There’s a quote from famous the poet and human rights activist Maya Angelou, that goes; “Each time a woman stands up for herself, she stands up for all women.” As today marks International Day of Rural Women, let’s stand up for women and applaud their equal contributions to society, while also shedding light on the existing opportunities and untapped potential of this mostly disenfranchised group. We also want to use this opportunity to applaud the work that GBfoods: makers of Gino Tomatoes, Gino Cubes, Gino Thyme, Gino Curry, Bama Mayonnaise and Jago Mayonnaise are doing to lift Nigerians, especially Nigerian Women, out of poverty through agriculture.
This year’s theme for International Day of Rural Women (IDRW) is “Rural Women Cultivating Good Food for All”. This theme was selected from the necessity to showcase the essential role that rural women and girls play in the food systems of the world.
In some regions of sub-Saharan Africa, women may cultivate as many as 120 different plants alongside the cash crops that are managed by men. Statistics kept by Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of Agriculture & Rural Development indicate that women in Nigeria account for 75% of the farming workforce either as farm managers or suppliers of labor. This significant gender disparity suggests that to achieve optimum efficiency within the context of food security and poverty eradication, women especially those in rural areas, need to be empowered.
Empowerment through Initiatives and structures that increase their capacity and overall wellbeing are essential, some of which include; access to necessities like water and medication; access to information and training that enhances operational and technological expertise.
Despite these easily identifiable factors to progress stated above, it seems only a handful of organizations in Nigeria understand that the empowerment of women, especially those in rural areas is a key factor that drives food security and helps to eradicate poverty. In the past, and in more recent times, FMCG Manufacturer GB food, makers of Nigeria’s favorite Tomato Paste Gino, have constantly reinforced their commitment and appreciation of women. The socially responsible company recently provided over 1,000 farming jobs, at their tomatoes integrated farm and factory in Kebbi State, with over 70% of them being women, all of whom have never had a paying job before. In many cases the spouses of these women were relucatant to allow them go out to work, but GBfoods was able to successfully persuade them on the benefits of allowing their wives and daughters work and generate additional income for the family.
According to Dr Teddy Ngu, Corporate Affairs, Director, GB Foods Africa, “This is a step in the right direction in support of all women, but more needs to be done to reach the entire country.. We understand that there exists a myriad of challenges that face rural women and that’s why we’re also working to ensure access to potable water in all communities in which we operate. So far we have constructed over 24 boreholes and restored an additional 10. What pulled on our heartstrings, was the fact that some of these communities had never had clean drinking water— a basic and essential necessity of life.
Mr Vincent Egbe, the Managing Director, GBfoods Nigeria added that: “The boreholes have reduced infant mortality in the viscinity, whilst also assisting to reduce illness in especially lactating mothers and families due to better water hygiene. We have also trained many pregnant and lactating women in the communities with good pre- and post-natal practices”.
From planting and harvesting crops, to the distribution and supply of food to the grassroots, women are truly critical actors in the agricultural value chain -— having within them the power to grow, nurture and transform. Whether compensated or not for their labour, women still find a way to feed their family, community, and the world.
Compensation in this context is not limited to cash remuneration but in providing some sort of value, that not only empowers women but also their communities and families. In this regard, GB food offered training on good agricultural practices to over 500 farmers, with ~30% of them women, in the 2020/21 tomatoes season. In the 2021/22 season, GBfoods will be training over 3,000 small holder farmers, with women making up over a quarter of them.
According to the United Nations, improving and supporting the lives of women in rural communities is a crucial factor in fighting poverty and hunger.
Giving women equal access to the same opportunities as men could raise agricultural production by 2.5 to 4 percent in the poorest regions and reduce the number of malnourished people significantly
So with this year’s IDRW theme of ” Rural women cultivating good food for all“, let’s recognize the work of heroines in the food systems and give rural areas the equal opportunities available in other parts.