Ndidi Nwuneli is the Founder of LEAP Africa and Director of Sahel Capital Partners & Advisory Ltd. Through her work with Sahel Capital, she has shaped agriculture strategy and policy in West Africa for a range of private sector, public sector, and development agency clients in Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria, and Senegal. In this interview, she spoke about areas women can explore in the area of agriculture.
Tell us the role of an entrepreneur?
Nwuneli: An entrepreneur has to be visionary. They have to have a clear goal; you have to be committed to the building blocks. That is your business concept, product or service has to be clear and also strategy to achieve it has to be clear.
When seeking finance internally and from family and friends, you have to develop a good strategy.
For women involved in agriculture, what do they need to do to stand out in this business that does not look attractive?
Nwuneli :There are lots of opportunities for women in agriculture but we don't think about them. Dairy and poultry. Women control milk from catles, that is power. If you control the milk, then you can sell. We are doing a whole project on diary and there are real opportunities there. There is also a real opportunity for women in poultry. Now in the North, women control the eggs but they don't have access to the market. Also, the area of processing is untapped.
Who is processing in Nigeria, nobody. I must say Nigeria is sitting on a goldmine in agriculture.
How do you mean?
Nwuneli: Nigeria is sitting on a goldmine when it comes to agriculture. After education, I think agriculture is the next big thing to get women out of poverty.
Nigeria is the number one producer of cassava, cowpea, yam, sweet potatoes, cashew, okro, sesame etc. Despite all the opportunities in agriculture we are operating way below our potentials, and this affects women and affects homes.
What are the challenges women are facing in agriculture?
Nwuneli : Poor yield and transportation is one of the challenges, we lose 60 % of what we produce due to poor storage.
Access to finance is also a problem, women only access one percent of finance in agriculture.
The role women play in agriculture is big. An average farmer sells tomatoes at N4 per kg, when it gets to Abuja, its N250 per kg .
Who makes the money in- between? Middlemen, why not middle women? Women need to move from the trader at the end or the farmer at the beginning. Women must be involved in the agriculture value chain.
We have to ensure that women are involved in the logistics, warehousing, training e.t.c. Women have opportunities in trading and warehousing. We don't have enough women in processing.
There are so many opportunities for engagement for women entrepreneurs, opportunities for women to become producers, processors of these products.
What can we do to promote women in agriculture?
Nwuneli: We have to address the issue of land reform. Women that have land should write a Will and lease some land to their daughters.
We need data,we need to collect more data to make cases for women in agriculture. We need a good financing system. We need women in the supply chain as well.The hard truth is that many women want to operate on the micro level, we have to become more disciplined .