Kouli Djibo, a millet, cowpea and sesame producer in Falwel, Niger says learning about simple and practical technologies such as the correct application of organic manure and mineral fertilizer has helped a lot in her farm. “Before, I could barely get 50 sheaves of millet,” she says. “But thanks to the knowledge I acquired during field schools and testing trials, I am now able to harvest 100-120 millet sheaves per hectare.”
Capacity building efforts benefit not only women, but also their family and the entire community. “The trainings have changed my life,” says Kouli. “Before, I did not even have enough to eat but now I am able to produce enough to feed my family and I am selling a part of the production to pay school fees for my two children in the capital city.”
Mariama Harouna, another women farmer from the same region, has begun producing certified seed for sale based on training she acquired from a government program. Mariama says, “Now, I can pay taxes. I do not need to run away from the village to hide from the tax collectors. With my profits I can pay my taxes and comply with the legislation. Seed production has restored my dignity.”
These and other examples send a strong message as to why development efforts must focus on the smallholder farming sector. In a speech delivered at the 6th Africa Agriculture Science Week (AASW6), hosted by FARA in Accra, Ghana, the President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) Kanayo Nwanze said, “Small farms account for 80 percent of all farms in Sub-Saharan Africa. They have the potential to be key suppliers to Africa’s burgeoning urban markets, as well as to rural markets,” he affirmed.
According to Nwanze, “To farm successfully, women need agricultural resources and inputs, as well as access to rural finance, education, and knowledge. They also need rights to the land they farm and a voice in the decisions that affect their lives.” In the context of smallholder farms, empowerment often means providing women with practical training that helps to improve their capacity to cultivate the land and cope with climate change and variability on their land.
These remarks are aligned with the Inclusive Market Oriented Development strategy (IMOD) towards 2020 developed by ICRISAT and its partners, wherein research for development focuses on smallhoders in Asia and Africa and investment is encouraged in women and in youth.
Blogpost by Agathe Diama, a social media reporter for AASW6.
Photo: A. Diama