states. It currently accommodates over 500 women farmers cooperatives and an increasing number of 500, 000 members across the country.

SWOFON South-South and South-West Regional Forum

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.

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SWOFON South-South and Duty Bearers

While women farmers from Lagos, Ondo, Ogun, Osun and Kwara States attended the South-West forum in Ado-Ekiti.

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SWOFON South-West and Duty Bearers

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.