GENDER EQUALITY IN AGRICULTURE

If  we  are  going  to  end  hunger  in  our  lifetime,  we  need  to  promote gender equality.  Across developing  countries,  they  make  up  43  percent  of  the  agricultural  labour  force.

Many of  them  are  smallholder  farmers,  and  from  paid  employment  to  trade  and  marketing, women participate  in  all  aspects  of  rural  life.  They  raise  crops  and  animals,  collect  water and  wood  for  fuel,  and  care  for  family  members.

And  women  are  more  likely  to  reinvest their  income  back  into  their  families  to  improve  education,  nutrition  and  health.

Yet, women farmers  are  not  as  productive  as  men  due  to  less  access  to  land,  markets,  farming technologies,  fertilizer,  credit  and  training.

That  is  a  lot  of  untapped  potential.  We  know that  if  women  had  equal  access  opportunities  and  resources,  they  increase  their  yields and  feed  more  hungry  people  in  the  world.

In  fact,  if  women  had  the  same  access  to productive  resources  as  men,  they  could  increase  their  farm  yields  by  20-30  percent, feeding  an  additional  150  million  people  (United  States  Agency  for  International Development [USAID], 2015).

The  women-in-agriculture  programme  in  Nigeria,  which  was  established  in  cognizance of  this  inequality  and  the  shortcoming  in  extension  services  for  women  farmers,  has been  a  huge  success.

Women’s  groups,  non-governmental  organizations  (NGOs)  and civil societies have  empowered and given rural women farmers a  voice  and  effectively championed  their  cause.

Women  farmers  now  have  better  access  to  farm  inputs  and credits  although  many  barriers  remain  and  would  have  to  be  addressed  to  further enhance  their  role.

Rural  women  farmers  deserve  better  recognition  and  greater appreciation  of  their  tangible  contributions  to agriculture  and  rural  development  and food  security  (Yemisi, 2009).

Ironically,  women  are  known  to  be  more  involved  in  agricultural  activities  than  men  in sub-Saharan  African (SSA)  countries,  Nigeria  inclusive.

As  much  as  73  %  were involved  in  cash  crops,  arable  and  vegetable gardening,  while  postharvest  activities  had 16  %  and  agroforestry,  15  percent  (Abdullahi,  M  R.,  n.d.).

Their involvement  in agriculture  in  Nigeria  has  attracted  greater  attention  in  recent  years.  Reasons  for  their involvement  are  as  many  as  are  diverse.

In  some  states  rural  women  have  virtually taken over  the  production  and  processing  of  arable  crops  (Afolabi,  M.M.,  2008),  being responsible  for  as  much  as  80  %  of  the  staple  food  items.

Estimates  of  women’s contribution  to  the  production  of  food  crops  range  from  30%  in  the  Sudan  to  80% in the Congo (F.A.O. 1995);  contributing substantially  to national agricultural  production and  food  security, while  being  primarily  responsible  for  the  food  crops.

However, factors  militating  against  women  in  their participation  in  agricultural  production  are many,  some  of  which  are  socio-cultural  and  economic  in nature.

The  task  of surmounting  such  obstacles  can  be  very  daunting,  even  though  women  have  largely succeeded  in  overcoming  some  of  them.  Thanks  in  no  small  measure  to  the  actions  and persistence  of women’s  groups  and  community-based  organizations  and  the  civil society  organizations  fighting  their cause.

African  women  have  begun  to  make  major demands  for  their  participation  and  inclusion  in  the  policy  and economic  processes relevant  to  agriculture.

Indeed,  they  have  started  to  develop  and  promote  local  expert materials  in  the  field  of  agriculture  (Duncan,  B.,  1997).  Gender  discrimination,  rather than  ignorance,  is  the reason  for  the  lack  of  women  participation  in  agricultural programmes  and  projects.

In  recognition  of  the importance  of  women  in  national building,  the  Nigerian  government,  more  than  ever before,  is  keen  on  rural  poverty alleviation  as  a  way  of  improving  the  economy.  Focus  is  on  planned  and desirable change  in  the  rural  societies  in  the  form  of  agricultural  development.

In  an  attempt  to bridge the gap  between  men  and  women  farmers  in  Nigeria,  various  women  groups  and organizations  have emerged.

Such  groups  and  organizations  have  contributed substantially  to  the  gains women  farmers  have  recorded  and  the  voice  that  they  now have  in  overall  national  policy  on  agricultural development.

One  such  group  is  the Women Farmers’  Advancement  Network  (WOFAN),  a  private  initiative  founded  in the early  1990s  whose  headquarters  is  in  Kano,  Nigeria.

WOFAN  works  with  250  women’s groups  in  five different  states  in  northern  Nigeria  in  an  effort  to  mobilize  and  train  rural women  in  the  management  of information  and  communication.  Community participation  is  a  key  strategy  (WOFAN.  2003).

The  network  also  organizes  a  weekly radio  broadcast  that  features  the  efforts  of  rural  women. Experiences  from  a  few  African countries  are  worth  mentioning  here.  In  the  Sudan,  the  number  of national  NGOs working  in  the  area  of  agriculture  increased,  as  the  number  of  regional  and  international NGOs  decreased  (Franklin,  S.,  2007).

As  many  as  21  projects  are  targeting  women  in the  area  of  livestock  and  dairy.

In  Tanzania,  on  the  other hand,  NGOs  have  become  a dynamic  arena  for  women’s  empowerment  and  support  to  rural  women  in agriculture has  increased  with  the  formation  of  women-in-development  at  NGOs headquarters.  An increasing  number  of  international  NGOs  are  dealing  with  women  and  agriculture, among  others.

In  Namibia,  there  are  a  few  women’s  groups  and  NGOs  which  work  to enhance  women’s  role  in agriculture  and  food  production  and  advocate  on  behalf  of women  farmers.

The  survival  and  sustenance of  agriculture  and  rural  development  in Nigeria,  as  well  as  in  many  sub-Saharan  Africa  countries,  rest squarely  on  the  rural women.  They  therefore  deserve  to  be  given  due  recognition  as  far  as  decision-making process in agriculture is concerned (Yemisi, 2009).

In  2010,  the  U.S.  Government  launched  its  global  hunger  and  food  security  initiative, Feed  the  Future.  At the  heart  of  Feed  the  Future’s  strategy  is  an  understanding  that women  play  a  vital  role  in  advancing agricultural  development  and  food  security, helping  to  reduce  poverty  and  promote  global  stability.

Through  the  initiative,  women farmers  are  provided  training  and  opportunities  to  adopt  new  agricultural technologies in  order  to  increase  their  productivity,  reduce  unpaid  work  and  improve  their  families’ nutritional  status  (United  States  Agency  for  International  Development  [USAID], 2015)

The  general conclusion  is  that  female  farmers  might  be  at  least  as  efficient  as  their  male counterparts  if the  constraints  they  face  in  resource  endowments  and  in  accessing  land, input,  and  agricultural  finance could  be  addressed.

The  potential  gains  from  closing  or at  least  reducing  the  extent  of  the  gender productivity  gap  could therefore  be  substantial, particularly  in  countries  with  larger  shares  of  lands  owned and/or  managed  by women (Adamon, et al., 2016).

For instance, FAO  estimates that if agricultural lands managed by  women  were to  use  equal  quantities  of inputs  as  in  men-managed  plots,  then agricultural output in the developing countries would be  raised, on average,  by  2.5-4% and the number of undernourished people would decline by 12-17% (FAO, 2011).

Compiled by Damilola Omotoyinbo

REFERENCES

Yemisi  I.  Ogunlela,  Aisha  A.  Mukhtar.  (2009).  Gender  Issues  in  Agriculture  and  Rural Development  in Nigeria:  The  Role  of  Women.  Humanity  &  Social  Sciences  Journal 4(1), 19-30.
USAID.  (2015).  Achieving  Gender  Equality  in  Agriculture.  Retrieved  from https://www.usaid.gov/what-we-do/gender-equality-and-womensempowerment/addressing-gender-programming/agriculture.  Last  updated: August  25, 2015.

Abdullahi,  M.R.,  (undated).  Women  in  agriculture:  The  role  of  African  women  in agriculture.  National Agricultural  Extension  and  Research  Liaison  Service,  Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Nigeria.

Afolabi,  M.M.,  (2008).  Women  as  pillars  of  national  economy  in  Nigeria:  A  study  of economic  activities  of rural  women  in  six  local  government  areas  of  Ondo  State.  IAFFE Summer  Conference,  International Association  for  Feminist  Economics,  Torino,  Italy, 19 June- 21 July 2008.

F.A.O.  (1995).  A  synthesis  report  of  the  African  Region:  Women,  agriculture  and  rural development.  Report prepared  under  the  auspices  of  FAO’s  Programme  of  Assistance in Support of  Rural  Women in Preparation for the  Fourth  World  Conference  o  Women; Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome, Italy.

Duncan,  B.,  (1997).  Women  in  Agriculture  in  Ghana.  Accra:  Friedrich  Eberhart Foundation

WOFAN.  (2003).  Women’s  Farmers  Advancement  Network-Nigeria.  Retrieved  from http:/www.comminit/en/node/126150/38. Last updated 2 July 2003

Franklin, S., (2007). Gender inequality in Nigeria. Taking IT Global online Publication.

Adamon  N.  Mukasa  and  Adeleke  O.  Salami.,  (2016).  Gender  equality  in  agriculture: What  are  really  the benefits  for  sub-Saharan  Africa?  Africa  Economic  Brief,  Volume  7 Issue 3.

FAO.  (2011).  The  state  of  food  and  agriculture:  Women  in  agriculture  –  closing  the gender gap for development. Rome, Italy: FAO. Retrieved from http://www.fao.org/docrep/013/i2050e/i2050e.pdf. Accessed: September 21, 2015

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