Enugu Assembly, MAMA Centre parley on improving economic status of women

NEWS DIGEST – The Chairman House Committee on Agriculture, Enugu State House of Assembly, Hon. Hillary Ugwu has assured of the House commitment to securing socio-economic priority and rights of the Amachalla Ngwo women (right holders) in the state.

He gave this assurance during an advocacy visit by the women to the House, led the Executive Director of Mothers And Marginalised Advocacy Centre (MAMA Centre), Barr. Ola E. Onyegbula, under the aegis of a project “Engendering More Participation of Women for Economic Revitalization” supported by The Voice Nigeria.

While commending the unique initiative led by MAMA Centre, Hon. Ugwu, said the visit had further exposed the House to the common socio-economic needs and priority across various communities in the state.

He promised full support to the right holders in achieving their goals through appropriate legislation and oversight activities.

Earlier, in her advocacy remark to the Committee, Barr. Onyegbula, observed that women were responsible for some 60% to 80% of food production in developing countries; and in many farming communities, women constituted the main custodians of knowledge on crop varieties.

She said: “In the analysis of World Bank, women are the backbone of the rural economy, especially in developing countries. They make up almost half of the world’s farmers, and over the last few decades, they have broadened their involvement in agriculture.

“The number of female-headed households has also increased as more men have migrated to cities. As the primary caregivers to families and communities, women provide food and nutrition; they are the human link between the farm and the table.

“More importantly, as the global community works toward achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) — among them, SDG2, which aims to end hunger and malnutrition by 2030 — women can be the key agents of change in agriculture, nutrition and rural development.

“With better access to information, training, and technology, women can alter food production and consumption so that land and resources are used sustainably.

In Nigeria the involvement of women in agriculture has received greater attention in recent years.”

The Executive Director emphasised the need to develop suitable extension service that is gender specific and tailored to women farmers; as sustainable production of food is the first pillar of food security.

“Given critical research on the significant roles of women in Nigeria Agricultural production, processing and utilization, Mothers And Marginalised Advocacy (MAMA) Centre has observed that efforts of women in enhancing sustainable food production in commercial quantity for greater comparative advantage are constrained by the existing socio-economic barriers arising from inadequate or lack of technically know-how capacity, lack of modernisation, poor networking for sales and distribution both within and outside Nigeria, and little research capacity,” she explained.

Barr. Onyegbula further called on the Committee to through constituency outreach services, prioritise sustainability and development of Ngwo palm-oil processing to further empower and promote self-sufficiency among the female-headed households in the community; and assist in reiterating the need for prompt legislative attention to sustained palm-oil processing and socio-economic development of Ngwo at relevant plenaries and committee sessions of Assembly.

Other requests by her were strengthening oversight function on budgetary allocation to agriculture to ensure judicious utilisation to enhance Small, Medium and Large scale agricultural productivity in the state; legislative support in prioritising the development of Ngwo palm oil processing in legislative budgetary decisions and allocation; and creating linkage with Member representing the Ngwo for appropriate follow-up.

Also, the Ngwo women leader and Volunteer under The Voice project, Mrs. Grace Oriaku, recalled that the economic mainstay of Enugu people if not the entire Igbo race was palm-oil production.

According to her, overtime, the very viable means of economic empowerment has eroded for increased priority for white collar jobs and other means of livelihood.

“This is owing to the fact that palm-oil production is still practised in the crudest form, making it not such an attractive business for the teeming population of Enugu and its environs.

“It is for this purpose that MAMA Centre chose to work with Ngwo Women (right holders) at this pilot stage to seek this Committee support and intervention towards resuscitating the ailing palm-oil industry with the hope of empowering about 100 women from Ngwo with Palm-oil processing machines to enhance their economic capacity,” she added.