Of Rice And An Economy Driven by Women: Bittersweet Tale
Kogi is a centrally located state in Nigeria which is formed at the confluence of River Benue and Niger, giving rise to the name ‘confluence state’. This story today is of rice and an economy driven by women. The women of Kogi, who are quietly but actively involved in the local rice trade spread across every corner of the state.
At any point of the process, from sowing and nurturing to harvesting to the sale, these women can be seen keeping the wheels of the economy moving. They keep their households up and running and function as breadwinners for their families; keeping the plates filled and education completely funded.
But, as the course of their daily life moves along, their vision deteriorates, rendering them a sight as good as a blind, turning the providers dependent. As it so happens, the women spend their days beating and threshing the rice. In the process, the seedlings often hit the cornea, causing laceration, which ultimately leads to corneal abrasion.
Even with the failing vision, a few of them choose to give their farms visits. And, for the lack of modern equipments, they spend their days using sticks, hoes and cutlasses, and sometimes, even their bare hands.
Ibaji, one of the local government areas, is blessed with rich alluvial soil and a skilled workforce. It’s at Ibaji where most of the rice is grown, while most of the rice mills and other processing structures are at Idah.
While men are mostly involved in milling and transportation, the women workforce continue to push ahead with their farming work, despite their growing troubles, forging ahead feeding their families and educating their children.
The women of Kogi actively steer the state’s rice industry cultivating the land, sowing the seeds, nurturing the plants and conveying the cultivated crop to vehicles, who take it all the way to Ibaji.
Those who feed on the locally produced rice have been heard singing its praise, claiming how the rice is free of stones, delicious, abundant in nutrition and gets cooked very easily.
The rice industry as a whole possesses a huge problem. Once the rice has been milled, women tend to take the husk away and sift it again in order to obtain the remnants of the rice. Inhaling the fine dust with their eyes and nose wide open, their lifespan is going to be significantly affected. They wouldn’t see as long as they are supposed to, and wouldn’t live as long as they should have lived. Adding to the trouble is the carcinogenic nature of the problem, which has the potential to further shorten the lifespan of these heroes.
The women in Kogi go through a lot to keep their homes healthy and alive. Someone rightly said, not all heroes wear cape.