Studies have shown that small scale farmers, some with less than two hectares of land under cropping, are the ones producing the larger percentage of food consumed by Nigerians.
It has also been observed that peasant women constitute a large chunk of this farming population.
However, the prominent role of these farmers in the agricultural value-chain in the country, still faces heaps of challenges leading to problems in output of crops and profit realised from sales.
Some agronomists observed that the situation will persist unless smallholder farmers employ sustainable farming practices to protect land, water, soil and genetic resources or, precision farming practices.
The experts argued that except the farmers adopted practices that were more resilient to natural occurrences, they would not be able to produce enough food to feed their families or meet public demands.
The claims of these experts are largely substantiated by the experience of some smallholder women farmers in Kwara State, but this was before they gained knowledge on climate resilience and sustainable agriculture practices, courtesy of the Centre for Community Empowerment and Poverty Eradication (CCEPE).
CCEPE is the state-based non-governmental crganisation (NGO) which focuses on respecting, promoting, protecting and fulfilling the rights of the poor and excluded people, by focusing on their empowerment.
The NGO, few years ago, organised a training for the women on how to mitigate the impact of climate change by improvising with inorganic materials to improve on agricultural productivity at a near zero cost.
While relating her experience in agribusiness, Mrs. Iyabo Babatunde from Gbago community in Asa Local Government Area, recounted her perpetual yearly shortage from farming due to lack of requisite knowledge on sustainable practices.
Babatunde said the situation affected her output and consequently earned her abysmally low income, the earning which was always insufficient to meet her ends, needs, and sponsorship of her children’s education.
“Until we were trained, I never realised how much I have missed in the business. The challenges were too many for me because I was bereft of better farming techniques. This invariably affected my production yearly.
“I was also restricted to subsistent farming system where I could only produce to feed my family and rarely, able to make surplus for sale because of low yield.
“This training, however, changed the narrative,” she said.
Babatunde said since she could not afford to buy inorganic fertiliser to enhance the growth of her crop, she quickly found solace in the use of compost manure which she learnt at the training.
“As soon as I applied the lessons in agriculture practices, I began to earn higher income from improved productivity.
“I am now able to send my children to school as well as to take care of my personal needs,” she said.
Mrs Rukayat Ibrahim from Apa community said her experience was similar to that of Babatunde.
Ibrahim noted that the sustainable farming practice had turned her to a queen among her contemporaries, who had no opportunity of attending the exercise.
“The moment I began to apply the techniques, I became a queen before my colleagues because I begin to recover from the losses,” she said.
Ibrahim added that the training also exposed her to rights and responsibilities between the rights holders and the duty bearers as it related to agriculture practices.
Sharing the same sentiment, Mrs Rashidat Dauda from Ipetu community, said she was nearly dispirited at a point from the farming business because her time and efforts were not reasonably justified by the output.
“For instance, anytime I harvested cassava, the produce would be meagre; the same thing with maize, guinea-corn and others.
“I was advised to always apply fertiliser and pesticide, but where was the money to procure them?” asked Dauda, who said she had been a farmer for more than 25 years.
She boasted she could conveniently make organic fertiliser from yam peel, cow dung and compost among others, thereby hastening the growth of her crops when applied.
“When I put this into practice, it increased my harvest across all crops, tubers and vegetables. It was a huge surprise to all of us that benefitted from the training.
“On pest control, we were tutored on how to soak cassia leaves (botanically known as Cassia fistula, golden shower, or Indian laburnum) in large volume of water and add little detergent or kerosene to it for usage.
“I applied it on my farm. Ever since, I do not have recurring problem of pest disturbance.
“All these among other factors cumulate in the bumper harvest I now experience each farming season and the ensuing improved earnings.
“We have extended the training to our contemporaries for them to enjoy the benefits,” Dauda explained.
She, nonetheless, urged government to assist women farmers by addressing other challenges such as herdsmen attacks, lack of access to land; lack of access roads and storage facilities.
Dauda said these challenges were inhibiting the huge potentials of women farmers towards ensuring national food security.
“They should never underrate our capacity. We produce and sell at local markets; we do not export our produce. We should be assisted to produce for national food sufficiency,” the woman farmer said.
Mr Abdulrahman Ayuba, the Chief Executive Officer of CCEPE, called on the government to lead the charge of embracing the use of organic fertiliser.
Ayuba explained that apart from saving huge resources usually spent yearly on bogus purchases of chemical fertilizer, organic fertilizer was climate friendly.
He added that because of these benefits, its usage had increased the resilience and adaptability of smallholder women farmers to the environment.
“It will help in restoring the environment and balance the ecosystem as well as ensuring production of safe, chemical free, and healthier crops (food) that will not be rejected at the point of export,” Ayuba said.
He urged governments to embrace climate smart agriculture and agroecological practices, with an appeal to other NGOs to join in efforts towards increasing productivity of quality and healthy crops at reduced costs.
Ayuba asserted that the methods would reduce practices that led to global warming and climate change and build the women farmers’ resilience to effects of climate change.
The CCEPE head expressed delight that the training was able to achieve the desired aims and objectives among the women farmers group.
By Usman Aliyu