The sprawling Wesere community, in Lagos significantly lacking in infrastructure deployments has now sprung to life when Actionaid Nigeria, intervened to bring life back to inhabitants of the area.
Because of their level of poverty the sleeping community survives through subsistence agriculture and fishing.The output is mostly for local requirements with little or no surplus trade.
This limitation makes poverty to thrive among the people who hardly send their children to school. The international non-governmental organisation whose primary aim is to work against poverty and injustice worldwide, often via local partner organisations identified the suffering of the community people and entered into partnership with the Humanity Family Foundation for Peace and Development, (HUFFPED), to execute some projects in the area.
Subsistence farming persists today on a relatively wide scale in various areas of the world, including large parts of sub-Saharan Africa. Subsistence farms usually consist no more than a few acres, and farm technology tends to be primitive and of low yield.
The Wesere community in Lagos, unfortunately at some point jettisoned this type of farming because the yield was low and cannot sustain them anymore owing to the demand of other pressing social needs.
Country director of Actionaid Nigeria, Ms Ene Obi, was particularly concerned that Wesere community like other rural farmers in the country who constitute the largest percentage of the farming population were seriously threatened by the problems of rural poverty and neglect. These problems seem to have defied various solutions from the past to the present day Nigeria, because these solutions were probably inappropriate, inadequate or wrongly applied.
The Wesere community is a peculiar case because when Actionaid Nigeria, began work in the community in October 2017, with fund generated through the community sponsorship initiative locally in Nigeria, it found out that the isolated community is located off Owode-Apa-Kankon road about 30-40 minutes’ drive from Badagry town and about 5 minutes away from popular government boarding school, Lagos State Model College, Kankon, LSMC.
There are three other schools along Owode-Apa-Kankon road, two primary schools and one secondary school, and these are schools attended by children from Wesere.
Unfortunately the primary schools are in Sarwa, about 60 minutes’ walk from the community and Apa about 90 minutes’ walk from Weseere, while the secondary school is located very close to Kankon, which 15 minutes from the Model School.
According to the chairman, stakeholders committee of Local Rights Programme (LRP), in the area, Mr. Bayo Ogunwale, the community has over 100 children about 95 per cent of them walk some kilometers to and from schools every day, and the community has no functional water sources.
The use the stream or walk about 30 minutes to other communities with borehole to access clean water. Also, the closest health centre to the community is in Kwene, about 45 minutes’ walk from Wesere and this health centre which shares the same building with the Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC) office is partially functional.
Ogunwale said the community people sometimes go to bigger hospitals in Benin Republic to access healthcare or health centre in Apa community which has improved facilities and regular workers than the one in Kwene.
Because of absence of modern health facilities the community patronizes traditional birth attendants, while in few cases they consult with auxiliary nurses who also offer medical services in their homes.
These were the challenges faced by the community residents who are mere petty traders and peasant farmers, until the intervention of Actionaid which has prompted action of government to grade their local sandy road tracks and stipends for the women to go back to farming and trading.
According to Ms Ene Obi, fifteen women were empowered with N30,000 each and this has enabled them to go into local soap making, fishing and other agriculture productions. Some of them who shared their testimonies during a feedback visit to the community at the weekend commended efforts of the Actionaid for coming to their rescue.
One of the beneficiaries, Mrs. Debora Awambe, said she was jobless and hardly support the husband for upkeep of the family until the organisation intervened and now she has gone back to the farm.
Another beneficiary, Grace Hunsa, said many of them who abandoned their farms have returned as they could buy seeds and plant while their husbands have returned into fishing and making sales to support their children education.
Unfortunately, a NOIPoll survey findings, shows that Nigeria with its abundant arable land and over 160 million people, combined with its ability to grow a broad range of agricultural produce can become a leading agricultural power in the continent.
But 78 per cent of respondents in the survey disclosed that they or their immediate family members engage in farming, only 15 per cent indicated that they were involved in commercial farming and that 35 per cent specified that they were engaged in subsistence farming, while 50 per cent mentioned that they were involved in both subsistence and commercial farming.
The implication of this was the unavailability of cash crops like groundnut, cocoa, rubber, palm oil produce, etc. for export purposes, it explained.
Furthermore, out of the 78 per cent who said that they were involved in farming, 83 per cent stated that they grow staple crops, 28 per cent said they grow vegetables, while 20 per cent engage in poultry farming.
This was ascribed to the large number of people who are currently combining subsistence and commercial farming due to the high demand and consumption for staple foods.
“Despite being endowed with abundant natural resources and substantial agricultural potentials, the Nigerian farmers are faced with enormous challenges as revealed in the survey.
Lack of fertiliser was tipped as one of the major challenges farmers face as stated by (61 per cent) of the respondents, lack of agricultural loans (35 per cent) and high costs of farm inputs (21 per cent) were also mentioned as issues hindering their efforts.
“To cushion these effects, 51 per cent opined that farmers should be provided with enough incentives in form of fertilisers, improved seedlings, etc. and 48 per cent advocated agricultural loans to farmers while 13 per cent encouraged the provision of mechanised farming equipment to farmers to enhance the growth of agriculture in Nigeria,” it added.
With the success recorded at Wesere community, Actionaid said it would possibly expand its intervention to support rural women to develop their farming skills and engage more in agriculture.