The Small-Scale Women Farmers Organisation in Nigeria (SWOFON) and ActionAid Nigeria have said that security agents and task force members enforcing the government-ordered lockdown are harassing and extorting small-scale farmers trying to move their produce to the market.
The bodies made the observation in a joint statement on Sunday after a virtual press conference to access the effect of the lockdown on smallholder farmers.
“The security agencies and task forces enforcing the lockdown in the states, at the local government and community levels, are incessantly harassing and extorting smallholder farmers, especially women,” they said.
The continued lockdown was taking its toll on the farmers, SWOFON President, Mrs. Mary Afa, and Country Director of ActionAid, Mrs. Ene Obi, said in the statement.
The heads expressed displeasure at post-harvest losses being incurred by farmers as a result of state lockdowns in the country.
Nigeria has been enforcing lockdown in selected states in the country over the rising cases of infection from the novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
The Federal Government had also announced restrictions in inter-state travels with exemptions to essential delivery services including agricultural producers.
SWOFON and ActionAid, however, noted that small-scale farmers in the country have been counting the cost of the lockdown due to their inability to bring their vegetables, fruits, and other perishables to the market.
They further warned of a looming food crisis in the country, calling on the federal government for relevant interventions.
They added, “As organisations working to eradicate poverty, promote social justice and gender equality, we have deemed it fit to draw the attention of the government to the continual loss of income and livelihoods in the agricultural sector especially for smallholder women farmers, arising from the continued lockdown and restriction of movement.
“As a result of the COVID-19 lockdown and lack of access to markets, farmers are experiencing massive post-harvest losses on fruits, vegetables, fresh products, and other perishables.
“Smallholder women farmers are unable to move their products from their farms to the market or from their rural communities to semi-urban and urban markets.
“They are also losing income from staple food like maize, rice, wheat, potatoes, cassava, soybeans, yams, sorghum, and plantain, etc.”
The bodies also decried the lack of access to input markets for livestock farmers, especially poultry farmers.
They added that the lockdown and skeletal operations of restaurants had adversely affected fisheries and aquaculture farmers.
These, they said, had worsened the situation, especially for smallholder women farmers who already had problems with low and difficult access to credit, essential inputs, and improved seeds and seedlings, among others, before the pandemic.
“Being a planting season for farmers, it is pertinent to say that the food crisis is already looming in Nigeria. Currently, there is a food price crisis across the country, the poor and vulnerable are facing hunger and malnutrition, and this includes our smallholder women farmers,” they noted.