Women To Benefit From N1b GEMS Challenge Fund

Baked products from 100 per cent Nigerian wheat on display at the National Wheat Planning Conference organised by Lake Chad Research Institute in conjunction with ICARDA-Tunis at the Institute for Agricultural Research, Zaria, Kaduna State, recently.

Baked products from 100 per cent Nigerian wheat on display at the National Wheat Planning Conference organised by Lake Chad Research Institute in conjunction with ICARDA-Tunis at the Institute for Agricultural Research, Zaria, Kaduna State, recently.

WOMEN in agribusiness, who are usually at disadvantage in issues of agricultural financing, would now heave sigh of relief as they would be preferentially empowered in the Growth and Employment in States – Wholesale and Retail sector (GEMS4) project.

Kikelomo Koya, Challenge Fund Manager for GEMS4 Project, said, this is arising from the total fund outlay of about £3.5 million (N1 billion), which would come in tranches for effective management of the scheme. At each instance, the pool is about £150,000 (N46m).

However, Koya added that the Women Economic Empowerment strain is a matching grant, which seeks to encourage existing corporate concerns to evolve creative and sometimes innovative ways to improve the economic lot of women.

To this end, the project would pay special attention to women-owned companies and this aimed at helping them advance their farm level activities and also for those involved in the various parts of the value chain in the challenge. It is an economic empowerment-funding window under the Fund.

The challenge fund is a business contest aimed at private sector actors to encourage them to develop and adopt innovative business models and approaches that will create jobs and improve incomes of financially challenged Wholesale and Retail traders.

Koya observed that women contribute immensely to agricultural production, but unfortunately, they hardly benefit from agricultural incentives and innovation because of economic suppression, social and traditional practices.

She said GEMS4 is a market development project in the country, funded by DFID/UKAid and supported by the World Bank with the mandate to stimulate market system changes that encourage growth and access. It is expected to create 10,000 new jobs and increase incomes for 500,000 people, especially for resource poor men and women.

It is becoming increasingly difficult, given the economic climate, for the female gender, especially, to access fund, therefore the need to address the issue of poor access to markets, inadequate business support services, low level of education, poor business skills and socio-cultural restrictions being suffered by women, she said.

In addition, the private sector development-matching grant seeks to support initiatives from Lagos, Kano, Cross River, Kaduna and Enugu under the project.

Information on the fund can be found online via this link: www.gems4nigeria.com/challengefund

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