Asibi Gede, 55, a smallholder farmer and mother of two in the Federal Capital Territory, owns two and half acres of land. She has been practicing crop production for over 40 years. She cultivates cassava, maize, Guinea corn and yam and also practices animal production, with nine goats and two sheep.

In this episode of our Women in Agriculture, Mrs Gede shares her experience. 

PT: You cultivate several crops; seeds are difficult for farmers to get, how do you overcome the challenge?

Mrs Gede: I bought seeds from the markets but it was until 2019 that I was able to buy seeds from the ministry and we bought fertilizers from them too. When I buy seeds from the market I just hope on luck on which will germinate and manage it like that. After harvest, I store some seeds and during the rainy season I now plant them. 

PT: Land is a vital part of farming but difficult for women to own, how are you able to get land to do your farming? 

Mrs Gede: I rent land all the time and sometimes when I rent the land which is weak I try to resuscitate the land and the moment they notice you’ve gotten good products from it they come and tell you to leave the land that they want to use.

PT: Before you had access to fertilizer from the government, how did you buy it in the previous years?

Mrs Gede: Getting fertilizer is very difficult. We are supposed to get fertilizer during the dry season in preparation for the raining season, so that when the rain starts and we are setting up we have the fertilizer to use then but by the time we actually get the fertilizer, the product might have been out. For example, maize would have started producing products and the fertilisers won’t work again but in our community what we do is to pour our cassava chaff into the farms and let them decay then farm to produce better results. 

PT: As a farmer with over 40 years experience, what challenges have you faced as a woman farmer?

Mrs Gede: I have faced lots of challenges and there are some that are just basic because I’m a woman. As a woman, I don’t have a man’s strength so I hire labour on my farm. It is quite expensive and sometimes the crops don’t do too well to cover the labour expenses. And when I do any tedious work I feel the effect within my body system. For example, I couldn’t come to the farm yesterday due to the work of the previous day. I had some serious back aches that I had to get medications for. These stress makes us grow older than our age. So we hire labour to help in some aspects. They make the ridges while we do the weeding. We sometimes buy chemicals but I realised that the chemicals are really not advisable on the farm as sometimes it leads to sickness. We are supposed to get machines to do this work but before you can hire the machine as a woman maybe 100 men have hired the machines. When you finally get the machines, time is already far spent. Again, water is another challenge, as we don’t have water so I have to keep buying. Cassava needs water when you’ve harvested. You soak it immediately you peel it unless it won’t ferment well and you won’t make the expected gain. In my house I lack water and at a time in 2019, the rural development people came that they will dig boreholes and since then we’ve been waiting for them to come dig it.

PT: Aside these challenges, when planting on your two and half acre how much does it cost you to run the farm which includes all the labour, seeds, fertilizers, etc; from beginning till harvest?

Mrs Gede: For maize, I buy seeds worth N3,000. For yam, I spent over N20,000. For rice, I buy a bag at about N15,000. This therefore is dependent on the crop in cultivating. For labour, I spend at least N35,000 on my two and half acres.

PT:Have you heard of improved seeds?

Mrs Gede: Yes, I have.

PT: Have you used them before? 

Mrs Gede: The seeds I bought from the government are improved seeds. 

PT: You have two children, do they support you on the farm?

Mrs Gede: The female is married so has moved to her husband while the male supports me. He comes to the farm and helps out in carrying out some farm operations.

PT: Nigeria has been battling with different forms of insecurity, herders problem is the most prominent for farmers. Can you share your experiences so far? 

Mrs Gede: I face security issues on the farm and in the house. On the farm, I travelled to Nasarawa to purchase cassava stem for cultivation and after cultivating I left the crop to grow and refused to harvest waiting for the rain to fall on them before I harvest. Presently, the herders have vandalised the farm and even uprooted the cassava from the ground. What’s left on the farm can’t even make half of what I have invested. I have invested over N50,000.

PT: Are you a member of any farmers association?

Mrs Gede: Yes. I’m a member of Small scale Women Farmers Association of Nigeria (SWOFAN).

PT: As a member of SWOFAN, can you tell us what benefits you’ve got being a member?

Mrs Gede: I thank God for this association as they’ve been very supportive. When we go for meetings, we are educated on things to do and things not to do. We get educated in farming as a business among other things taught. We were enlightened on how to run the business, keeping records and notting the profits and losses in the business.

PT: Have they helped you in benefiting from any government support? 

Mrs Gede: The seeds and fertilizers we get from the government is a result of the association. Besides, the machine inputs we are expecting from the government is also a result of the association. 

PT: Men have this ego in them that makes them believe they can control women, this makes women discriminated against, have you been discriminated against by male farmers because you’re a female farmer? 

Mrs Gede: Yes, I have. They don’t want us to do anything in agriculture. When they get fertilizers, they don’t want us to have a share in it. Even land, when we are given land after a short while they recover it from us. 

PT: You mentioned earlier that you rent land for your business, how much do you pay for land that you hire?

Mrs Gede: It depends on the owner. I once hired at N10,000 for one acre but now it’s about N15,000. After all the investment; the land, labour, inputs, etc, when you’re about to gain, the herders will not let you have it. 

PT: What’s the market like after cultivation and harvest?

Mrs Gede: I take my products to the market at Kwali to sell after I’ve finished harvesting and processing. I process the cassava to a consumable level before selling to maximise the profit I can make from it. For the maize, I buy chemicals to preserve it. 

PT: You have a small size of land, but multiple crops, What’s the quantity of products you harvest? 

Mrs Gede: Last year, I harvested about four 100kg bags of maize but this year, due to delayed rain I could only harvest two bags. For rice, I cultivated a small piece of land so I harvested just three bags.

PT: Agriculture is the new oil,  young people seem to shy away from the noble profession, what  advice will you give a young person who wants to venture into farming? 

Mrs Gede: Going into farming is very good and even when you don’t make profit what you get from your farm is way more valuable than what you’ll buy in the market. The younger ones should venture into farming. It is very strenuous at start but in the long run it gets better. For salary earners, they can venture into farming as a side work because like last year during the lockdown, they suffered but farmers could go and produce no matter how little something they and their family could consume.

PT: Generally, what do you need as a woman farmer? 

Mrs Gede: I need financial support which will go a long way in helping me. Loan is not a bad one but I prefer grants as I know that my mind and heart will fully be on the work but loan will keep me thinking if I am not able to payback what happens? I’ll just get high blood pressure.

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