The one-day Colloquium was organized by HEDA Resource Centre with support from OXFAM in Nigeria. The Colloquium focused broadly on the general issues of socio-economic and political inequalities in Nigeria with specific focus on its manifestations on climate change and opportunities for women’s participation in the agricultural sector.
The event drew participants from relevant MDAs overseeing the agriculture sector and women affairs, NGOs and groups for and of women farmers, professionals on gender, agriculture and the media.
The Colloquium had two panel sessions; each discussing findings of research reports on the drivers of inequalities in Nigeria, and the impact of climate change and investments in agriculture on small scale women farmers respectively.
Speakers, panelists and participants at the Colloquium acknowledged the widening trends in all forms of inequalities between the rich and the poor in Nigeria despite obvious economic growth and expansions in the last decade. These inequalities, according to stakeholders at the Colloquium, manifests more visibly in women; more than 50% of whom barely survive on climate change-threatened small-scale farming which is one of the means of livelihood at the lowest end of the socio-economic ladder.
Women farmers experience inequalities in many ways including: restricted access to funding, land, farm inputs (seeds, fertilizers, etc) and other resources; low capacity to access agriculture development interventions such as the CBN Anchor Borrowers programme; poor access to information about agricultural development programmes, climate change and other opportunities; high level of illiteracy among female small scale farmers; increasing rates of domestic violence which limit productivity and vulnerability due to violent conflicts like the herdsmen crisis . Women are also denied of the right to self-determination and the ability to take independent decisions. Furthermore, they are limited in choices to participate in capacity-building programmes due to demands and pressures from family and home duties.
MDAs, NGOs and support groups for women in agriculture indicated that they provide support for small scale women farmers: through extension services; provision of agriculture grants and farming inputs; conduct advocacy on various agricultural and climate change issue; amplify voices of women in agriculture to demand for accountability from government; provide capacity-building on best farming practices and inputs; support improvement of livelihoods of small scale farmers; support for resource mobilization, financial inclusion and access for women farmers; human and labour rights of women in agriculture; provision of extension services and inputs. Nonetheless, these support and services are yet to significantly reduce the gaps of inequalities mostly experienced by women especially those involved in small scale farming.
With regard to the manifestations of inequalities in governance and on women, and the relationship this has with climate change impacts on small scale female farmers, stakeholders at the Colloquium made the following observations—
- Nigeria’s economy has expanded by over 6% since 2006, yet, more than half of the population continue to live in abject poverty. Inequalities in Nigeria has grown from 0.4% to 4.3% with more citizens sliding into poverty levels and more than half of the poor population made up of women.
- Inequalities in Nigeria is further sustained by Elite political capture of the available few opportunities (e.g. education, employment, access to resources, access to political power, etc). Governments at all levels lack understanding on policy response to inequalities and are constantly using state power and policy through impunity and corruption to further reduce opportunities.
- Gender is both a cause and consequence of inequalities; reinforced by policies of government and cultural belief systems (e.g. about marriage, inheritance, etc). the gender insensitivity of government policies manifest through gender insensitive economic and taxation policies; exclusion of women from environment and climate change policy decisions; unequal political representation for women; etc. Cultural beliefs and practices lead to denial of Women of right to land, income, property, etc.
- Discrimination and inequalities are inherent in the management and employment policies of private sector organizations and companies. Profit organizations are more concerned with profit opportunities than with issues of inequalities. The remuneration policy of majority companies in the private sector is unfairly skewed against women employees.
- In the media, women are underreported and underrepresented. It is difficult to get women to participate in media programmes; while market forces (e.g. profit) makes it difficult for media organizations to easily give space to women and climate change issues.
- Although Nigeria has committed to adopting a climate-smart agriculture and afforestation, as of 2015, Nigeria ranked as the world’s 4th most vulnerable country to climate change. If not mitigated, climate change could reduce Nigeria’s food productivity by about 12% by 2020, and thereby reduce or out-rightly destroy income sources of a significant population of women particularly those engaged in small scale farming.
- Funding levels for agriculture have remained very low; budgets since 2010 have remained at less than 2% as against the 10% ratified at the Maputo Declaration. The allocations to agriculture from the total Official Development Assistance received in Nigeria has also remained around 8%
- Women are most affected by climate change issues (e.g. providing water, cooking fuel, raising children, are most exposed to gendered abuses, etc).
- Women make up to 70% of the population of small scale farmers in Nigeria, yet, they lack access to basic services like irrigation, inputs, markets, extension services and improved technologies compared to their male counterparts. Women produce 70% of food in Nigeria but they only have access to 20% of resources (funds, inputs, etc.) required for farming.
- Most women farmers lack access (no possession of collateral) to low interest credits/loans. In addition, Cultural norms and practices also limits women farmers from directly gaining access to credits and inputs by restricting them from engaging male service providers such extension workers or to collect farm inputs from male officials.
- Female Small scale farmers are at higher risks of climate change impacts including flooding, late offset of rains, shortening raining season, desert encroachment, etc.
- Agriculture development interventions such as the CBN Anchor Borrowers scheme have had very limited impacts. Women farmers complained that women are largely discriminated because: the scheme is dominated by men; the culture and practice of nepotism (discrimination by tribe, religion, language, etc) is felt more by women especially those married to men outside their places of origin; the procedures for accessing the opportunities from the agricultural development schemes are usually very cumbersome especially for women who are mostly lacking in capacity; corruption of the disbursement processes; late disbursement of the funds and inputs; non-involvement of women in local and community decision-making; poor synchronization of agricultural intervention policies between the federal and other levels of government;
In order to reverse the widening gaps of inequalities in all ramifications, particularly its’ obvious impacts on women’s inclusion and participation in the agriculture sector, stakeholders at the one-day Colloquium proposed the following recommendations to governments at all levels in Nigeria–
- That Government at all levels must institute a policy-driven approach to public wealth redistribution through gender-sensitive taxation, increased investment in social spending, address unemployment and improve labour conditions, drive equal access to opportunities through provision of access to basic social services in education, health, etc.
- Governments at all levels should prioritize agriculture through fiscal and policy reforms including increase in annual budgets for the agriculture sector to meet with the 10% commitment reached at the Maputo declaration; attainment of policy synergy between all levels of government; support for small scale farmers to increase their participation in all agricultural policy processes, increase productivity, organize agriculture markets to favour small scale farmers, and improve on their economic value; and provide relevant infrastructure to link rural farming communities to cities and markets.
- Governments at all levels must prioritize development and implementation of gender policy which respond to raising gender awareness, gender systems policy analysis, link and implement SDGs with existing international gender frameworks, improve access of women to information (e.g. climate change, agriculture, etc.) and promote the economic values of women.
- The Federal government should enhance its private sector regulatory instruments to address issues of inequalities in private businesses and organizations. One key step in this direction is for government to regularly conduct inequality assessment of private company operations and motivate private companies to institute policies on human rights and equal opportunities.
- The Federal government must improve on its commitment to strengthening of community radio and the local media to improve access of rural communities (including women) to information. Media should give considerable attention to gender-based inequalities in the rural areas. The media need to partner with women-led and support organizations and groups to take advantage of the increasing demand for media content due to digitization, expanding social media spaces and increasing media interest on climate change to create and tell their stories.
- Governments at all levels must strengthen legal, policy and institutional mechanisms to address corruption and ensure transparent, accountable and responsive government.
- Governments at all levels must take policy-driven steps to promote civic inclusion and active citizenship in all processes of designing, developing, planning and implementing legal and policy frameworks which address inequalities.
Participants at the Colloquium resolved that citizens have significant responsibilities to play in holding governments at all levels accountable towards achieving rapid reduction in inequalities. The following citizens-led resolutions was proposed—
- Citizens should initiate mass movements and collaborate with the National Human Rights Commission, development partners and other stakeholders to demand for, and achieve justiciability and implementation of chapter 2 of the 1999 Constitution.
- CSOs should collaborate with National Human Rights Commission towards the strengthening of human rights laws and policies in the business sector.
- CSOs should conduct advocacies to private businesses to demonstrate the profit benefits of reducing inequalities.
- NGOs and groups which support small scale women farmers should mobilize to engage with the various agricultural development interventions of state and federal governments with a view to increasing more access, inclusion and participation for women farmers.
- Small scale women farmers are to take prompt action to expose corrupt practices (including the activities of “emergency” farmers) in the administration and management of agricultural development interventions especially those which directly target small scale women farmers
Stakeholders at the one-day Colloquium were unanimous in their views that to reduce the gaps of inequalities in Nigeria, there must be in existence, courageous leadership that will reset the entire governance architecture in Nigeria. Leaders must build a profoundly different and more human-oriented economy which prioritize the roles and participation of women and youths and the well-being of all citizens.
This is achievable through economic policies, taxation policies and effective spending policies. These policies should necessarily address the challenges of climate change and its impacts on the agricultural sector. Policies should target agriculture; particularly the small -scale farmers mostly dominated by women, as well as provide critical socio-economic needs including education, health and infrastructure.