As women remain a major focus for agricultural development, the Country Director, IFAD, Nigeria, Dede Ekoue, has said that the VCN Project implementation aims to strengthen women based on the strategic role they play in the family and community.
Ekoue said: “One element that we think that we have to strengthen is the representation of women in the design process, because for now, we have touched less than 20% of stakeholders were women. We know Nigeria has at least 50% of actors, the population is the women, and we need to address that.
“The second element that we have to address is that as we design the programme we have to make sure that the specific interests of women are taken into account, we know gender inequality carries a high cost for the economy.
“So we will be working on a gender transformative approach that can empower women to enhance the productivity in agriculture, enhance the production, and enhance the income.
“This is key because when women are empowered, then everyone gains, including the household and the nation. So, this is really important for us in line with the gender policy for agriculture developed and approved by the Federal Government of Nigeria.
“Women empowerment is critical because it’s good for the growth of agriculture, income, and nutrition. When women have more money, they will invest in the nutrition of the family. So nutrition will also be important.
All of those things should work together to ensure resilience; resilience to climate shocks, resilience to fragility, and what is even more important is that they work together to reduce food insecurity in the region.
Meanwhile, she made it clear that, “On the funds, I think that at this point, we are not finalizing yet the amount. What is important is to first finalize the scope of needs; this is what we have done, now we are going to do the costing and based on the costing, we will finalize the amount of investments.
“What is really important also is not just the needs. It is the approach of intervention. For example, from the field, what we have seen as a priority intervention for now and that could change is first making sure that the farmers have access to the critical inputs to improve their productivity.
“Second, work on the ecosystem of agriculture in that area, which means infrastructure that can help them enhance their production.
“Third element that is important is the financing access to find this. Farmers are always complaining about the high costs of loans and also the delay in getting this funding.
Fourth, that is critical for us is connecting the farmers with the markets that have already been done through the VCDP Commodity Alliance Forum. So we’re going to adapt the commodity Alliance Forum also in the northern part; northeast and northwest so that more farmers can have access to businesses to which they can sell.”
She also added, “One thing that we will not forget is youth employment. So we will be supporting entrepreneurship of young people, and that is very important as part of the support to the country to appease and stabilize some of the areas in the northeast and northwest that are challenged by conflict or tension.”
On his part, the Country Director, AFD, Xavier Muron, disclosed that the idea to fund the project has been there, and AFD and IFAD have been working together to fund agricultural Projects in other parts of the world.
According to Muron, the idea basically is to connect remote areas, farmers to their customers, so we work through food corridors to prevent post-harvesting losses specifically and also make sure that farmers will get value from what they produce.
“The idea to fund this project was taken a long time ago. I mean, the decision was taken a long time ago, because we used to partner with IFAD worldwide when it comes to finance family agriculture, and here in Nigeria we already invested in the agri sector to the RAMP project, Rural Access and Agricultural Marketing Project, RAMP.”
Speaking on the modality to disburse the funds, he said, “It will go through States, and the design mission was aiming at not fully selecting States so far but selecting at least some geographical zones, and at the end it will go by the States if they are willing to be part of the project or not, they will be the ones to decide.
“We will provide them with some big features as regards the project, and that will be their call to say okay, I want to be part of it because it’s important for my population, or basically, they think that they got enough support in that regard from maybe other projects.
“On funds, AFD is putting in, so far we plan 350 million Euros in our budget but it could be more depending on the number of States that will be involved and the number of value chains that will be targeted but yet we already get this feedback from our budget to at least put 50 million Euros or 2 million Euros, or basically let’s say 55 to 60 million USD.”
He also explained that, “The funds will come as a batch, we will go to our board next year, once the design is completed we will get the final approval and after that it will be the time for implementation.
“But it will be disbursed in tranches through the states as I mentioned earlier, but there is no reason we don’t commit the entire money by now. I mean once the design is complete.”