World Bank earmarks $1b for agric

By The Citizen

The World Bank Country Director for Nigeria, Marie-Francoise Marie Nelly, said the global lender will support the agriculture sector with $1 billion to be spent between three and five years.

Nelly spoke during a Technical Dialogue on Gender and Agriculture organised by the bank yesterday in Abuja.

She said the bank will not support the Federal Government's irrigation schemes, arguing that the World Bank had planned to rehabilitate some of the irrigation systems, but was denied access to lands and other forms of support to complement the Federal Government Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA).

She said: 'The World Bank is strongly engaging agriculture. We are planning to commit almost $1 billion in the next three to five years in agriculture. Not only on the aspect of transforming the capacity of women, but also in transforming the tools to improve on productivity.

'One area that is on the line is irrigation.We intend to rehabilitate a number of these irrigation schemes, but cannot be allowed to have large land irrigated for farmers and we hope that in doing so, we certainly will not be able to do so anymore.'

She described the ATA as a major tool to drive rural-urban growth, achieving food and nutritional security, generate employment as well as position the country among world players in the global food market.

According to her, the strategy is to improve on the value chains in a few commodity areas, stressing that women were involved in some programme.

Speaking on the rationale for supporting the agriculture, she said the sector employs 70 per cent of labour and contributes about 40 per cent to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

'We are practically supporting this programme for two specific reasons. First is the role agriculture plays in Nigeria's economy where agriculture employs about 70 per cent of the labour force and also represents 40 per cent of Nigerian GDP,' she said.

Referring to a report titled: Manifestation of gender inequality in agriculture, Nelly said many people involved in agriculture are women.

While applauding Federal Government's policy on the liberalisation of access to fertiliser input, she expressed concerns on the yield of female farmers compared to their male counterparts.

According to her, women would rather spend more of their farm harvest on their children to access quality education, adding that this has made it more imperative to support women farmers in the country by transforming poor households and in doing so, transforming the nation's economy.

She said: 'In a study we will be presenting, the team has worked on junior allowance survey panel of 75, 000 households and out of that, almost 60 per cent of them are agricultural households and we think it is a good representation of the structure of Nigerian society and economy.

'Looking at females, we see that globally, as part of the national distribution, 35 per cent are females, but if we focus on rural areas, we will see that 50 per cent of people involved in agriculture are women, which are a significant involvement of women in agriculture and we need to see the implication particularly in the peers.'

'My question will be, do we make sure women have access to fertilisers? So, in the context of high importance of agriculture in Nigeria, we want to understand how women are participating in agriculture, which is quite significant but the policy proposed, is it adaptive to their specific concerns?'

In his presentation on: Who produces more? Men or women?, Markus Goldstein of Africa Region Gender Practice, identified difference in skills, education and extension as major contributing factors.