By positioning women as leaders, decision-makers, and agents of change, HarvestPlus is empowering rural women in Niger State to improve their nutrition and food security. In partnership with Nigeria’s Women in Agriculture Programme (WIA), women farmers are being taught entrepreneurial and innovative farming skills and given opportunities to garner income from the sale of their nutrient-enriched products.

In Nigeria, more than 60 percent of women are employed in the agricultural sector. And yet, women are often excluded from household decisions related to what they farm and the sale of their produce. Reducing gender gaps in agriculture can translate into significant poverty reduction and reap nutritional benefits for rural women and their families.

Over the last four years, through its collaboration with WIA in Niger State, HarvestPlus has been promoting biofortified crops to improve the nutrition and earning capacity of rural women. 

In September 2022, a three-day capacity-building event funded by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, the Agricultural Development Program, and WIA was organized for farmers and WIA officers drawn broadly from across the State. Over 40 women were trained, half of which will facilitate subsequent step-down training at community levels.

Hanwa Ibrahim, a 25-year-old farmer, participated in the event. “I thank God for the introduction of biofortified vitamin A maize,” she said. Following her training, Ibrahim generated higher on-farm yield, a more diverse diet for her family, and extra income from selling the maize at her local market. Her success is inspiring other members of her community to start their own businesses.

The event included a demonstration and distribution of start-up packages to local processors intended to inspire and train women and investors to process, store, and distribute vitamin A maize flour.

“The number of villagers that patronize my milling machine with vitamin A maize increases as the days goes by. Vitamin A maize is more suitable for preparing our local dish, towo,” said Mallam Yahaya Umar, a local miller. Among his community, there is high acceptability of biofortified maize due to its health benefits and nutritional value.

The Deputy Head of Niger State Agricultural and Mechanization Development Authority, Halima Abubakar, attested to an increase in women’s engagement in agriculture and community activities due to the WIA and HarvestPlus collaboration. Furthermore, Hajiya Asamau Abubakar Mohammed, the State Nutrition Officer of the Niger State Primary Health Care Development Agency, confirmed that the training was a way forward for households and communities to tackle malnutrition.

The training prepared women extension agents to promote biofortified food recipes and support women in cooperatives, health facilities, their communities, and beyond to make good nutritional choices. 

Through facilitation and advocacy for the continued scaling of locally processed vitamin A maize grains into flour, HarvestPlus is encouraging more and more entrepreneurial women to generate income to sustain their households while nourishing their families and communities.