By Nana Akua Mensah, Communication Specialist
The Nigerian agricultural sector is the country’s largest employer, with *smallholder farmers constituting the majority of the agricultural workforce. Despite the fact that women smallholder farmers make up nearly half of that number, they continue to face a growing financial inclusion gap. The gender gap is having a detrimental impact on the overall success of the agricultural sector at a time when accelerating population growth and demand for agricultural products for export and local manufacturing require increased agricultural productivity.
Women farmers face social, cultural, and economic barriers to accessing the finances, training, and high-quality agricultural inputs that would allow them to have a more substantial and beneficial impact on the country’s agricultural productivity. In response to this persistent issue, Nigerian agribusinesses are implementing strategies to support women farmers and bridge the financial inclusion gap.
In partnership with the Borderless Trade Network, the U.S. Agency for International Development’s West Africa Trade & Investment Hub (Trade Hub) hosted the webinar, “Empowering Nigerian Women Farmers & Bridging the Financial Inclusion Gap,” on April 28th, 2022. The webinar featured panelists from four co-investment partners in the agricultural sector who discussed successful strategies and challenges in ensuring opportunities for women as part of their Trade Hub-funded projects. The partners – Babban Gona, Premier Seed Ltd, Tomato Jos, and WACOT Rice – shared their experiences navigating cultural and social norms to implement gender and social inclusion strategies geared towards promoting equity and access for women across their companies’ value chains.
The webinar, which saw more than 110 participants, was moderated by Blessing Lass, Senior Communications Specialist of the Trade Hub, and began with an engaging poll on statistics about the Nigerian agricultural sector, facilitated by Tia Swain, Communications Specialist (Trade Hub). The group was welcomed by Robert Wheeler, Chief of Party of the Trade Hub, who emphasized the need for promoting equity for women in the agricultural sector. His remarks were followed by an introduction of the Borderless Trade Network (BTN) by Olori Boye-Ajayi (President), and the keynote presentation from Ann Dela Apekey, Gender and Social Inclusion Manager (Trade Hub), who shared insight on how the private sector can advance gender equality in agriculture. Panel presentations followed, led by Habiba Sulaiman, Project Manager (WACOT Rice); Banke Olukanmi Senior Associate, Corporate Finance (Babban Gona); Mira Mehta, Founder (Tomato Jos); and Samson Afolabi, Research Manager (Premier Seed Ltd).
The representatives from the four co-investment partners shared their unique strategies for onboarding women farmers to financial services and training programs and helping them access high-quality agricultural inputs, and the importance of encouraging and supporting women farmers to succeed. “My teammates would sometimes pay me [what they consider] a compliment and say, you’re like a man, and I’d correct them and say, no I’m like a woman,” remarked Mira Mehta, Founder of Tomato Jos. “It’s important to demonstrate that we [women] are a big backbone driving this economy and we deserve to enjoy the profits of that work as well.”
The event wrapped up with an engaging Q&A session featuring questions from webinar attendees and stirring closing remarks by Boye-Ajayi (BTN). Webinar participants gained insights into successful strategies for working with women farmers and approaches to bridging the financial inclusion gender gap that they could implement in their own businesses.
Watch the webinar recording here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=za4zcXfBIIM
*Smallholder farmers – Smallholder farmers are generally defined as those farmers owning small plots of land on which they grow subsistence crops and one or two cash crops, relying almost exclusively on family labor