The food system across the world depends wholly on the daily output of rural women at the community level, who have contributed immensely to food chain distribution thereby enhancing agricultural and rural development as well as eradicating rural poverty.
Thus, the International Day of Rural women, with the theme, “Rural Women Cultivating Good Food for All” is imperative to appreciate the role these women play in their capacity to secure food distribution despite challenges occasioned by the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, the insecurity issues, and even food insecurity!
This is more important because, despite their role in food production, crop processing, distribution of foods they still do not wield the same power as men or do they get support from the government through support programs, assistance with mechanized farming, security, or even, provision of basic amenities that give their work a boost and ease of doing business.
The reasons for this disconnect include unequal power relations and discriminatory gender norms, as well as their disproportionate responsibility for unpaid caregiving and domestic work. Although women have served as critical agents of rural economic transformation, such roles have been limited in scope, mostly shaped by the dictates of local patriarchy, institutional barriers, cultural and religious beliefs.
Rural women in Imo have suffered varying degrees of gender-based violence as a result of insecurity, violent herdsmen attack, biased customs and tradition, family farmland tussles, lack of good policies and legal framework to own land, illiteracy, lack of good storage facility, poverty, cultural/religious restrictions, low level of education, inadequate land, poor health status, and poor yields.
As part of a way to assist rural women in Imo state last year, during COVID-19, Alliances for Africa embarked on a project with support from the Open Society Initiative for West Africa, OSIWA tagged, “Supporting Rural Women During COVID-19.
The project aimed to reduce the spread and mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on women and food security in Imo state.
The project benefited 120 crop farmers to revive and sustain their production activities and have linkages to markets while disseminating preventive measures on the COVID-19. New and traditional media was engaged to sensitize on prevention of COVID-19 modalities to access maternal healthcare for women of reproductive ages and prevention of violence against women and girls.
It is, therefore, necessary that the state government and civil society organizations, put in more efforts in carrying out this type of program regularly, to sustain such effort.
We, therefore, recommend that the government;
- Provide essential and basic amenities, especially, good roads, electricity, and water for rural dwellers.
- Support rural women farmers who still engage in subsistent farming by assisting them with fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, and other farm tools for good yield and maximum output.
- We recommend that the government support and educate women on the use of farm tools and train them in agricultural processes and food handling for increased output and food security.
- Help rural women have easy access to soft loans and grants.