‘Govt neglecting women farmers on GES, others’

AgricultureSOUTH-EAST women farmers say the attainment of food sufficiency and job creation in the region through agriculture is being threatened by the Federal Government’s neglect of the zone in the provision of Growth Enhancement Support (GES) and others.

They claimed that breakthrough in the sector was already being impeded by government’s non-release of the necessary subvention less than three months to the end of this year’s farming season.

Speaking during a town hall meeting in Enugu, which had about 3,000 registered women farmers in the region in attendance, they regretted that the GES programme, which includes chemicals, fertilisers and other farm implements usually given to farmers, had not been released to women farmers in the zone.

Coordinator of Women in Agriculture in the region, Lovlyn Ejim, who spoke during the town hall meeting organised by the non-governmental Agro Nigeria, said the development has seriously affected farming this year.

“We were usually accessing these farm implements, including fertilisers, chemicals and other tools before this time, but since this year, nothing has been released to us,” she said. “There is no sign yet that we shall receive these things. If it comes now, there is no need for it because the season is almost over.

“It is not about getting farm inputs, but when it comes late it becomes meaningless. Access to market is very vital because in spite that we don’t have money to sponsor our farm activities, after the little we have done, to sell it becomes a problem.

“Like in Aninri, we produce a lot of vegetables but at the end of the day, we throw them in the waste-bin because there is no market. Currently, we are pushing to have a means to sell our produce in good condition and good price so that we don’t sell when it is meaningless to the buyer.”

Ejim added: “Another great challenge is lack of access to land. It is the land of your husband. We can only have access to land when we can determine how to use a particular portion of land.”

Meanwhile, Chinyere Gbugu, a lawyer, who said that her farm worth about N100 million was gutted in February, warned that food production may drop this year as farmers lack the requisite facilities to ply their trade.

She accused government of churning out policies it could not implement, adding that the GES, initiated by the former Minister of Agriculture, Adesina Adewunmi, may not be continued following his exit.

Meanwhile, the facilitator of the meeting and Chief Executive of Agro Nigeria, Richard Mark Mbaram, said it would hold in all geo-political zones to aggregate stakeholders’ views about realities in the sector as well as their expectations from the new government.

According to him, “we have found that on the ground, farmers feel abandoned by the current dispensation. They have clearly seen over the last four years that they can actually get attention from the government.

“They have enjoyed subsidy for the first time in the country, as subsidy reached them at the grassroots through the GES programme under the agricultural agenda. But this year, they have been left high and dry, and buy fertilisers directly from the market.

“Again, they don’t feel the government. The realities they hear mainly come from the development partners.”

He said the views would be articulated and transmitted to President Muhammadu Buhari, as the landmark achievements in the sector, which had encouraged farming, should not be abandoned.”

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