MEDA and Global Affairs Canada (GAC) are collaborating to support women and youth-run businesses in the processing sector and food industry in Bauchi State, Nigeria. The project will work in three main value chains: rice, peanut, and soybean.
The Youth Entrepreneurship and Women’s Empowerment Project in Northern Nigeria aims to increase the contribution by entrepreneurs (ENs) and a small-scale businesses (SSBs), particularly those run by women and youth, to Nigeria’s economic growth.
Nigeria’s Bauchi state is in the north-eastern region of the country. Dryer and more arid than the southern states, Bauchi is susceptible to climate change and desertification. Although Nigeria is considered one of the wealthiest African nations, economic advantages are unevenly distributed, and the northern regions have higher unemployment and greater economic and gender inequality as well as incidences of violent conflict.
Currently, the Federal Government of Nigeria is investing in agricultural development across Nigeria. Production and harvests have increased, and the local economy is growing. However, Bauchi state lacks an agricultural aggregation structure and few corporations aggregate agricultural produce there. It is mainly middlemen who purchase at the farmgate. Women producers are particularly disadvantaged as gender and social norms constrain their mobility to effect market linkages and many women market through proxies. This means they also lack credible market information and rely on social networks to learn about the marketplace.
Although agriculture is the dominant economic activity for both women and men of all ages, market systems are informal and market actors are ill-informed in terms of credible market information and business training. This problem is more acute for women farmers who have time constraints due to family responsibilities, lower literacy levels, smaller business networks and limited mobility. The challenge for women is compounded due to unwelcoming public spaces and business environments, whose productivity is undermined by gender norms which demand a rigid division of labour and generational inequities.
Rice, peanuts and soy food crops that provide for both domestic consumption and processing for the market. They are accessible to women who farm these commodities, are highly nutritious and can be used to combat food insecurity in a region facing climate change and political instability.
With increased access to productive technologies and business services, greater financial inclusion and inclusive community dialogues, Nigeria WAY supports women and youth-led businesses to transform their contribution to their households, their communities, and the economy.
Women and girls also face the added social custom of early and forced child marriage due to poverty and the prevailing social norms of conservative society.
The economy of Bauchi state is a classic dual economy that includes traditional subsistence farming and informal market systems. Although there is a growing agricultural industry, there are few agro-processing and modern manufacturing facilities; most processing and value-added activities such as rice parboiling, soy processing or peanut pressing to create oil are undertaken by women in rural households with limited resources and market access to sell their products.
In addition to supporting women-led micro and small businesses, the project also raises awareness of the risks of early and forced child marriage. This is achieved by working with families and communities to better understand the benefits of engaging women and youth in entrepreneurship though awareness campaigns, gendered discussions and community groups, employment and entrepreneurship skills building, provision of safe spaces and networking.
The WAY project works through private sector-led initiatives to reduce barriers and constraints faced by economically active women and youth in accessing markets.
Through initial research, MEDA realized that the rice, soy, and peanut value chains offered opportunities and potential for business growth. These three value chains were chosen due to their accessibility to women producers and processors, local market demand for products/by-products, potential to partner producers with businesses that can deliver products or services and the high value/yields per hectare the crops provide.
An analysis of barriers and obstacles agro-processors face informed a tailored approach to facilitate market linkages and improve the business environment focusing on environmentally sustainable and climate-smart agro-processing practices.
The WAY project supports small scale businesses and entrepreneurs by: