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Promoting Good Governance.

REPORT: How women farmers In Ondo are getting involved in governance

AS far as Olayinka Oladapo, President of Women in Farming Association of Nigeria (WOFAN), in Ondo State and her members are concerned, women farmers in the state over the years  were not given their right of place in governance despite their huge contribution to food security.

They never knew how government arrived at policies made for women, particularly those in the Agricultural sector− their inputs and opinions were never sought to be included in such policies, yet, they were made for them.

As a woman and also a farmer, she believes that there will be tremendous improvement in what women do when government intervenes, and ” that will definitely in turn, improve the society we live in.”

“I want to tell government that the only way to build a better society is to build the woman. When you empower a woman, you empower a nation,” Oladapo said after participating in a SACE project; Inclusive Agricultural Governance Cluster inauguration held in Akure, February 2018.

Strengthening Advocacy and Civic Engagement (SACE) is a USAID and Foundation for Partnership Initiatives in the Niger Delta (PIND), funded project implemented by Chemonics International between January 2, 2014 and January 1, 2019. The Inclusive Agricultural Governance Cluster was anchored by the Life and Peace Development Organization (LAPDO).

Over the years, there is a policy that promotes gender involvement in Ondo State, but there is currently no evidence to show that the policy is implemented to the letter to promote development of smallholder women farmers, Kazeem Balogun Consultant on report on the status of policy environment for small scale holders’ women farmers in the state reveals.

He says the policy that exists dated back to 2005 and is obsolete, ‘because it does not promote modern techniques of farming.’

In terms of budgetary allocation to agriculture as a sector and to women farmers, the state has not fared too satisfactory− between 2011 and 2017, it averaged 2.3 percent.

There was a remarkable difference in 2017 where 5.1 percent of the state’s budget was allocated to agriculture.

BEGINNING OF INCLUSIVENESS FOR WOMEN FARMERS

But advocacy and legwork by women farmers in Ondo State have paid off −For the first time, the State Government included women in its annual budget.

The Inclusive Agriculture Cluster anchored by LAPDO influenced provision of a new line item tagged ‘Agro Women Initiative’ for women smallholders’ farmers in the Ondo State 2018 agricultural sector budget, with an initial sum of N2 million allocated to the initiative.

After visiting the wife of the state governor, an engagement with the State Commissioner of Agriculture and interaction with state House of Assembly on terms of budgetary allocation, Oladapo says the women finally have a success story.

“And we have a success story in this area, because in Ondo State, we never had a line in agriculture for women. But through this intervention, they were able to get women into the budget line.” She reveals

But she wants the inclusiveness to go beyond the line of budget −an implementation is the ultimate goal for the women farmers.

“I want to plead with the government. We don’t want this to be business as usual. We want them to implement everything they have on the budget to the letter, so that at the end of the day, the women can smile.”

Oladapo gave credit to both SACE and LAPDO for enhancing the capacity of women to take part in governance, which, according to her, has never of concern to them.

“Yes. LAPDO got us registered with SACE and I would say it has been a very wonderful journey because along the line, we discovered a lot of things that we didn’t know before now and especially in the area of getting women involved in decision making when it comes to agricultural things.

“And before now, when you talk of budget tracking, we didn’t know anything about it. Government just comes up yearly, proposing budgets, implementing budgets. But when you talk of women in agriculture, we don’t really know that aspect.

“So what we just do is, we watch government do it, despite the fact that it is going to affect us, we don’t even know how to engage them. We don’t even know how to do it. But through the capacity building we have gotten from LAPDO, we have been able to get involved in government issues.

“It is now better for us to engage government and really get our trade improved,” Oladapo says

Benedicta Ogeoke, a fish farmer and a member of WOFAN, attests to the fact that women farmers are getting involved in governance in the state.

For her, the governance part of the Ondo State inclusive policy is an eye opener’.

A participant making contribution at the event

Ogeoke, a graduate of Fisheries says “she was never interested in any policy formation or anything that concerns the state government.

“I don’t get myself involved in budget or anything, the budget of the state, whether they are giving any quota to agriculture or female was none of my concern because I just believed that this is what I wanted to do on my own,” she adds.

But her orientation changed after attending series of training and capacity building workshops put together by SACE.

Now, she believes that women farmers in the state would soon begin to engage the state government on policies that affect them directly.

Ogeoke says the series of workshops and seminars women farmers have attended, their capacity has been developed “to know what to do and what to demand for.”

“We are not just sitting down as onlookers but now we can participate because our eyes have been opened that we are stakeholders and if you don’t advocate for what you need, what you deserve, nobody will do it for you.

“So it is a big eye opener and we believe that as time goes on, we will begin to engage the government,” she enthuses.

Already, the women are getting assurance that the policy − inclusive governance policy will not only see the light of the day but will also go a long way to impact the people of the state.

Giving credence to why women should be involved in governance, Charles Abani, Chief of Party, SACE, laments that women, who constitute more than 50 percent of Nigeria’s population have been left of process with less than 6 percent of them in the National Assembly.

But he says that the SACE project will strengthen the capacity of women to be able to participate in governance.

“And women who constitute more than 50 percrent of the population of this country are critical to the country. They have been left out of processes with less than 6 percent of women in the National Assembly and in this region of the country, not a single female representative whatsoever, we have failed to harness the usefulness and effectiveness of the women in our population.

“And this project real aims to strengthen that. So we indeed welcome the idea of strengthening capacity of those women.”

Sharing this fundamental view with Abani, Eitokpah Bosede, PIND Capacity Building Program Manager says a lot of studies have reported on major roles women play in agriculture and returns that are far lower than that of men in same sector.

A number of factors account for this; women’s limited access to farmland and other farming resources including technology, discriminatory cultural practices and gender neutral policies that do not recognize needs and priorities of women because they are hardly involved in decision making.

Bosede says one way to break of low agricultural opportunities and to address the gender disparity in the Agricultural sector is to increase the voices of women in decision-making, to make policies inclusive in order to give appropriate attention to women’s needs and interests.

“I believe we all agree that the voices of women farmers must be strengthened in agricultural policy formulation and implementation in order to bring about sustainable development.   Women must participate in an informed way to ensure their contributions are based on convincing facts and evidence of what works.”

She commends Arabirin Betty Akeredolu, wife of the Governor of Ondo State for her support for the cluster.

“We would like to commend the Wife of the Governor of Ondo State for providing exemplary leadership to women and other marginalized population in the State and for being a key champion for the Inclusive Agriculture Governance Cluster in Ondo.

“We are convinced that with the support and invaluable goodwill generated by this Cluster of SACE, we will press for progress in improving opportunities and incomes for women in Agriculture in Ondo State.”

Already, a gender friendly agricultural policy is about to be initiated in the state− it is a follow up to the inauguration.

Rotimi Akeredolu, Governor of Ondo State, at the occasion of this year International Day for Women announced that he would put in place a gender friendly policy in the agriculture sector that will take care of the interest of the women.

ASSURANCE FROM GOVERNMENT

Arabinrin Betty Akeredolu (middle) wife of Ondo State Governor, government and PIND officials at the inauguration

Kuti Towase, Chairman, House Committee on Agriculture, Ondo State House of Assembly at the event says the lawmakers in the state are prepared to support the policy.

“On the part of those of us who are in the state house of assembly, we are prepared to support every government policy and initiative that would impact positively on the economy of the state and even on our people.

As representatives of the people, Towase says they are ready to give support to Mr. Governor, to his policies, to ensure that the state begins to move to a greater height.

Franklin Oloniju, Executive Secretary of LAPDO says plans are on to commence the development of the policy early June this year.

According to him, women in cassava, cocoa and fish value chains, commercial banks, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and other relevant key players are involved in the development of the policy which will, at the end of the day, ensure that small holders’ women farmers are carried along in the scheme of things in the agricultural sector.

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