Nigerian Farmer Kicks Off Oxfam Tour

Posted: October 16, 2012

10/13/2012 7:00 AM Lancaster Farming By Teresa McMinn Southeastern Pa. Correspondent
Susan Godwin

Susan Godwin

DUNCANNON, Pa. — Susan Godwin often wakes up around 3 a.m. and waits in line roughly four hours to get buckets of water from a muddy stream to carry to her goats and chickens.

She dreams of the day she can buy her own land and stop renting a seven-acre tract where she grows peanuts, yams, cassava, millet and corn.

Godwin, of Lafia, Nigeria, was at Yeehaw Farm in Duncannon on Tuesday to kick off a speaking tour across the United States.

The tour, sponsored by Oxfam America, was planned in conjunction with World Food Day on Oct. 16.

Oxfam, which works in more than 90 countries around the world to grow sustainable food systems, this year named Godwin as Nigeria’s Female Food Hero.

The Pennsylvania Women’s Agricultural Network and Judi Radel, who helps her parents Charles and Naomi Finkenbinder run their 160-acre Yeehaw Farm, were the hosts for Godwin’s first tour stop.

While at Yeehaw, Godwin described the challenges of small-scale farming in Nigeria.

“We don’t have a water source,” she said. “That is a big problem. ... In dry season, we have to go so far.”

Other problems include limited available and viable land, middlemen buyers who offer low prices for farm products, and an unstable market demand.

Women farmers are also considered inessential, she said.

“In Nigeria, the man thinks he’s everything. ... Women farmers struggle,” she said. “If you farm with your husband, at the end of the day everything is his.”

After participating in an Oxfam agricultural program, Godwin — a farmer’s daughter who is married and has two boys and three girls — taught folks in her community new farming techniques and skills such as how to form saving and lending groups, and work as a leader.

She increased the value of her peanut production by purchasing equipment to shell and process the seeds into oil, which enabled her to hire three women. Some former employees at her peanut processing business used their earnings to start their own businesses.

“I tried to put what (Oxfam) said into practice. ... I realized I could make money,” Godwin said, adding that the organization taught her to view farming as a business.

“We really thank this program,” she said.

Sarah Kalloch, senior adviser at Boston-based Oxfam America, said events such as Godwin’s tour help U.S. farmers better understand the needs of agricultural workers in areas such as Nigeria.

“It’s been incredibly important for our work,” she said. “It’s also great for our policymakers to hear (foreign farmers) directly.”

Oxfam’s main focus is to “build the capacity of the community,” Kalloch said.

“This is a highlight for us,” she said of Godwin’s visit.

Hannah Smith of Village Acres Farm in Mifflintown, Pa., was at the event to network with other women farmers and learn more about Godwin’s practices.

“I’m really grateful that we have ready access to water,” she said.

Maggie Robertson, a member of PA-WAgN who runs M&M Robertson Farms in Licking Township, Clarion County, Pa., talked of the importance of women farmers.

“If you teach a woman to grow food, she’ll feed the world,” Robertson said.