How women empowerment can improve productivity
Despite a critical role women play in agriculture and their efforts to contribute to feeding about 200 million Nigerians with wholesome foods, they are faced with a number of difficulties that hinder productivity and sustainability.
A study by Adams Oluwadamilola Kemi, Department of Science and Technology National Defence College, Abuja, Nigeria, published in the Journal of Humanities and Social Science (IOSR-JHSS) in January 2017, entitled, ‘Nigeria Women in Agriculture: Challenges and Way Forward,’ showed that age, family size, education level, income and credit facilities affected women’s participation in agricultural production.
Based on the findings of this study, it was recommended that there should be a collaboration between the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Agriculture to achieve effective women participation in agriculture.
In addition, credit facilities should also be made available to women farmers with collateral demands structured to accommodate their peculiarity.
Dr Nike Olagunju, a rice processor and lecturer at Lead City University in Ibadan, said the women are the fore frontiers of agriculture in Nigeria and in other African countries because they are the producers, processors and marketers. The women take a large space in agriculture, which is essential.
Despite the enormous tasks, women in agriculture have limited access to resources that would improve agricultural productivity.
The Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) said that women face significant inequalities in agriculture, especially in developing countries.
FAO, in its reports ‘National gender profile of agriculture and rural livelihoods, Nigeria 2018,’ said, “Land ownership and control are still dominated by men in terms of average land size apportioned to farming activities, with widespread disparity across communities and states.”
It gave Taraba State, where average holdings are 7.5 hectares (ha) for men and 0.8ha for women, as an example of how women are encumbered in access to farmland.
Limited financial facilities also impair women’s productivity in agricultural enterprises in Nigeria. FAO reports that “Disparity exists regarding women’s rights to their own savings, financial assets and fair remuneration for their contribution to the family business.”
The report also states that women increasingly supply national and international markets with traditional and high-value produce (garri, fish, vegetables) to a greater extent than men. They also dominate the buying and selling of agricultural produce.
“However, men who trade in agricultural products have an advantage, because they are often selling their own produce. Time spent by men and women in agribusiness management, including marketing, record-keeping and sales is greater for women than for men in all the agro-ecological zones,” it states.
Lt A.G Ayoola, the coordinator of agriculture training in the Nigerian Armed Forces Resettlement Centre (NAFRC), Oshodi, said women are not granted land officially in the sense that women do not usually inherit land culturally, except in an enlightened environment.
“When it comes to farming, women in Nigeria are mostly subsistence farmers; they live from hand to mouth,” she said.
The Ibadan-based academic also identified various challenges facing women in agriculture as access to loans for women, among others.
“Now that we have made a decision on agriculture, the first thing is to be able to assess fund that will empower small-scale farmers.
“In the east, the majority of the people in agriculture are women. Now, soft loans are essential for them,” she said.
Another challenge is that a great portion of arable land in urban and developing towns have become industrialised, acquired for residential or industrial estates, making nearer farmland unavailable to women.
Going forward, experts urged the government and international agencies to tailor programmes that would encourage the empowerment of more women in sustainable agriculture.
Financial institutions and credit groups are also called upon to be women friendly in their lending to the sector, considering the role women play in food security and socio-economic chains.
Improvement in security across the country would also guarantee intensive production and agricultural productivity of women. This calls to more concerted efforts at tackling challenges of insecurity, especially in the northeast and the north-central zones of Nigeria.