“It’s about shifting the mindset…medium and small scale farming can generate income.“- 2014 Female Food Hero Monica Maigari from Kaduna State, Nigeria
Last week Oxfam America hosted a Brown Bag Lunch, which couldn’t have came at a better time as it was a day after International Women’s Day 2016, to share their Female Food Hero(FFH) Contest . The FFH Contest recognizes the achievement of rural women who are small stakeholder farmers and is evidence of how providing a platform for women to be agents of change can benefit entire communities. Oxfam America had special guest Monica Maigari, one of the 2014 FFH winners in Nigeria, to speak on her experience.
With the recognition as a Female Food Hero many women in Maigari’s community respected her, counted on her to be the voice of the community, and depended on her to shed light on the challenges they faced. In Nigeria where the population is 184 million people , women account for 60-79% of the workforce agriculture, but only 7.2% them own land, according to a representative from the Female Food Hero initiative in Nigeria.
Maigari mentioned that because women are denied many land rights they have to give money or part of their harvest to use the land. This limits economic freedom for women and disproportionately undermines women’s position as the main producers of agriculture in Nigeria. Because of her recognition as a Female Food Hero, she has gained respect and was sent to speak with the chief of her province advocating for her community on issues such as land-tenure rights for women.
Oxfam is a partner in the Movement for Community-led Development , a coalition of organizations that believe in a gender-focused, transformative process that “empowers citizens and local authorities to transform entrenched patriarchal mindsets and take effective action.” Oxfam’s initiatives like the FFH contest is addressing the patriarchal mindset that challenges rural women farmers and harnesses their empowerment as key change agents in communities to take action.
As a benefit of being a Female Food Hero, Maigari was awarded a cash prize of 200,000 Nigerian Naira (NGN), which enabled her to purchase two hectares of land to farm -which is not an easy feat for women in Nigeria. She also uses her land to benefit the community by allowing the land to be used as an “experiment” lab to see which crops or farming strategies work well.
The process of selecting the Female Food Hero was a national-wide effort where across Nigeria female farmers were were able to send in over 3000+ nominations ,and after a screening of the nominees, 12 finalist were selected. As one of the 12 finalists, Magari participated in a week long of events receiving training and information surrounding women and farming, meeting other industry professionals, and other women farmers alike. She mentioned that she is going back home and sharing the trainings received through a cooperative she has helped form.
Monica Maigari says, “It’s important that women teach women because they listen to themselves. A man just cant go to a women and teach, they will not accept it. Women come and they will listen. Man don’t have the patience.Women will have patience to demonstrate correctly [to other women].”
When Maigari asked what was the most important advice on replicating initiatives like the FFH contest she said the trainings should give more attention to labor saving strategies.”We need drought resistance seeds and [other technologies] that makes agriculture easier for women so they can balance [work and home duties].
By engaging women as key change agents and rethinking the power of community , long-lasting sustainable development can occur to make the dream of living in a food-secure word without poverty a reality. However, another caveat to making that dream a reality is recognizing the important role of women as key stakeholders in these issues.
To view the full trailer of the Female Food Hero Initiative in Nigeria please click here