Women in Plateau State dominate agricultural space, generate income for their families and support their spouses.
With good weather conducive to vegetable and grain production, they take advantage of the fertile soil and availability of farmland in the state to venture into farming.
Ms. Atong James, an enterprising woman from the Jos North Local Government Area of the state, is changing the narrative and perspective of farming. She owns a farm along the Lamingo region of Jos, the capital of Plateau State.
She graduated from College of Health Technology, Zawan, Jos, in 2006 and works in a hospital.
Despite her busy schedule, she always deploys her energy, expertise, passion and resources in agriculture.
She became a source of encouragement for young women and tried to change women’s perspective on farming.
First, she advocated for girls to engage in farming rather than sitting idle or waiting for men to support them, which she says often leads them to have bad relationships or be initiated into antisocial vices or criminality.
Ms. James, 38 and a mother of four, grows maize, cassava, onions, tomatoes, Irish potatoes, green pepper, cabbage, groundnuts, among other crops and vegetables.
She said she has been cultivating for about 13 years now and earning considerable income, adding that she mainly hires other people to work for her and pays them between 1,000 and 1,500 Naira per day.
Among those working for her are energetic farmers who come from Jigawa State in search of jobs during the dry season. Whatever they do in the dry season, they go back to their state to inject into their own farms at the start of the rainy season.
She said most of the work was done manually because they could not afford the mechanized farming system, adding that their main challenge was how to acquire fertilizer to apply on the crops for abundant yield. However, she is determined to continue the work of the farm.
She further said that after graduating from health school in 2006, they only farmed for home consumption, but after looking for a job for two years without success, she took up farming. commercial. Even after getting a job, she did not give up farming; hence his exploits.
“We usually go to the farm from 7am and close between 4 and 5pm. Even though it is planting season we usually don’t stay on the farm too long except we are planting Irish Potatoes which is time consuming as we have to dig up the ground to put in seeds before applying manure.
“Overall, I thank God for the people (young women) who work for me on the farm because they are always engaged. And since it’s my business now, I also have to be very committed to the work by involving myself and coordinating activities very well.
“I empower my workers to the best of my abilities. And by working for me, they also learn how to cultivate. Some of them have created their own farm. It is an exploit.
“So those who work for me benefit in many ways. During the harvest, I usually give them a considerable product to take home, but some of them will ask for monetary value instead,” she said.
According to her, among the crops she grows, maize is easiest because she usually does not spend too much money to grow it, unlike other crops like Irish potato, which are very expensive to plant. She said, however, that it ultimately brings in more revenue at the end of the day. After maize, she said, another easier/cheaper crop was onions, adding that she sometimes prioritizes because she does not receive support from anywhere.
Ms James said she had always heard that some farmers were getting help from government establishments/agencies and non-governmental organizations based on agriculture, but she did not know how they got it.
She hopes to continue and gain such support as soon as her agribusiness becomes widely known, appreciated and motivating for women, as well as attracting media attention.
As to whether she knew anything about agricultural support from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) or the Bank of Industry (BOI), she said she would find out, hoping they would be friendly with women farmers.
She stressed that her desire in agriculture was not to compete with anyone, but mainly to serve as motivation for women and make them believe in themselves and venture into jobs, businesses and other activities. generally considered to be reserved for men.
“I think it’s good that government at all levels are doing more in agriculture if they want to fight hunger, create job opportunities and boost our economy. It is important that the government deepen its partnership with the international communities for agricultural development in the country for the country to succeed.
“It is unfortunate, for example, to still see large and small farmers in Nigeria cultivating and harvesting manually. This is unlike advanced countries, and even some developing countries, where magnificent machines and technologies are deployed for agricultural work.
“Clearing farmland, creating seedbeds, planting seeds, weeding, applying fertilizer/manure to plants, harvesting and packing (if any) should not have be redone manually in the country. This given that farming is our main occupation and the country is already over ’61 years old’ since its independence from Britain on October 1, 1960,” she added.