Nelly Bassily | February 18, 2013
An old saying goes: ‘Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.’ Nigerian farmer Susan Godwin proved that if you teach a woman to farm, you feed her and her family for a lifetime. And not only that. Ms. Godwin went on to rent equipment and employ other women in food processing. In recognition of her success, Ms. Godwin was recently named a “food hero” in Nigeria.
Ms. Godwin is a small-scale farmer in the village of Tunduadabu, in central Nigeria. When her crops failed four years ago, she went back to the classroom. She learned new farming methods, how to add value to her produce, and how to draw up a business plan to access credit.
The following harvest, Ms. Godwin’s yam and groundnut yield doubled. With the income from her sales, she bought a groundnut shelling machine. She began processing groundnuts into oil and groundnut cake.
Today, her family is food secure and financially secure. Not many farming families in her village enjoy this comfortable position. Ms. Godwin says that learning about and adopting new farming methods made the difference. She adds: “Adopting new methods has helped lift me out of poverty to a new life where I have enough to eat, to give to people around me and to sell. I am now able to send my children to school.”
Ms. Godwin now has five groundnut shelling machines. She employs three women to operate them. She also rents the machines to community members and shares her profits with her employees. Some of them have gone on to establish their own businesses.
Oxfam International named Ms. Godwin as the 2012 Female Food Hero in Nigeria. She was also celebrated as a farming role model at an international symposium on global food security known as the Borlaug Dialogue.
Tracy Gerstle is director of global public policy at CropLife International. CropLife International is a federation that represents businesses involved in agricultural pesticides and biotechnology. She says the central role of women in global food security must not be overlooked. Ms. Gerstle observes that women are essential to breaking the cycle of poverty within poor households. “Yet,” she notes, “women struggle to reach their potential, given globally persistent gaps in their access to extension (services), agricultural inputs, land, and finance vis-à-vis men.”
To address this gap, Ms. Gerstle calls for educational opportunities for girls and women, including training facilities, scholarships, mentoring, and extension services.
Ms. Godwin has taken a leadership role among farmers. She is now chairwoman of the United Movement for Small Scale Farmers in Nigeria. She believes that small-scale farmers are key to global food security, and states, “Smallholder farmers can feed the world if we give them the tools and support them.”