Agriculture has been a good field to observe the irony of strength and aptitude manifest in the seemingly weak. Women have taken over and we at FARMTRYBE are glad and obligated to write of their feat! We will also ensure to herald their ordeals thereby soliciting for intervention of involved personages.
Research has shown that the population of women in agriculture has been on the increase over the last few decades. Women have widened their involvement in the agricultural sector even as they increasingly shoulder responsibilities for household survival and also respond to economic changes in commercial agriculture. This trend is generally described as feminization of agriculture. In 2009, World Bank, FAO and IFAD found that over 80% of smallholder farmers worldwide were women, this was caused by the mobility of labor as men moved in search of ‘greener pastures’.
Even with this recent development, there are several factors hindering an all-round development of rural agriculture that women are working hard to achieve, while still trying to achieve food security, household survival and still maintain a viable business. Recent data shows that when women have equal access to opportunities and resources, they increase the yield on farms by 20-30% and raise their total agricultural output by 2.5-4 %. This means that 564 million female farmers will feed additional 150 million people and from the parlance of development, agriculture has been a very integral part of growth and poverty reduction, but this cannot be achieved if women are playing their part but denied all the required resources to totally contribute. Women play an essential role in agriculture not just on the field but also on the home front, ensuring that everyone in the household has access to healthy food at all times, often at the expense of their own health.
According to the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), 75% of the farming population are made up of women, working as either farmers or suppliers of labor. But this has had no effect on rural productivity since all hands on deck for agriculture by both women and men have contributed 32% to the GDP (subject to other factors) still produced by the rural farmers (women included) and this is as a result of several challenges faced by women in the sector.
Firstly, the lack of access to credit facing women is a huge factor that is inhibiting women from increasing their productivity. Women who run their farming business on a small scale, find it difficult to get access to loans as less than 10% women get access to the credit offered to small-scale farmers And this is partially due to their inability to keep trackable records which can be taught by the extension agent or just neglect from the ends of the institutions issuing out the loans. Record keeping is a vital skill that must be acquired to keep track of the daily transactions on the farm, this goes to show how credit-worthy the enterprise is, thus making the business creditworthy. 8 out of 10 female farms complain they do not receive attention from the required extension agent on how to properly manage their enterprise, generate more profit, and feed their families. Also, according to the National Bureau of Statistics, 2007, some 20,098 men had access to loans (as at the time) as opposed to 8,550 women who had access to those loans. This affects the ability of the female farmer to acquire more land for expansion, an increase in labor, and so on. Also forming cooperatives is not usually among rural women farmers due to …..
An initiative called “Rural Women Striding Forward” by Global Fund for Women in March 2011 which created strategies comprising of rural women groups to increase their agricultural productivity, advance women’s rights, giving a $400 million grant to 22 grantees at an average of $18,182 to implement activities in sustainable agriculture and women right. It is incredible to see that giving grants to female farmers is worth the risk.
Secondly, female farmers do not have access to the input. Men get more supply to input such as fertilizers, pesticides, improved seedlings because most persons/organizations “feel” they might not make good use of the input, or that they might not have the adequate know-how. And these inputs usually come at a reduced rate when they are supplied through the extension channel because they have been subsidized by the government. When these women do not get access to input, they purchase them at a higher rate and this increases their cost of production still selling their produce at the same price.
Women are more likely to take up new innovations from extension agents as 3 out of 10 women take the position of laggards while 7 out of 10 men are more likely to take the position of laggards when it comes to adopting a new innovation. As women are more teachable and find it easier to adopt new skills that would help boost production, they are given little attention and training are all focused on men. The attention from extension agents to female farmers is low and they are not carried along during extension meet-ups and on-farm demonstrations. Over the years, things have started to evolve as women attend on-farm demonstrations and extension meetups either out of their inquisitiveness or out of their insistence.
Furthermore, land tenure systems are not as favorable as it should be, ensuring that women have access to land is still something that policymakers are trying to wrap their hands around. Changing land tenure policy is quite difficult because some policies are made by the founding members of the community which most times makes the transfer of ownership impossible, while others are made by the government under a constitution which makes these policies difficult to annul. Women who own farmlands are given this privilege which is taken away as soon as their husbands die. In the case of the land tenure, the constitution and old policies would have to be revived in order to ensure that the women are included and owning land as autonomy is possible.
All these are challenges that women are facing in scaling up their enterprise meanwhile, there are several efforts made by various organizations, like the World Bank, Global Fund for Women and FAO. All of which have helped to increase their profit, help their businesses scale. There is still so much work to be done, many policies to revisit, most especially the land tenure system, more grants should be provided for these women and they should not be pushed away when they show eagerness to learn, they should be given equal rights and access to all available resources so as to ensure that they can feed their families, scale their businesses and also help fight food insecurity(which is a collaborative effort of course)