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Jigawa women farmers decry neglect as govt pays lip service to agriculture

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Elijah Ojonicko AKOJI


FOR most farmers, rainfall brings blessings and gains. But in Madori Local Government Area, Jigawa State, it has become a source of concern for smallholder farmers. Madori and environs have witnessed an unusual downpour in recent times, disrupting life in the largely agrarian communities.

Heavy rainfall and the ensuing flooding often wreak havoc, leaving blown roofs of schools, mosques, churches and destroyed farmlands in its wake.

Maryam Murtala is a farmer at Madori. She witnessed the flooding of her farmlands last year and she is now wary of engaging in any farming activity even as the rains approach this year.


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“Now the rainy season is about to start and I don’t have enough capital to go for the seasonal crop production. I farmed last year and made no gains at all. There was heavy rainfall and my farmland was destroyed. I was only able to salvage a little harvest,” Murtala says.

Unlike the case of Maryam, Nana Salau, a farmer in Daula Garki LGA, which was ravaged by the shortage of rainfall, had an abysmal harvest last year. The situation was worsened because she had no access to farm inputs such as fertilizer and herbicides to boost and protect her harvest, considering the effect of climate change. She resorted to irrigation farming through the use of water pumping machines.

“It has been a season of hunger and hardship for me and my children. We have had to depend on assistance from people, but I have been able to secure irrigation farmland which I am going to pay, both for the land and the pumping machine from the proceeds of my harvest, instead of depending on the government that doesn’t know that we exist,” Salau, a widow and mother of six, says.

Nana Salua in her irrigated farm
Nana Salua in her irrigated farm

Women in Roni, Gwiwa, and Jahun council areas have lived in hardship and difficulty ever since the flooding left them in a hopeless condition last year. Many of them are yet to recover from the loss and damage caused by the flood and cannot return to their farms this season.

The prices of farm inputs such as fertilizers, herbicides and labor have increased and with the neglect from the government, these women are scared and losing hope of getting a bumper harvest this year, particularly if prices of these inputs do not go down.

“I was forced and left with no option of selling out some of my birds at give-away prices last year so as to buy fertilizer and herbicides for my farm which was all wiped away by the flood,” Nana says.

Lamenting her predicament, Hadiza Bala in Roni LGA looks at the issue from the perspective of the impact on her children’s education.

“The future of my children’s education depends on the outcome of our outcry for support. This farm is the main source of their school fees and our daily livelihood: if we do not farm only God knows what will happen to us,” she states.

Jigawa State has quite a history of flooding that should bother the government. In 2019, the state witnessed flooding triggered by incessant rain. The flood destroyed no less than 3,000 farmlands, infrastructure, and about 120 houses. In October 2020, the floods sacked over 10,000 persons from their villages and destroyed 100,000 hectares of farmlands across the state.

The Executive Secretary of State Emergency Management Agency Sani Yusuf Babura explains that the flooding caused serious hardship to the people of the state and also resulted in the death of 41 persons and loss of property worth billions of naira.

While many experts have attributed incessant flooding to different reasons including climate change, the attendant impact on livelihoods is often indescribable.

Jigawa State Coordinator of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) Kabir Maimuna tells our reporter that the problems of hunger and food insecurity in Madori, Roni, Gwiwa, Garki, and Jahun communities caused by flood remain a thing of concern and is likely to persist and even increase dramatically unless urgent and concerted action is taken.

This food insecurity and resulting malnutrition caused by incessant flooding can be attributed to poor funding of sustainable policies, limited mechanised farming, poor rural development, and prohibitive practices that disenfranchise women farmers.

“We are very far from achieving food sovereignty because our government keeps taking steps backward for the agriculture sector. Worse, women farmers in rural areas have to beg the government for support, especially during disasters such as floods. Our women farmers are key for sustainability in the agricultural sector, but they are undermined and their legitimate demands are met with mere lip services,” Maimuna says.

 Jigawa State government pays lip service to the plight of smallholders farmers

Jigawa State government has accorded the plights of farmers, including smallholder women, in the state little attention. In 2019, N8.67 billion was budgeted for agriculture, which was 5.5 per cent of the total budget of N157.5 billion with no single plan for smallholder women farmers. Also, in 2020, N 10.88 billion was also appropriated for agriculture, which surpassed the preceding year by 25.5 per cent with an increase of about N2.2 billion. Yet the sector continues to remain in a pitiable state.

Also, in 2021, N12 billion was budgeted for the agricultural sector, which was 7.7  per cent of the total budget of N156.58bn of the state,  without any provisions for smallholder women farmers in the state for over three years, leaving these women hopeless and at the mercy of their own effort.

This negligence is against the Federal Government and the United Nations agenda, which include empowering rural women farmers to be self-sufficient and contributing to avert the problem of food security.

Women in Jigawa State have continued to play an active role in the agribusiness chain. Yet, because they are women, they are held back by unequal access to resources – especially finances – that will help make them become more successful.

In 2019 and 2020, when the state witnessed incessant flooding, the government made no provision for palliatives or any emergency livelihood resuscitating programmes.

A visit by our reporter to some of the farms owned by smallholder women farmers, under the aegis of SWOFON, have made some revelations  about their challenges.

Yanbiu Hassan in her flooded Farm now used for irrigation Farming

Some of their farmland has already been destroyed by the flood, which means this year’s farming season will come and go without any active farming. It will be risky going back to the farm if there is no proper assistance provided.

Our reporter discovers that despite being faced with this flood, the women still have to walk long distances to be able to access their farmland. And the problem is not just the distance. The roads leading to some of their farms are in such terrible conditions that even if the women succeed in having a successful farming season, they will have to use either horses or carmels to bring their harvest home. It takes the reporter several hours to access some of their farms.

Yanbiu Hassan shares her pain on how she had to vacate her own home to seek shelter in a classroom for several months after losing all her farm produce, which was almost due for harvest, to the deadly flooding of 2020. The COVID 19 pandemic worsened the situation.

She rues the neglect of the government and how she was at the mercy of all kinds of individuals from the Hadeja Community who helped her and her family with food and clothes.

“I have no single plan of farming this coming rainy season. As you can see, this is the farmland and I am preparing to take shelter somewhere else and return after the rain,” she says.

“I am more comfortable with irrigation farming now, even though I don’t have the financial strength to do that.”

She narrates how she lost all her savings to the flooding in 2020, believing it was going to be a rich harvest for her. She says that despite her investment, human effort, the high cost of fertilizer, pesticides, and other farming inputs used on the farm, everything was all washed away.

The same is the story for Maryam Murtala, a rice farmer in Madori Local Government, who says that despite that she is displaced, luck has fallen on her and she has been able to have some harvest from her farmland far away from the flooded area. She adds that she lost complete farmland capable of producing over 20 bags of rice.

“I still live with the fear of returning to my farm this year as I am yet to recover from last year’s damages,” Maryam says.

Maryam Murtala in her  rice and wheat farm destroyed by flood
Maryam Murtala in her  rice and wheat farm destroyed by flood

“All we hear the government say on radio is “Manoma Ku din ga kula da canji yanayi, Kar ruwa ya Yi muku taadi” which means, farmers should always watch for climate change so that rain won’t destroy their harvest. ”

Adding to her pains is the reality of paying the loan she took to buy fertilizers for her farm affected by the flood. Her anguish is the fact that there is supposed to be a government that should have made them feel less pain despite the whole loss, waving off the loans taken by these women, supplying food, shelter as well as providing financial aid to help to reduce their pains.

But it is a different case for Maryam as she had to bear the loss all by herself. In her struggle for survival, she had to rely on irrigation farming far away from her community to be able to feed her family and raise some resources from it to solve other family needs.

“Now the rainy season is about to start and I don’t have enough capital to go for the seasonal crop production. I will not farm this year unless I get support or intervention,” she says.

“As it stands, instead of preparing to go back to the farm, some families are preparing to vacate their homes to save their lives first,” Maryam further says.

The women farmers in Tsubut community, RoniLGA, seem to have similar problems, with the shortage of rain being their major headache.

Hajjiya Ada Bala and Hadiza Bala who farm maize, millet, soya-beans, and rice, narrate to our reporter that the closure of markets last year caused them and other women unimaginable hardship.

Ada Bala
Ada Bala

“We had some bags of rice and millet from the previous year’s harvest we needed to sell to be able to raise some money and buy fertilizer. But the market were all closed down and no support came from the government,” Ada says.

She says the shortage of rainfall is one of their problems, explaining that without adequate rainfall they cannot expect to have a bountiful harvest, particularly as they cannot afford to buy fertilizer.

Hadiza Bala and Halima Abdullahi share the same fate with other women farmers in the Amaryawa community.

“Last year was indeed a trying year for us. As rural farmers, we were left to our fate to either die or survive, all hope on the government remains a mirage till date,” Halima says.

Although our reporter observes that most of their land looks dry without proper nutrient, unlike the land in Madori which looks dark and fertile and would require little fertilizer

Hadiza explains that in a normal farming season, she buys around five to six bags of fertilizers but the high cost of this input has forced her to resort to buying just a few bags and mixing it with local manure.

Hadiza Mohammed, a widow and a mother of four, tells our reporter how she lost her husband several years ago to acute typhoid because she could not afford to buy him the needed drugs prescribed at the primary health care center.

Hajj Hassana Usman leader smallholder women farmers in Tsubut community
Hajj Hassana Usman leader smallholder women farmers in Tsubut community

Hadiza and her children who live far away from their farm have to walk a long distance before accessing their farm. The reporter realises that it takes the family 45 minutes to get to the farm where they cultivate rice, maize, and millet.

“It’s our source of livelihood. We do this daily and we are now used to it,” she says, adding that farming can be a lucrative business if there is required support and resources.

“I rely on my children who do most of the farming activities on the farm while I instruct and support them since we don’t have the resources to employ other workers.”

Hadiza corroborates the story of other women in the community who say that the shortage of rainfall has affected those who cultivate rice, millet, guinea corn, and beans.

“I wish I can have access to credit facility and affordable fertilizer and herbicide to utilise the irrigation farming by digging a deep well in my farm,” Hadiza says.

In Gwiwa Local Government Area, where their major focus is irrigation farming, Kalimatu Usman narrates her flooding experience as a disaster she never wishes to relive again. For that reason, she has resorted to irrigation farming. This is also the case of Nana Maruf, whose farmland was also wiped away by flooding last year and this has forced her into utilising the dry season farming through irrigation.

“I lost almost everything I cultivated last year and I won’t want to make such a mistake again as I have resort to focusing on irrigation farming,” Nana says.

Kalimatu rice farm destroyed by flood
Kalimatu rice farm destroyed by flood

Our reporter observes that although the water from last year’s flooding has dried off, the farmers may still fall victim to another disaster considering their closeness to the Kafin Zaki Dam and also the nature of their soil.

Access to Nana’s farm requires crossing a big ditch and if rain comes, she will be virtually denied access to her farmland.

Duala Garki is a community deprived of virtually all the basic amenities of life and it takes over a one-hour ride on a motorcycle on a very bad sandy road from Garki main town.

Nana Salau Duala and Hajiya Sabuwa narrate to our reporter how climate change has always affected them. Sabuwa explains that the shortage of rainfall has affected her harvest.

“We make money from the sales of our harvest and when it is affected, we cannot repay the loan we have taken, neither can we send our children to school since we will have to pay school fees,” she notes.

Also, access to affordable fertilizer, herbicide, and other farming inputs remains a big challenge for Hajiya Sabuwa.

This is also the case of Sahabatu, whose major concern is to see how they can improve their harvest, which, over the years, has declined – in terms of income level which is driven by their harvest.

Although the shortage of rainfall constitutes a major problem, our reporter observes that irrigation farming is a common practice and since farmers cannot also have large-scale irrigation farming, they have resigned to a fate of seasonal farming through the aid of rainfall.

Women farmers in Makani Jahun Local Government Area, which is a few hours drive from Jahun town, in the state capital, are also not spared. The women say that in recent times, they have been faced with a myriad of frustrating issues, including climate change, vandalism of their farmland by cattle as well as the increase in the prices of fertilizer, herbicides among other needed farming inputs.

Maryam’s Flooded Rice Farm in Madori Jigawa state still yet to dry up
Maryam’s Flooded Rice Farm in Madori Jigawa state still yet to dry up

Interestingly, Sadiya Mohammed and Zuwwaira Sule, mother of six, who have found it increasingly difficult to grapple with the impact of the flooding that destroyed their farmlands and crops last year, still want to take the risk of going back to the farm.

But they explain that it is because they have no other choice.

“This is our only source of livelihood. How do we survive if we keep avoiding our farm because of the flood?” Zuwwaira queries.

Most of the peasant farmers do not have access to mechanised farming implements as they still use their old farming tools which are energy and time-consuming.

Interestingly, women farmers in Nigeria, under the aegis of the Small scale Women Farmers Organisation of Nigeria (SWOFON), while demanding a gender-friendly farming system in Abuja last year, retired their cutlasses and hoes in their numbers as an agitation against the government neglect. In a symbolic gesture, the women handed over their hoes to the government at the Arts and Culture Centre.

This agitation remains a mirage as women farmers in Jigawa State still rely on the old system of farming which contradicts the government’s agenda of making agriculture drive economic recovery, create employment, and put food on the table at stable prices for Nigerians by empowering women farmers.

In an interview with the Jigawa State Director of Admin and Finance in the state Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources Hamza Adamu, who speaks on behalf of the commissioner, says that the government is fully aware of the women farmers’ group and that the ministry is doing its best to ensure their agitations are addressed as another rainy season draws near.

“No responsible government will ignore the plight of people, particularly women who greatly contribute to the GDP of the state,” Ibrahim says.

“The government did her best and made available some funds for compensation and I am very sure some of them were reached out to.”

Speaking to the reporter, a lecturer at the Department of Agriculture, Federal University, Dutse, Garba Bala says the government needs to pay more attention to women farmers as they contribute a lot  to the economy of the state through agriculture. He adds that “seeing that they are abandoned or ignored should trouble any leader in this state.”

“In Jigawa State, climate issues such as erosion and flooding, dry spell, drought and desertification, increasing water requirement by crops and shortage of cultivable lands remain the troubling issues faced by farmers in the state,” Bala acknowledges.

“Most farmlands have been turned into ‘badlands.’ Sheet erosion in particular washes the topsoil and nutrients, thereby exposing the subsoil which is very poor in nutrients, hence leading to a drastic reduction in crop yield which requires fertilizers, but unfortunately, not all women have the financial capacity to afford the use of fertilizer so they resort to using local manure.”

“Agriculture in the state suffers poor funding. This may affect the production output, thus threatening food security in the state,” Bala concludes.

Policy deficiency and budgetary exclusion of smallholder women farmers in Jigawa State 

According to the United Nations women, in marking the role of women in development, food production, and poverty eradication, “if women farmers had the same access to tools and credit facilities, there will be up to 150 million fewer hungry people.”

Smallholder women farmers in Nigeria are involved in all aspects of agriculture. This ranges from seasonal farming to irrigation. They are involved in planting crops, livestock production, harvesting, marketing, and processing of farm produce as well as food preparation and family care.

Yet, because they are women, they are held back by unequal access to resources – especially finances – that would help make them more successful.

While presenting the 2020 budget, Jigawa State Governor Mohammed Badaru Abubakar claims that over 12, 394 farmers have benefited from the goat breeding programme of his administration. He also claims that over 75 per cent of the state’s empowerment expenditure is directly related to the farmers.

The state budgeted N12.1 billion in the year 2021, which is relatively higher than the N10.2 billion budgeted for agriculture in the year 2020, he says.

The governor claims this is to significantly “expand agricultural production by bringing more land under cultivation with more innovative farming practices that will scale up the level of mechanisation, ensure timely access to quality agricultural inputs and extension services.”

Yet, following the breakdown of the 2021 budget for the Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of Women Affairs, the reporter observes that no provision was made to address the issues of smallholder women farmers, despite their agitations and call for assistance.

In 2020, in the aftermath of the devastating impact of the COVID 19 pandemic on their business, smallholder women farmers in the country under the umbrella of SWOFON came up with a Charter of Demands which include: access to free or subsidised farming inputs/organic fertilizer, chemicals, pesticides, and hybrid seedlings; provision of gender-friendly machinery for increased productivity such as harvesters, tillers, hand sprinklers, plows and planters; access to grants to support increased production as well as subsidised loans without interest rates or single-digit interest rate; the building of storage facilities like silos for seed preservation and agriculture business and provision of community policing and/or security patrol with local vigilante groups to improve security conditions within communities and local government areas; and construction of rural road networks for easy access to markets.

None has been addressed in the state to help solve the rising issues raised by these women.

An environment expert from at the Department of Geography, Federal University, Dutse, Nuhu Ringim says Nigeria’s climate has been changing for awhile as evidenced by an increase in temperature, variable rainfall, rise in sea level and flooding, drought and desertification; land degradation; more frequent extreme weather events; affected freshwater resources and loss of biodiversity.

The durations and intensities of rainfall have increased, he observes, producing large runoffs and flooding in many places in Nigeria.

“This is likely due to the need for greater implementation of mitigation and adaption measures in Nigeria. In addition, while there is some discussion about necessary capacity building at the individual, group, and community levels to engage in climate change responses, there is much less attention given to higher levels of capacity at the state and national level,” Ringim says.

Bridging gender-gap policy/financial Inclusion of smallholder women farmers in Jigawa

Programme coordinator for Rural Home Aid (RHM), a non-governmental organisation for the support of flood victims, Aminu Muhammed Lawal says that despite the widespread flooding, the government has not made provision for remedial measures to support persons across the affected communities.

“Disasters are inevitable and as such, it is the responsibility of the government to make necessary policies and budgetary provisions that will help reduce the pain of victims,” Aminu notes.

Considering the climate condition of Jigawa State, Aminu suggests that precautionary measures that will help avert and control such damages recorded in several areas across the state  “must be communicated to the people through the local radio in the state, just as support funds must be made available to support victims as a recovery plan to avert poverty and hunger, which are always the end result of such disasters.”

Jigawa State Coordinator of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA)  Maimuna Kabir says that agriculture is underperforming in many parts of the state for a number of reasons. Among these is the fact that women lack the resources and opportunities they need to make the most productive use of their time.

“Women are farmers, workers, and entrepreneurs, but almost everywhere they face more severe constraints than men in accessing productive resources, markets, and services,” she says.

This ‘gender gap’ in the policy/financial inclusion of women farmers hinders their productivity and reduces their contributions to the agriculture sector and to the achievement of broader economic and social development goals.

Maimuna emphasises that closing the gender gap in agriculture in Jigawa State will produce significant gains for the state by increasing agricultural productivity, reducing poverty and hunger, while promoting economic growth.

Governments, donors, and development practitioners now recognise that agriculture is central to economic growth and food security – particularly in countries where a significant share of the population depends on the sector – their commitment to gender equality in agriculture is less robust.

“Gender issues are now mentioned in most national and regional agricultural and food-security policy plans, but they are usually relegated to separate chapters on women rather than treated as an integral part of policy and programming,” Maimuna says.

Many agricultural policy and project documents still fail to consider basic questions about the differences in the resources available to men and women, their roles, and the constraints they face – and how these differences might be relevant to the proposed intervention.

As a result, experts have argued that interventions in areas such as technology, infrastructure and market access have the same impacts on men and women, when in fact they may not.

Maimuna adds that climate change is a very serious enemy to agricultural activities in Nigeria and this has negatively affected smallholder women farmers in Jigawa State.

The government holds the primary responsibility of making farming an embracing activity through provisions of fertilizers, herbicides, and seeds as well as  control of flood to help protect farmland and farmers from losing their harvest to such disasters.

“This report was made possible with support from the International Budget Partnership (IBP)”

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