The Fund’s Pandagric farm in Nigeria is located in a rural area of Nasarawa State, where gender divides are marked and women have historically been excluded from some spheres of social and economic activity. Women are expected to complete all domestic tasks, are not permitted to attend any meetings where land may be discussed, and are discouraged from riding motorbikes (the most common means of transportation in the area). Signature has adopted SDG 5: Gender Equality as one of our flagship goals as we believe this is a key pillar of sustainable revitalization of rural landscapes. At Pandagric, this has to date taken the form of employment gender equity measures, establishment of a Women’s Committee to allow them to be equally heard, ensuring participation of women in development programmes such as the beekeeping and smallholder programmes, identification of women-specific economic programmes, and the currently ongoing construction of a creche facility to allow women to participate more fully in the workplace. However, the initiative which has caused the biggest stir has been the Women’s Tractor Driver Programme.
Women have been recruited from local communities and trained to operate and maintain the huge tractors used for farming on an industrial scale. Initially, the move was met with disbelief from communities, but they have become used to the sight and more and more women and girls are expressing interest in joining the programme. An unforeseen benefit of the initiative has been a marked difference in the maintenance and repairs costs of these tractors versus those driven by men: women seem to be naturally more conscientious in carrying out daily checks, keeping their vehicles clean, and responding to unexpected engine noises or changes. The Pandagric management team is now seeking funding to establish a tractor & forklift driving school where Nigerians can gain qualifications and training; women will be actively encouraged to enroll, and the example set in Nasarawa can be more widely distributed across the country.