By KATE HALIM
One woman who is moved into action by the plight of children who go to bed hungry is Chief Ms. Temitope Ajayi. Her passion to see more women gainfully employed while assisting in providing for their families nudged her to establish Nigeria-American Agricultural Empowerment Programme (NAAEP).
In a recent chat with Daily Sun, Ms. Ajayi shed more light on the achievements of NAAEP in eradicating hunger, providing jobs and why it is important to have more focused women at the helm of affairs in Nigeria. Excerpts:
How many women have been empowered through NAAEP?
Over 200 Nigerian women have been empowered through this programme. We have started our food processing and have also gotten our export license from Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC). We have also gotten our USA Food and Drug Agency (FDA) approval to import our processed NAAEP organic foods to the USA.
What is the level of co-operation between Nigeria and the US in the area of agric that perhaps influenced the initiative?
The American government is very interested in investing and helping African countries including Nigeria to generate funds from Agriculture and help eradicate poverty. Some African countries are so involved in agriculture that it is now a competition between many of them.
They engage in intense agricultural work to meet the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) deadline on poverty eradication by 2015. Since this deadline is close, many African countries are working very hard to make it happen. With the aid of United Nations, agricultural revolution is taking place in Africa and Nigeria is not left out too.
How is NAAEP keying into the federal govt’s transformation agenda in the agricultural sector?
When I met the Minister of Agriculture Dr Akinwunmi Adesina at a programme the in Washington DC, USA, he promised that the Federal Government was going to assist the NAAEP farmers and he kept to his word. Now, NAAEP farmers are being assisted by the government. The best thing that can ever happen to Nigeria is visible transformation in the Agricultural sector which the minister has set the pace for.
How do you relate with women within cultures that discourage them from working, how much more venturing into agriculture?
Things have changed now because more women are going into agriculture today. I am very proud to be a farmer, I love being a farmer and it’s the same with NAAEP women farmers. These women now have the food they planted exported all over the world.
I am also proud that I will be in the history book of Nigeria as the woman who started agricultural revolution in Nigeria. I relate well with these women because they are very eager to learn modern mechanized farming and their focus is great. More women are now embracing farming so as to keep busy and help their families. Gone are the days when farming is considered a man’s job alone.
Why are you so passionate about agricultural development since it is viewed a male-dominated occupation?
It is a divine call if not, I would have quit a long time ago. My passion is to make sure that children no longer go to bed hungry because I have been there. Women play complementary roles to men and going into farming to support their men reveal they see themselves as part of a team. And since farming is a team work, we work together with men to make it a success.
How do you get funds to support NAAEP?
We are grateful to President Goodluck Jonathan and his administration for his government’s commitment to achieving food security, increase job creation and reduce poverty in the country. This move closes 60 percent of the agriculture financing gaps as well as reduces banks’ perception of agriculture as highly risky investment. Nigerian Incentive-Based Risk Sharing Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL) has guaranteed banks’ lending risk by 75 per cent for small scale farmers and 50 per cent for mechanized farmers to enable farmers access funds from commercial banks.
The FG is to create 3.5 million jobs in the agricultural sector by 2015 to meet the United Nation Millennium Developments Goals (MDGs) poverty eradication deadline. The federal government has earmarked N37bn for creation of jobs through agriculture and also plans to reduce the financial risk involved in attracting finance for the agricultural sector.