A UNESCO programme, Read and Earn Federation (UNESCO-REF), is collaborating with Nigerians in diaspora to assist Young Women in Agriculture champions.

The programme is being executed under the Strategic Intervention Programme (SIP-ALPHA) with support from the Office of the presidential aide on Sustainable Development Goals and the Police Officers Wives Association.

President of UNESCO-REF and Principal Director, SIP-ALPHA, Mr Ladigbolu Abdulsalami, stated in Abuja on Monday that the collaboration aimed at strengthening women smallholder farmers to become self-reliant.

“We are optimistic that with transformative approaches, progress could be accelerated to strengthen smallholder farmers and women’s livelihoods and resilience in Nigeria.

“The Young Women in Agriculture Initiative is part of our commitment to complement stakeholders towards actualising substantial attainment of the UN Social Development Goals before on or by the 2030 target date.

“This is to ensure food security, address food wastages, improve nutrition security and provide viable strategies that create real, long-term results for economic development and community stability,’’ he stated.

Abdulsalami added that doing this would help to build viable ecological future taking into account issues of climate change.

He quoted the World Bank as saying that healthy, sustainable and inclusive food systems were critical to achieving world’s development goals.

“Agricultural development is one of the most powerful tools to end extreme poverty, boost shared prosperity, and feed a projected 9.7 billion people by 2050.

“Growth in the agriculture sector is two to four times more effective in raising incomes among the poorest, compared to other sectors.

“Agriculture is crucial to economic growth, accounting for 4 per cent of global GDP and in some least-developed countries, it accounts for more than 25 per cent of GDP,’’ he added.

Abdulsalami stated also that multiple shocks from COVID-19-related disruptions, extreme weather, pests and conflicts were affecting food systems, resulting in higher food prices and growing hunger.

According to him, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has also accelerated a global food crisis that is driving millions more into extreme poverty

He added that the invasion had left about 205 million people across 45 countries with so little food that their lives were at risk.

He stressed that risks associated with food insecurity, hunger, poverty and poor diets resulting in double burden of malnutrition, increased the risk of various forms of malnutrition, and potentially leading to under-nutrition.

He added that it could lead to illnesses and health crises as well as people becoming overweight.

The female gender could play a pivotal role in mitigating some of these challenges, Abdulsalami also stated.

Meanwhile, Chief Executive Officer, Women’s Space, United States of America, Nigeria’s Ms Ogechi Onyenkwu, has pledged to strengthen collaboration with UNESCO-REF to enhance female gender balance in the agriculture sector.

Onyenkwu said there was the need to strengthen female gender to tackle hunger and malnutrition through sustainable agriculture, while managing, preserving and restoring natural resources and ecosystems.

She stressed this would make women to be self-reliant by learning agricultural logistics, distribution and techniques of exporting produce to other parts of the world. (NAN)

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