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Beneficiaries weep as USAID donates N91.3m cowpea processing machines to women farmers

There were emotions as some beneficiaries wept when United States Agency for International Development (USAID), through Mercy Corps Nigeria, donated cowpea processing equipment worth N91.3m…

There were emotions as some beneficiaries wept when United States Agency for International Development (USAID), through Mercy Corps Nigeria, donated cowpea processing equipment worth N91.3m (US$220,000) to 40 Nigeria small-holder women farmers in Abuja and some selected states in the country.

The 40 beneficiaries drawn from Kebbi, Niger, Ebonyi, Benue, Borno, Yobe, Maiduguri, Adamawa, Yobe, Gombe and the FCT, were selected through the Feed the Future Nigeria Rural Resilience Activity program.

Speaking during the handover ceremony in Abuja, the Country Director, Mercy Corps Nigeria, Mr. Ndubisi Anyanwu, said, that this was to improve households’ nutrition and food security, improve women’s productivity and competitiveness in agribusiness, and strengthen the productivity of producer organizations.

“The USAID-funded Feed the Future Nigeria Rural Resilience Activity, implemented by Mercy Corps Nigeria, in partnership with the International Fertilizer Development Center and Save the Children International, has donated cowpea processing equipment to 40 women-owned small and medium enterprises in Kebbi, Niger, Ebonyi, Benue, Borno, Yobe, Maiduguri, FCT, Adamawa, Yobe, Gombe and the FCT.

“The equipment, which is being handed over to participants, includes Hammer mills, dehydrators, de-stoners, threshers and generators. They are expected to improve the production capacity of the women-owned cowpea processors by 40 percent,” Anyanwu said.

He said the equipment were to deliver well-targeted cash and capital support to participants in targeted communities to prevent further backsliding and economic devastation due to the secondary impacts of COVID-19 shocks and stresses.

He also said that the Rural Resilience Activity understands that the challenges of ‘accesses and ‘agency’ for women and youth in Nigeria, exacerbated by conflict, high levels of insecurity, and health shocks such as COVID-19, inhibit their participation in the productive sphere, particularly their entry into market systems as producers and entrepreneurs.

He said, “This understanding illustrates the importance of ‘push’ strategies to help 25,000 women and 10,000 youth farmers, producers and entrepreneurs overcome persistent gender-based discrimination and ‘pull’ strategies using more commercially based incentives to attract women and youth into markets.

“This will be particularly important as this expansion helps increase the income of 40 women cowpea processors by 40 percent. This approach aligns and reinforces the Rural Resilience Activity’s approach to Women’s Economic Empowerment (WEE).”

On her part, the Chief of Party, Rural Resilience Activity, Mrs. Margarita Aswani, said that the gesture, in the long term will ensure that the women processors produce high quality processed cowpea products, extend their market reach, become more competitive and increase their productivity.

“This is part of Mercy Corps Nigeria’s approach for sustainability, ensuring linkages between the Rural Resilience Activity’s Market Systems Approach and the COVID-19 Mitigation Response program,” she said.

It is expected that the participants will optimize the use of the equipment to benefit other women processors in their clusters, helping them to produce at a reduced production cost.

“The purpose of the cash transfer approach was to foster food security, strengthen food supply chains, and facilitate the recovery of smallholder farmers, households and micro enterprises, through broad and inclusive investment, to prevent further back sliding of targeted communities into economic devastation.

The Vice President, north central of the African Women Entrepreneurship Program (AWEP), Mrs. Jacqueline IKeotuone and other leaders of the women in emotion laden comments commended USAID, IFDC, Save the Children and Mercy Corps Nigeria for their gesture.

One of the beneficiaries, Mrs. Precious Acenyo Odoma, who openly wept, said that the gesture would not only benefit the recipients but others around them in the communities and by extension the country.

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