Mercy Nnanna, 35, cultivates a variety of crops in the Federal Capital Territory. In this sixth episode of our Women in Agriculture series, the mother of three shares her experience with PREMIUM TIMES‘ Oge Udegbunam.
PT: What crops do you cultivate?
Mrs Nnanna: I grow yam, cassava, maize and cowpea among others.
PT: How long have you been farming?
Mrs Nnanna: I began commercial farming seven years ago in Abuja. But generally, it is a life thing for me. I grew up in the farm as it has been a family activity for me since I was born.
PT: Whose land do you use?
Mrs Nnanna: Usually, I rent land. My husband own lands so I use some of them too when he is not making use of them. The land is in Chukuku in Kuje but last year I went to Kwali to rent land because getting a large land is difficult
PT: What is the size of the land?
Mrs Nnanna: Last year, I used more than five hectares. But this year I was not able to rent a land, so I managed three and a half hectares.
PT: Seeds are difficult to get for Nigerian farmers, how do you get yours?
Mrs Nnanna: I get my seeds from the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and Agricultural Development Programme (ADP).
PT: How did you select the crops you are cultivating?
Mrs Nnanna: I’m into poultry farming too, so I cultivate the maize and use part of it as feed for my poultry. I do the corn in a large quantity for feed formulation. In the north, maize serves for different meals, so there is market for it. I cultivate beans because it has nutrients, which is why a lot of people buy it.
PT: Are you with improved seeds?
Mrs Nnanna: Yes! That is why we go to IITA to buy, because that is where you can actually get improved seeds and ADP. Seed has always been a challenge. Some farmers due to finance, cultivate grains instead of seeds and that’s why they have poor yields.
PT: Do you use machines in your farm?
Mrs Nnanna: Yes, I rent tractors. The cost depends on the size of the land but I rent per day because renting based on the size of the land is expensive. When you rent a tractor, you have the driver, so you have to treat the driver well so he can do the job well for you. You pay the company and appreciate the driver. I rent from a private company, but in ADP there is one man that places his tractor for rent so people apply for its usage. But the queue is very long and you have to wait for your turn. In my area, there is a guy that drives tractor so I engage him.
PT: Aside tractors, do you use human labour?
Mrs Nnanna: Very well, in weeding, fertilizer application, including my children as family farming. But they don’t enjoy it, I just encourage them to like it.
PT: What’s your average output?
Mrs Nnanna: The output varies. This year was very good, but sometimes I lost my products to cattle. This year, I got 15 bags of maize.
PT: How do you store your products?
Mrs Nnanna: Yes, storage has been a major challenge and we have been advocating for better facilities. When the Ministry of Agriculture distributed some storage materials I did not get. A good number of times, we lose our products post-harvest. There is this bag called triple bag, it has an extra bag in it that helps to reduce loss.
PT: Do you consume or sell your products?
Mrs Nnanna: Both. I sell and I consume.
PT: in which markets do you sell your products?
Mrs Nnanna: I sell mostly in local markets like Gwagwalada and Kuje markets. I sell wholesale so I don’t have remnants. Before I get to the market I would have negotiated so even if don’t get the money that day, I know I would get it later.
PT: Some men do not support their wives as farmers. What is your own experience?
Mr Nnanna: He supports me financially and morally, but he will not follow you to the farm. He gives me money to pay labourers when I don’t have the money. He does not even know some of my farms.
PT: Government claims it has given support to farmers, what is your experienc here?
Mrs Nnanna: Well, they give us seeds from time to time at 50 per cent discount. This year, we got 70 per cent discount but it really does not make a lot of difference.
PT: Have you benefited from any palliative?
Mrs Nnanna: There is nothing like that in FCT for now. I know there was flag off of distribution of COVID 19 palliatives for farmers in some states but it did not happen in FCT.
PT: Do you experience discrimination from male farmers?
Mrs Nnanna: Well, it is not easy but they see me as a radical woman. When you see me working, you will think I am a man so it gives me an edge. Sometimes when I hire labourers, they are men and they give conditions but I need their services, so I have to abide by their conditions. Also, there are benefits that men get but women don’t, that’s why we keep advocating for gender-friendly environment. They have a lot of advantages that women do not have.
PT: Have you been harassed on your farm before?
Mrs Nnanna: It’s not sexual harassment but I have been harassed by herdsmen. But I did not lose my life. I have many women who have lost their husbands to herdsmen on the farm.
PT: In the last seven years, what will you describe as your biggest challenge?
Mrs Nnanna: My biggest challenge is insecurity and this is also a national problem because we cannot even talk of food security. It takes only a secured human being to go to farm. But if your life is at risk you will just go to farm the way you want. Another challenge I have is access to finance and that is why I always approach my husband for assistance. The truth is a business should be financially independent. Despite all the programmes for farmers, the basic producers which are the rural farmers do not have access to these programmes.
PT: As a smallholder farmer, what do you need?
Mrs Nnanna: The issue of insecurity should be addressed. Grants should be available and accessible. Loans with single digit interest should be provided to rural women farmers and educational gap should be bridged. Since agriculture is now an innovative business, trainings should be organised for rural farmers. Without training, a lot of programmes will not be actualised.
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