By Itohan Abara-Laserian
Mrs Bridget Okonofua, the Founder and President of Unique Women in Agricultural Cluster Initiative (UWIACI), on Wednesday in Lagos said that women farmers were shortchanged in agricultural value chains bounty.
Okonofua, who made the assertion at the inauguration of UWIACI supported by Nestle Nigeria, said that the contributions of women to agricultural development could not be over-emphasised as it went beyond “just putting food on the table”.
She said: “The heat in the critical room of the house, inadvertently reaches out across the landscape to rural areas where women go to the farmlands toiling with hoes and cutlasses gathering produce.
“In spite of these efforts, women are not sharing in the rich largesse of cultivation, processing, rearing, value addition and others and are most times denied opportunities in farming activities.
“This could be through inability to fund or outright skill gap deficiency which relegated them to the background and this realisation championed this initiative.’’
Okonofua also said that the initiative had in a year, engaged in many other projects like co-funding, co-farming in piggery, water melon, fisheries and snailery among others.
According to her, there has been visits to women farmers engaged in poultry, and has identified with the Ayetodo Poultry Farm in Ojo Local Government Area of Lagos State.
It has trained members in innovative practices applying Globally Acceptable Principles (GAP) such as hydroponics, mushroom and others.
Okonofua said that the initiative was working with local and international agro-firms to empower women through soliciting for funds, grants and acquisition of farmlands at concessionary terms.
“UWIACI is also championing the cause for mechanisation using tractors and other farming implements and tools which can improve agricultural commercialisation and food sufficiency.
“With all of these we hope that women in Nigeria with the right collaborations are in for a new dawn.
“UWIACI is ready to fill the gap between the demands and requirements of the sector against the backdrop of diversification mantra championed by the present administration.
“UWIACI is the long awaited solution for agricultural development and women empowerment in agribusiness in Nigeria,” Okonofua said.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the Initiative was established in 2017 to influence, inspire, engage and empower women along the entire value chain of the agricultural sector.
It is envisioned to respond to the leadership, production, capacity development, opportunities and challenges confronting women in the same industry.
The initiative has been able to reach out to significant number of women, boasting of membership strength of about 200 members.
Some of them are clustering to co-fund and co-own agricultural projects in the areas of Piggery, Fishery, Crop Cultivation and Water Melon and are also planning to add Snail and Cassava Farming to their portfolio of projects.
The identification process includes needs assessment and grant solicitation to generate renewable energy and the production of organic fertiliser.
UWAICI is poised to partner with the local government areas (LGAs) and Government Parastatals (MDA’s) toward empowering vulnerable and baseline individuals, especially women to give them opportunities to economically improve on their welfare and livelihood.
Some speakers at the event include Victoria N’dee Uwadoka, Corporate Communications and Public Affairs Manager, Nestle Nigeria and Prince Wale Oyekoya, Agriculturist, MD/CEO Bama Farms, past Chairman, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Others are Dr Akinwale Akinleye, Kinseth Consult Ltd., Chioma Tolani Roberts, Founder Mushroom Foundation Nigeria, Oluayegbusi of Upland Mills and Folake Akintimehin, People Operation Manager, Farmcrowdy.
The event was chaired by Mr Oluwatoyin Suarau, Commissioner for Agriculture, Lagos State, while the Special Guest of Honour is Princess Sarah Sosan, former Deputy Governor of Lagos State, Ms. Cynthia Mosumola Umoru, Technical Adviser to Chief Audu Ogbeh, Minister of Agriculture Youth Empowerment.