Sunday, 26 April 2020

Covid-19 Lockdown:ActionAid Nigeria ,SWOFON Call On FG To Address Plight Of Nigeria Peasant Women Farmers


ActionAid Nigeria and Small-Scale Women Farmers Organisation in Nigeria (SWOFON) have asked the Federal Government to urgently look at the plights of Nigerian peasant farmers especially the women in order to save them from total poverty during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Country Director of ActionAid Nigeria Ene Obi and SWOFON President Mrs Mary Afan made this plea during a virtual press conference today.

The is the full text of their joint address


Text of a joint virtual press conference addressed by the Country Director of ActionAid Nigeria Mrs Ene Obi, and the President of SWOFON, Mrs Mary Afan on the 26th day of April 2020 on COVID-19 and its implications on Food and Agriculture, Smallholder Women Farmers and averting the looming food crisis in Nigeria.

ActionAid Nigeria and the Small-Scale Women Farmers Organisation in Nigeria (SWOFON) has deemed it fit to comment on the looming food crisis in Nigeria as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic which has crippled all sectors of the economy.

We commend the Federal and State Governments and all stakeholders for their unrelenting efforts towards containing the COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria.

As organisations working to eradicate poverty, promote social justice and gender equality,  we have deemed it fit to draw the attention of Government to the continual loss of income and livelihoods in the agricultural sector especially for smallholder women farmers, arising from the continued lockdown and restriction of movement.

As a result of the COVID-19 lockdown and lack of access to markets, Farmers are experiencing massive post-harvest losses on fruits, vegetables, fresh products, and other perishables. Smallholder Women Farmers are unable to move their products from their farms to the market or from their rural communities to semi-urban and urban markets. They are also losing income from staple food like Maize, Rice, Wheat, Potatoes, Cassava, Soybeans, Yams, Sorghum, and Plantain, etc. Those engaged in livestock farming especially poultry, are faced with a lack of access to poultry feeds they usually buy. Fisheries and aquaculture Farmers are also affected by the closure or low patronage of hotels and skeletal operations of restaurants.

Before the emergence of COVID-19, smallholder women farmers were already faced with low and difficult access to credit, essential inputs, improved seeds and seedlings, organic and non-organic fertilizers. However, the spread of COVID-19 has now further compounded the situation as they now have no access at all. Being a planting season for Farmers, it is pertinent to say that the food crisis is already looming in Nigeria.

Currently, there is a food price crisis across the country, the poor and vulnerable are facing hunger and malnutrition, and this includes our smallholder women farmers. The security agencies and task forces enforcing the lockdown in the States, at the local government and community levels are incessantly harassing and extorting smallholder Farmers, especially women.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic the world has changed so is Nigeria as a country. The High-Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition (HPLE) of the UN Committee on World Food Security (CFS) has recently recommended that all governments must support smallholder farmers and local communities through appropriate stimulus packages (in cash or kind) to enhance food resilience. It is against this backdrop that ActionAid Nigeria and SWOFON duly recommend the following to avert the looming food crisis in Nigeria amidst this COVID-19 pandemic:

1.    During the President’s speech announcing an extension of the lockdown on Monday 13th April 2020, he stated that the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) and other food agencies will work with the Presidential Task Force to minimise the impact of COVID-19 on our 2020 farming season. We call on the Federal Government to announce clear policy interventions during this pandemic to ensure that there is sustained local food production and supply. This also presents an opportunity to us as a nation to become self-reliant in food production and completely wean ourselves from excessive food imports.

2.    Special community local produce buying, and transportation should be arranged to buy produce from smallholder women farmers to ensure food supply is maintained.

3.    Smallholder farmers especially women should be exempted from the movement restrictions while observing precautionary measures, so that they can go to their farms for work and transport their produce to the market.

4.    Agricultural extension agents should be exempted from the movement restrictions, so they can provide extension services support to the farmers while maintaining physical distancing and other precautionary measures.

5.    Special palliatives targeted at smallholder farmers especially women should be designed to provide for the needs of farmers as they are amongst the poor and vulnerable.

6.    Urgently, smallholder women farmers should be provided with agricultural insurance services as the outcomes of a recent research by AAN indicates that the impact of Government Agricultural Insurance (GAI) provision over the years to women farmers was very poor in Nigeria.

7.    Social protection (unconditional or conditional cash transfers) must be provided to farmers and farm workers who are forced to leave their fields and are not able to take their goods to the market, invariably affecting their immediate household income and their investment in next season’s harvest.

8.    Grants, credit, essential inputs, early maturing livestock, improved seeds and seedlings, and fertilizers preferably organic, should be provided for smallholder farmers especially women to avert the looming food crisis.

9.    The dangerous issue of Fall Armyworm invasion in which evidence of its presence is now in Abia State should be addressed across the country.

10.    Agroecology for climate change adaptation, mitigation, and sustainable food production should be supported, promoted, and funded by the government at all levels.

11.    Provision of face masks, hand gloves, sanitizers, and access to clean water for farmers across Nigeria should be prioritised and included in the national response on COVID-19.

12.    Farmers across Nigeria should be targeted specifically and sensitised on COVID-19.

13.    The security agencies and taskforces both at the state, local, and community levels should be directed to stop the harassment and extortion of farmers especially women. This should be monitored by the Divisional Police Officers across board and defaulting officers disciplined appropriately.

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