Justina Ishaku, a smallholder farmer in Nasarawa State, cultivates cassava and groundnuts. She owns six hectares of land.
In this episode of our weekly series of Women in Agriculture, Ms Ishiaku shares a terrifying experience.
PT: You started farming just eight years ago, why did it take you so long to start?
Ms Ishiaku: I was selling palm oil in Kogi State, then I relocated to Nasarawa State to continue because I was told it’s more lucrative here. After some time, I experienced a huge loss, I then moved to selling food, garri, and raw rice, but it was not giving me the kind of money I wanted. I had to look for an alternative, which is farming.
PT: Comparing palm oil and farming, which of them would you say is better?
Ms Ishiaku: If not for insecurity or herders’ crisis, I prefer farming. Farming is my own decision, unlike when I was into business, I travel from one village to another with my goods, then I sell at different markets. This one I’m based in one location.
PT: Owning land for women is very usually stressful even in their own communities, migration plays a critical role too, how are you able to own land here?
Ms Ishiaku: There is this man, an indigene of this community, he gave me two hectares at N25,000. Currently, it’s about N120,000. Last year, I told him I cannot meet up to that amount, considering the economic situation of the country. He understood and gave me N80,000 this year for the two hectares.
PT: You mentioned your business ran down and you had no money to sustain your business. How were you able to raise capital for your business?
Ms Ishiaku: I got money from my parents, I had little, they were able to raise N150,000 for me. Later I started getting loans from financial institutions, that I repay 30 per cent monthly. I collected N350,000 in 2013 and I finished paying in 2015.
PT: Insecurity is another issue affecting food production in Nigeria, can you share your personal experience?
Ms Ishiaku: Two years ago, I met herders on my farm, when I complained, they asked me to choose between my life or the crop. I had to leave them. Another time, the yam I kept, cows finished all. Since last year, kidnappers have been taking people and demanding ransom. Last week, I was on my farm and I heard gunshots. I was scared then I had to seek protection. After some minutes, I heard voices and then another shot, this time I was very scared . I later discovered a man was killed on his farm, which is close to my own. I am not sure I will visit my farm for now, I’m not talking about harvest because it is clear fear will not allow me to do anything there this year.
PT: Aside from land, farm inputs are very essential for agricultural productivity, how do you manage to get them ( fertilizer, seeds). ?
Ms Ishiaku: I buy them from the market, but for seeds I know of improved seeds that I got from a micro finance bank. For fertilizer, we met the local government chairman, and he gave us two bags. I buy birds and cow dungs. I buy a 50kg bag for N2,000. The birds can go for N 1,000 depending on your relationship. I use about 12 bags of bird dung, which was not enough.
PT: How do you manage labour on your farm, do you use machines ?
Ms Ishiaku: I use both machines (tractors) and human labour. There are a lot of machines here so I rent them when it is time to use them. Payment differs, last year I paid N300,000 for three days. I have not even called them this year. For labour, I use mainly women. My children also support me on the farm. I pay as much as N40,000.
PT: What are your challenges as a farmer then as a woman farmer ?
Ms Ishiaku: Last two years, someone gave me a hectare of land, I was the first to pay for it. I cultivated it, and the following year, the owner collected it from me. He asked how can a woman have such a farm? There is another one, this place is affected by erosion, I was at the other side of the farm where water could easily wash my crops, the other said will be less affected, the other side was owned by a man, the man just blocked the water from affected his farm, then channelled it to mine. I lost everything. Financially, I’m not buoyant.ADVERTISEMENT
PT: Which of the farmers associations do you belong to?
Ms Ishiaku: I belong to the Small Scale Women Farmers Association of Nigeria ( SWOFON). I belong to another business association, I have not benefited from them, not even fertilizer.
PT: Climate change has affected rainfall patterns, how has it affected your productivity?
Ms Ishiaku: I lost my crops, there are insects that eat up crops. There are new chemicals that are in the market, so I use them for my crops. For rain, I carry water in a tricycle to the farm about three to four times a day. I spray the water on them.
PT: Tell us, do you have a market for your crops?
Ms Ishiaku: Yes, I have women customers that produce garri and they buy cassava. I sell from the farm.
PT: What would you say you want as a farmer?
Ms Ishiaku: I want security, let the government do something about this insecurity. I need finance and seeds, land is not the basic problem but if I see money, I will buy more land.