WOMEN’S PRODUCTIVITY AND CONSTRAINTS IN AGRICULTURE: A CASE STUDY OF ORLU SENATORIAL DISTRICT IN IMO STATE OF NIGERIA
Ezeanyika, SE (M.Sc.)
Senior Lecturer/Research Fellow, Unit of Development Studies, Department of Political Science and Public Administration, Faculty of Social Sciences, Imo State University, PMB 2000, Owerri, Imo State, Nigeria. Tel: +234 (0)803 3282848, e-mail: email@example.com (corresponding author).
Okorie, HA (Ph.D.)
Senior Lecturer and Head, Department of Crop Science and Biotechnology, Faculty of Agricultural Science and Veterinary Medicine, Imo State University, PMB 2000, Owerri, Imo State, Nigeria. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Ejimakor, GC (Ph.D.)
Professor, Department of Agribusiness, Applied Economics and Agribusiness Education, School of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, North Carolina A&T State University, 1601 East Market Street, Greenboro, NC 27411, USA. E-mail: email@example.com
Nwajiuba, CU (Ph.D.)
Professor and Head, Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Development, Faculty of Agricultural Science and Veterinary Medicine, Imo State University, PMB 2000, Owerri, Imo State, Nigeria. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
The study explores the performance of women farmers and their constraints in acquiring farm resources in Orlu senatorial district of Imo State, Nigeria, comprising 12 local government areas (LGAs). Data were collected from 2580 randomly selected rural women farmers from four hundred selected villages in the 12 LGAs. The findings of the study indicated that 56% of the women obtained their farmland from their husbands, 33.5% got land from their family and about 10% stated that they owned their farmland. The most common source of farm supplementation was mainly from “Traditional Group-based Women Production Groups” (69.8%), followed closely by "Women Labor Exchange Groups” (57.4%) and 41.9% hire labor for cash. Most women (89.9%) in the area have no access to extension services like improved high yielding seeds, seedling and tractorization and about 28.8% looked for and received personal extension advice from extension workers. These women were found to have less access to extension workers and information, and consequently less access to credits and other necessary inputs which would enhance their productivity. The limited land accessible to them also showed declined productivity because of excessive use.
Keywords:Women, Agriculture, Productivity, Constraints, Nigeria
It has become generally acceptable that (African) women represent a large proportion of the population in the continent, and a very significant group of farmers. It has been estimated that they produce more than 60% of the food crops in many African countries . Unfortunately, the position and role of women in Africa’s agricultural production and the circumstances under which they are forced to operate are not well understood and appreciated [2, 3]. This undermines their position and contributions to their household economy, agricultural productivity and family nutrition [4, 5]. Women farmers have been regarded as a homogenous group that is only distinguished by gender and their productive economic roles are regarded as part of their domestic and reproductive roles. It has become an accepted truism that women involvement in agricultural production has great significance in development. They form the highest proportion of economically active population in rural West Africa and play an important role in agricultural activities, particularly in subsistence food crop production where they contribute an estimated 60-80 % of the total labor used [6, 7, 8].
In a study conducted in Tanzania, it was found that there is no difference in the maize production practices by men and women when access to inputs is proportional . Inadequate collateral for the procurement of credit facilities significantly determines rural women’s access to these yield enhancing inputs . In Nigeria, 48%of women participate fully in the agricultural production process . In realization of these and to bring about greater productivity, development efforts were initiated to make farm resources available to small-scale farmers, including women . For women farmers to increase their agricultural productivity, they should have greater access to needed farm resources . Women farmers need resources to help them improve their living conditions and better the standard of life of the families they support. In spite of the women's greater participation in agriculture, their contribution is not fully felt and adequately appreciated . This unfortunate situation has been accentuated as a result of the continuous decrease in the contribution of agriculture to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Contributing reasons to this deplorable and pathetic food situation in Africa, but Nigeria in particular may include, among others:
OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
- Limited access to credit or the benefits of membership in rural organizations which are often very important for obtaining inputs and services.
- Limited access to land or secure property rights.
- Limited access to extension services as a result of gender biases or because extension agents prefer to work with rich landowners and big farmers, who often are male.
- Women are often neglected on issues concerned with agricultural research and development (R&D) process, as R&D seldom takes into consideration the different knowledge bases of women and men.
- The acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) is having an adverse impact on household agricultural production; these effects are sensitive to age, sex, and position of the deceased within the household [15, 16].
The central objective of the study is to examine the performance and the constraints to the acquisition of farm resources by women farmers in Orlu senatorial district of Imo State. To attain this goal, the study will:
1. Examine the socio-economic characteristics of women in the 12 LGAs of Orlu senatorial district.
2. Assess the performance and contribution of women farmers in agricultural development.
3. Identify the constraints they face in the acquisition of farm resources for agricultural productivity.
Imo State of Nigeria has three senatorial districts namely Okigwe, Orlu and Owerri. They comprise 27 LGAs. Orlu senatorial district is the biggest in terms of population, with 12 LGAs. Farming is their major occupation. The major crops grown in the area are cassava, maize and yam. Others include vegetables and tropical fruit trees. Livestock rearing (sheep and goats) is carried out on a small scale.The target population for the study was the women farmers in the villages of the 12 LGAs of Orlu senatorial district. The survey report by the Development Studies Research Group (DESREG), Imo State University, Owerri, and the Independent National Electoral Commission provided the list of villages and women farmers used as the sampling frame in the study . Over the period of eighteen months, four hundred experimentally accessible villages were randomly selected from one thousand one hundred and sixty-four villages. From each village, seventy (70) women farmers were purposely selected for the study. A total of two thousand eight hundred (n = 2800) women farmers were chosen to participate in the study. Although, 2580 questionnaires were found fit for analysis. The data for the study were collected using primary and secondary sources. Interview schedules were also used to collect data for the study. The data collected were analyzed using ANOVA tests and descriptive statistics (percentages and frequencies). Tables were also used to draw inferences.
THE CONTRIBUTION OF WOMEN FARMERS IN FOOD PRODUCTION
In Nigeria, 48% of women participate in agriculture. The percentage of women engaged in agriculture; however, vary with state, culture, religions or social setting. The distribution ofwomen farmers’ participation in agriculture is presented in Table 1. Table 1 shows that women’s role is significant in agricultural production. In Orlu senatorial district, just like in many other parts of Nigeria and developing countries at large, women engage in food production fordomestic consumption. Women represent the bulk of the labor, especially in developing countries. They have not been actually involved in the mainstream of development and there is hardly any appreciation and recognition of their extensive contribution, hence they have remained largely unappreciated and, sometimes, likened to invisible workers . Nowadays, however, planners agree that development programs should take into account women's roles and needs. Following from the above reasoning, international public and private development agencies, government and community groups have made support for women development a top priority. Such development programs have implications for all aspects of agricultural development, including related issues such as nutrition, population planning, land reforms and education. Across Nigeria, the socio-economic and cultural activities of Nigerian women vary considerably. In certain parts of country, some women are notably known for the weaving of clothes which are highly valued for quality, cultural significance and export potentials. In some parts of the country, women dominate the arable farming while in other parts; they are involved in varying degrees in planting, trading, harvesting, processing, storage, marketing and preparation of food. Women are well noted for controlling the nutritional status of the citizenry in the way and manner in which the food is utilized.
PERFORMANCE OF WOMEN FARMERS IN AGRICULTURE IN ORLU SENATORIAL DISTRICT
In Orlu senatorial district (as in most other areas of not only Nigeria but Sub-Saharan Africa [SSA]), men are traditionally the rightful "holders" and" "owners" of land as women are not expected to "own" land by custom . The rural women's relationship to land tenure arrangements perhaps greatly influences their productivity in the district. In the total sample surveyed, it was noted that when women “have” land, it is usually obtained either through their husbands, first sons, or heads of their households who are normally men. Table 2 shows that 52% of the women obtained their farmland from their husbands. This gives credence to the assertion that most rural plots of land belong to families and they are usually shared according to the family size . The implication of the foregoing is that these pieces of land are not always sufficient for farming. In addition to this, they are dispersed in many parts of the community. Such land tenure system has obvious implications. Very limited land will be available and that which is available will always be over used in order not to lose it to other prospective farmers. The modernization of these practices likely to improve productivity has been strongly encouraged .
RURAL WOMEN’S ACCESS TO LABOR
In the generality of instances, rural women are grossly disadvantaged in terms of the labor available to them for crop production. In the past, there existed division of labor influenced by gender. Such tasks like land clearing, de-stumping, land preparation and hoeing which were formerly perceived as "male tasks” are now being carried out by the women as well. Although women used to perceive those arduous tasks as exclusively men's responsibilities, presently 68.3%, 57% and 56.5% of the women are now combining these tasks with their own perceived tasks (Table 3). The implication of this is that women's need for labor has increased. This development is likely going to affect their productivity and negatively influence their economic capability. This position is reinforced by the result of the ANOVA test at (P<0.05) which showed no significant difference in the perception of the rural women in the performance of those male tasks. To meet this labor need, Table 4 shows that the most common source of farm labor supplementation was mainly from their Women Traditional Group-based Production Groups (69.8%) followed closely by "Women Labor Exchange Groups" (57.4%). About 41.9% of the total sample hired labor for cash. This relatively low percentage may relate to the poor cash inflow, inadequate to pay for the high cost of hiring labor. This significantly affected the level of production which would have been otherwise expected to improve their productivity and income. According to women, even though they are mainly involved in cassava and maize production, yet 66% of the total sample did not find their labor adequate.
INCOME EARNING FROM FARMING
Farming could be a primary or secondary occupation for the rural women because subsistent agriculture is the main occupation of many rural farmers. In this manner, they have more than one source of income, depending on available opportunities. Income is a difficult characteristic to measure, given the fact that most rural people do not keep good records of their earnings. Nevertheless, an approximation from their own calculations showed that the mean annual income for the total sample was about N27, 330. About 42.6% earned less than N15, 000 while 32.2% earned between N15, 000 - N20, 000 per annum from their occupation (Table 5).
DEMOGRAPHIC CHARACTERISTICS OF RESPONDENTS
The age distribution of the respondents is shown in Table 6. The age ranged between 21 and 65. It shows that majority of respondents were relatively young or middle aged as 38% were between 21-40 years old, while 49% were between 41-50 years age range. Majority (83.33%) of the farmers interviewed were married. This implies that the respondents have responsibility to their children as well as their husbands.
CONSTRAINTS TO THE ACQUISITION OF FARM RESOURCES BY WOMEN IN ORLU SENATORIAL DISTRICT OF IMO STATE
Access to extension services is important because inputs like improved seedlings seeds, cuttings, fertilizers, herbicides, mechanization and credit are often channeled through extension personnel. Contact with Extension workers is an indicator of access to these services and inputs . Among the rural women, it was discovered that about 32.5% of the total sample used chemical fertilizers for their farm production, although the extent of such use could not be easily determined. The source for the fertilizers was usually the local markets and not from the agro-service centers. 89 percent of the women indicated that extension services like improved high yielding seeds, seedlings and tractorization never reached them. Only about 28.8% of the women looked for and received personal extension advice from extension workers. This apparent bias in extension contacts is consistent with available findings [22, 23]. They stated that the delivery of extension services and information does not easily get to rural women. The obvious effect is a reduction in the quality and quantity of their proceeds from the already overused land. It is therefore arguable that women farmers should have greater access to the needed resources in order to increase their productive capacities. Several researchers have reported rural women dilemma occasioned by this position. It has been argued elsewhere that rural women have lost much of their economic power and independence and that their access to land and decision making power have been reduced since colonial time . This situation has been compounded by the inability to incorporate women into rural programs has led to the wastage of scarce resources and has been the biggest obstacle to increasing productivity. In addition, their non-involvement in training programs and modern production techniques has also pushed the women further back .
As a result of the following, it has been suggested that women need resources to help them improve their living conditions and to adequately support the families they support . It was considered that some farm resources are very crucial toward the attainment of this goal: they include intermediate technology, formal and non-formal education, women extension personnel and other women specialists, credit and marketing facilities, support for traditional women's organizations and traditional involvement of women in administrative and planning levels from the local to the national levels . Obtaining these resources is significantly important for the women to effectively engage in agriculturalproduction. However, some constraints do not allow the women to realize this. Some of these constraints include accessibility to farm land, accessibility to loans and farm technological inputs, etc. It was reported that women need cash to pay for inputs and since most of their food crops are consumed, money must come from other sources . This reduces their productivity and output. This situation may perhaps be that the farm technologies are available to women who have the resources to acquire them through their husbands on whom the women depend on most of the time.