At ETK Group, we join the world in recognising the efforts made by women in our company and across the globe for the betterment of business, community, and humanity.
This year’s IWD theme, DigitALL: Innovation and Technology for Gender Equality, is particularly exciting for the ETK Group.
The Mastercard Foundation recently appointed our firm as the project manager for two exciting agriculture initiatives in Nigeria. The Integrated Community-led Network (ICON 2) led by the Women Farmers Advancement Network (WOFAN), and the Enterprise for Youth in Agriculture (EYiA) – an effort of Soilless Farm Lab.
In both cases, the Mastercard Foundation, through its Young African Works strategy , seeks to strengthen the capacity of smallholder farmers through climate-smart, digitally enabled farming. Both projects focus on women and youth, reinforcing their critical role in agriculture. By improving crop yields and creating access to markets, beneficiaries of ICON 2 and EYiA programs can secure sustainable livelihoods for the benefit of their families, communities, and country.
While this is our maiden venture into project management for development initiatives, we are no strangers to building institutional capacity and governance. Since our inception in 2010, over 200 businesses worldwide have successfully launched in Africa, thanks to our unparalleled understanding of the continent.
We bring a private sector-oriented, commercially focused angle to project management and governance in the development sector. This approach recognises the importance of using sound business practises and principles in designing and implementing development projects.
The role of agriculture in Nigeria cannot be overstated. The Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) noted that between January and March 2021, the sector contributed 22.35% of the total gross domestic product. Over 70% of Nigerians engage in the agriculture sector, mainly at a subsistence level.
The Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) estimates that 43% of the global agricultural labour force comprises women. In the least developed countries, two in three women earn a livelihood from farming.
In Nigeria, that 66% goes up to over 70%. The Civil Resource Development and Documentation Centre (CIRDDOC) reports that women smallholder farmers constitute 70–80% of the agricultural labour force at the subsistence level.
CIRDDOC adds, “Women produce the bulk of food for domestic consumption and are the drivers of food processing, marketing, and preservation. Despite this enormous task, they have limited access to land, credit facilities, farm input training and advice, technology, and crop insurance, among other things. Women small farm owners own only 14% of the land on which they farm.
The FAO further notes that, despite its contribution to the economy, Nigeria’s agricultural sector faces many challenges that impact its productivity. These include poor land tenure systems, low levels of irrigation farming, climate change, and land degradation. Other factors include low technology, high production costs and poor input distribution, limited financing, high post-harvest losses, and limited market access.
These challenges have resulted in women having lower yields than their male counterparts, limiting their ability to provide for their families and contribute to the national economy.
Unfortunately, even with the prevalence of digital technology on the continent, women are often excluded from accessing these tools due to social and cultural barriers, such as a lack of education and financial resources. This exclusion puts women at a significant disadvantage, limiting their ability to compete in the market, therefore negatively affecting their economic and social status.
However, the potential for women in agriculture in Nigeria is enormous. Women deeply understand the local ecosystem and play a critical role in ensuring that agricultural practices are sustainable and environmentally friendly. By empowering women and providing them with the necessary resources, they can become key players in the farming sector and drive economic growth in Nigeria.
Furthermore, technology has the potential to revolutionise agriculture in Nigeria by making it more efficient, productive, and sustainable. Women farmers can adopt intelligent agriculture solutions that leverage technology to help them optimise crop yields, reduce waste, and create proactive solutions to tackle climate change and assure food security.
At ETK Group, we believe this year’s IWD clarion call is a game-changer for women in the agricultural sector.
We can’t wait to see the possibilities digital technologies deployed in ICON 2 and EYiA will unlock in Nigeria on the road to achieving Sustainable Development Goal 2 (creating a world free of hunger by 2030).
Photo: A Soilless Farm Lab project beneficiary – Photo Credit: Soilless Farm Lab via their website.