More women in Nigeria are seeking ways to transform agriculture by making their farms more efficient.
Kofo Durosinmi-Etti is among a new crop of women farmers. She owns and runs Next Generation Innovative Farm in Lagos State and has adopted drip irrigation and greenhouse technologies to grow a variety of vegetables for sale including tomatoes, habanero peppers, okra and kale.
“I think the way we farm is different now, it is not just about manual labour. There are different technologies to make the process easier. For example, we are using a green house technology here, so basically you are able to protect your crops, manage the elements you know, we are watering our plants through drip irrigation so nobody is actually taking a hose to water anything,” said Kofo.
“Everything is made easier you know, and also to be honest, women have always been a fundamental part of agriculture, you know, that has been a given, but women are now coming to the forefront of it you know, we are no more just workers you know, we are now heading farms, managing farms and really we are bringing that softer choice, look at how pretty my tomatoes are. I mean we make farming look a lot better and now we are just taking our seats on the table essentially,” she added.
Kofo is a trained management accountant who returned home from University in the UK and started her business in 2015.
She also holds a diploma in Agriculture, Water and Crop Management from an institution in Israel.
Women on the continent are the main food providers but majority don’t have access to technology, which could cut the time it takes for them to grow and harvest crops.
Small scale women farmers grow up to 80 percent of food consumed in Africa but most of them don’t have equal land rights as men.
Kofo leased land from Lagos State government to run her farm.
To encourage other young farmers, the entrepreneur writes a blog about farming where people can discuss ways of improving their farm strategies.
“We are bringing a new energy to the game you know, we are trying to collaborate. It is not about them and us. It is about how do we work together because the space is huge. It is big enough for all of us. We are not just trying to feed Nigeria; we are trying to feed Africa. When we are done with Africa, we are going to feed the world, and for us to do that successfully, effectively and efficiently, we have to work together, male or female. Gender isn’t a divide; it is really your commitment and your passion that will really differentiate you,” she said.
At Lekki Farm, Oladunni Otitoju keeps and sells cattle, goats, rams, turkey and chicken. She started her business three years ago with just five goats after leaving her job as a civil servant.
Oladunni says it was not easy at first. At one point she lost her initial flock of 50 chicks to a disease.
“When I started a lot of my friends though I was crazy. They actually told me; look at you, you are going dark, you are always in the sun, but it was something I enjoyed doing. I enjoyed feeding you know the animals; I enjoyed feeding grasses to those animals. I enjoyed looking at them if they were okay,” said Oladunni.
Nigeria has been trying to diversify its economy to boost agriculture after it slipped into its first recession in 25 years last year, brought on by low prices for its mainstay, crude oil.
The country spends $20 billion a year importing food. With the fall in oil prices, it has been running short of dollars, which has also weakened the local currency.
“I think more food for everybody, more food for the masses. I mean if there is food nobody cares what happens to the economy, everybody will be happy and there will be less crime in the society and there will be peace,” said Oladunni.
Agriculture has the potential to reduce African poverty two to four times faster than any other sector according to experts. It employs nearly two-thirds of the population on average, with women producing most of the food.