Women, Water and Security

Water Work

By Oluwaseun Ayodeji Osowobi

Growing up in Nigeria, I had access to basic amenities such as running tap water, but for most rural women and girls in some parts of Nigeria and Africa, access to clean water was a gift. Women there still shoulder the burden of collecting water daily for both domestic and agricultural use; bathing is a luxury.

A UN report on the gender dimension of the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) estimates that 62 percent of women in sub-Saharan Africa are responsible for collecting water. Living among northern Nigerian women, I observed how lack of access to water hurt their economic status, hygiene, and access to sanitation and irrigation. Women often walk two hours daily to collect water, carrying heavy containers on their shoulders and disregarding the effect it has on their health. As a result of the strenuous walks, some pregnant women suffer miscarriages. Most times, the water fetched is unclean, and the children who drink it are especially susceptible to waterborne diseases such as cholera, while others die immediately after drinking acidic water.

Women’s lack of access to water and land ownership are entwined, making them more susceptible to poverty. While men have access to cars and camels for transporting water to grow crops, women rarely do . Women sometimes must get approval from their husbands or male family members to own land. Without title to land, women are often denied access to technologies and resources –– such as credit extension and seed –– that enable them to expand their businesses. With men’s agricultural activities regarded as the top priority, there may be water provided through irrigation for farming, but no such prioritization for accessible and safe drinking water. Access to water can enhance women’s income generation in agricultural activities, enabling them to reinvest in their families and communities.

Resolving the clean water scarcity is not just a matter for the government. Privatization — when the government sells the rights to private companies — has also hindered women’s access to water. Although women place high importance on water, their inability to pay for water constrains them to use dirty rainwater.

Women in the rural areas lack sanitation facilities such as toilets, sewers and wastewater treatment. Sometimes they can’t afford to build these facilities, while other times it’s based on cultural beliefs. In a village where I stayed in southern Nigeria, it’s believed that it’s a waste of space to construct a toilet. Without access to latrines, many women and girls become prisoners of daylight, only daring to relieve themselves in the bush under the cover of darkness. This makes them vulnerable to sexual violence and attacks by animals. Access to sanitation facilities is especially imperative for menstruating women, pregnant women and nursing mothers.

Education is another casualty of the water shortage. Girls miss school because they have to take care of their siblings while their mothers are collecting water, or sometimes they themselves have to collect water. They also leave school during their menstrual period as there are no adequate sanitary facilities in their schools.

Tackling the water shortage faced by women can lead to progress in many other areas, such as sustainable development, poverty eradication, women’s rights, reproductive and maternal health, improved education for girls and a reduction in morbidity and mortality rates.

Let’s think of a new framework for security. When people think of security they think of weapons of mass destruction, war and terrorism. When I think of it, I look at it from the human security perspective. Are you safe from chronic threats such as hunger? Are you able to attend school with your brothers? Are you able to earn a steady income through ownership and cultivation of your own land? Having access to water is not just a human need, it’s a matter of human dignity.

The writer Osowobi Ayo  is a master’s degree holder in International Relations and a gender advocate from Swansea University, Uk


Youth: get geared up!

Making a presentation on country level activities at the YPARD Side event. #aasw6

Making a presentation on country level activities at the YPARD Side event. #aasw6

The 6th Africa Agriculture Science Week with the theme;- “Africa Feeding Africa through Agricultural Science and Innovation” was held between the 15th and 21st of July 2013 at Accra, Ghana and put together by the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA). It was an event  that I was happy to have participated in. You might wonder why I have said so. For the first time since my sojourn into Agricultural Research for Development, I was part of an event that clearly highlighted that Food Security in Africa was a concern to all from the youngest to the oldest, from Donors to ARD agencies and even down to scientist and the private sector players.

Let me give you a quick overview of how the event by, as you read pay a bit of attention to the inclusion and involvement of youth in this Africa wide event and why indeed we need to be geared up for action and impact in the near future. Quite unknown to many though, that future is now.

The conference had four thematic focuses, namely

  • Education and human Resource development to enable Africa feed Africa
  • Innovations to improve productivity and resilience
  • Moving beyond competition and towards collaboration
  • Innovative Financing and Investment in Agriculture.

The first two days of the conference were allocated to side events by FARA constituents, stakeholders, partner organisations, Regional Agriculture Research Councils and even Donors. And each of these side events had a very good number of youth and young professionals in attendance to not only listen and observe, but also give their contributions, perspectives and give a voice in all the discussions held.

Personally, I was invited and supported by FARA to attend and take part in the side-event with the theme: “Promoting Access to Rural Finance for Enhanced Agricultural Productivity in Africa” and this comes under the fourth thematic focus- “Innovative Financing and Investment in Agriculture.” The panellist and participants at this discussions agreed that there was a need to increase greatly investment in Agriculture paying attention to two core areas namely

  1. Sustainable new ways for accessing agricultural and rural finance in Africa
  2. Innovative options for promoting Youth access to financial services for agricultural purposes.

Participants at this event were cross-cutting thus giving a good mix of suggestions and practical way forwards. At the end of the discussions for the day, it was all agreed that a multi stakeholder approach was needed to properly and successfully increase investment in rural agriculture. And that for youth to have access to finance a couple of things needs to be put into consideration

  1. A review of agricultural policy
  2. Reduction of high interest rate so that youth can have access to credit
  3. A review of land tenure laws, which would tend toward making access to land for agricultural purpose readily available for youth
  4. Development of application of ICT to agriculture
  5. Capacity building in production and financial management skills

Another intriguing aspect of the Science week for me was working with the over 165 social media support team which had 55 of them onsite. FARA, CTA, YPARD, and CGIAR had partnered to support 25 onsite Social media Trainee from across Africa who were trained prior to the event to report proceedings to the world at large. And it was indeed, a great opportunity to work side by side these energetic and cool young people on the social media team.

By and large the science week shed more light on advancements made so far, challenges and the need for Africa to seek more scientific and innovative methods in its quest to feed itself. The need for more youth and women in the advancement of food security was stressed from all quarters. In the words of the IFAD President, Kanayo. N. Kanayo

Africa needs a commitment at all levels, involvement of all sectors of our societies – government, the private sector, farmers themselves, NGOs, civil society, and particularly women and young people.”

Even though sadly for me no one neither the private sector nor government agencies made mention of specific roles or programs or project that they would engage youth in the near future. My thoughts and advice for every youth and young professional in ARD is this- “Develop yourself, be ready to learn, maintain a good network of other young professionals in ARD, seize opportunities that come your way, partner with others and when the time comes we would be ripe and ready to take our place in securing Africa”

Get geared up!


“Agribusiness, Cool business” were the words on the lips of the 39 youths that came together in Akure Ondo state Nigeria on the 21st of November 2012 to be part of the COOL TO FARM Workshop series by Agropreneur Nigeria and the OAC-Agro Advocacy Initiative.

The main purpose of the workshop was to show to the youth that agriculture can be and is a sexy profession and self sustaining at that. It was designed to help the youths present understand their role in the agricultural value chain and what skills they needed to acquire to fit into the links.

The workshop featured speakers from all sectors such as the All Farmer’ Association of Nigeria (AFAN) Ondo State Branch: Mr. Idowu Oludare who happens to be the General Secretary at the Grasscutter Rearing Commodity, Mr Isaac Oluwalade: the Nigeria Representative of the World Cocoa Foundation who works in partnership with IITA on the Cocoa Livelihood Program, Tosin Awoyinka, a 23 year old ginger juice producer who represented the Agro processing industry and Mr Bolaji Ogunseye an UNDP consultant with 25 years experience in poverty alleviation.

The youths listened attentively as each speaker spoke during the panel session. The interactions were superb as they asked insightful and informative questions to help them get on track. Some of the questions include “how can we diversify and how do we replant incase of inherited cocoa farms?, “What are the procedures to join the farmers organisations?”, and “are there organisations to assist startups like us ?”.

Twenty out of the thirty-nine expressed interest in joining the farmer’s organization right away. The Nigeria Representative of the World Cocoa Foundation, Isaac Oluwalade, who was present to show the opportunities in the cocoa sector in Nigeria had this to say at the end of the event:

“we are happy that the youths are beginning to show interest in the sector and we would continue to work with the organizers of this workshop to reach more youth with the message”

One interesting feature of the workshop was the presentation on YPARD it activities and how the youths can get involved in them. Olawale Ojo who made the presentation to the audience stressed the fact that YPARD was opened to all who were professional in agriculture and not necessary those in research or academics only. He emphasis the importance of not just becoming members of the network but also that they should be active in at least one of the four focus of YPARD which are to promote agriculture among young people, to facilitate access to resources and information for cabacity building, to enabling environment for networking and exchange of information among young professional and to broaden opportunities for young professionals to contribute to ARD policy debate. The youths who had all obtained promotional YPARD flyers also put down their email contact for future follow up. We look forward to have them join the YPARD family.

The experience sharing and breakout sessions afforded the youth to express their feeling, successes and challenges faced in the sector. And by moderated interactions they were able to come up with solutions and suggestions that can be implemented easily.

The workshop went beyond just the walls of the venue as there were live tweets of the events using the hash tag #cooltofarm and this allowed for interaction with those not present at the event showing the power of social media. Pre event announcements were made using both social media and traditional media. As a matter of fact, most of those present registered beforehand through social media. The traditional media was also used as a source of information dissemination as the “Cool to Farm” workshop made the news item on the morning of the event and a post event interview was conducted on state television channel to emphasis more on the role the youth play in this all important sector of the economy – Agriculture.

In the coming months the workshop would move to other cities in Nigeria. And we look forward to touching more youths with the message. Update can be found on http://www.facebook.com/cool2farm.