Gender Issues in Agriculture and Rural Development in Nigeria: The Role of Women


Ogunlela, Yemisi I., and 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.

Authors: Yemisi I. Ogunlela, Aisha A. Mukhtar


Most farmers in Nigeria operate at the subsistence, smallholder level in an extensive agricultural system; hence in their hands lies the country’s food security and agricultural development. Particularly striking, however, is the fact that rural women, more than their male counterparts, take the lead in agricultural activities, making up to 60-80 percent of labour force. It is ironical that their contributions to agriculture and rural development are seldom noticed. Furthermore, they have either no or minimal part in the decision-making process regarding agricultural development. Gender inequality is therefore dominant in the sector and this constitutes a bottleneck to development, calling for a review of government policies on agriculture to all the elements that place rural women farmers at a disadvantage. The women-in-agriculture programme in Nigeria, which was established in cognizance of this 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. Other aspects of gender issues in Nigerian agriculture are discussed.

Keywords: agriculture, food security, gender inequality, household economy, Nigeria, women farmers



“The role that women play and their position in meeting the challenges of agricultural production and development are quite dominant and prominent. Their relevance and significance, therefore, cannot be overemphasized [7, 8]. Findings from a study financed by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) revealed that women make up some 60-80 percent of agricultural labour force in Nigeria [9], depending on the region and they produce two-thirds of the food crops. Yet, in spite of these, widespread assumption that men – and not women—make the key farm management decisions has prevailed. Sadly, female farmers in the country are among the voiceless, especially with respect to influencing agricultural policies. Such policies, which are aimed at increasing food security and food production, tend to either under- estimate and totally ignore women’s role in both production and the general decision-making process within the household.” (20)

“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 post- harvest activities had 16 % and agroforestry, 15 percent [14].” (20)

“A series of studies covering African villages showed that generally, more women than men in cultivator families did agricultural work and that women were usually working more hours than the men. Furthermore, it has been noticed that female labour in production tends to be less important in societies where intensive agricultural systems are more dominant than the extensive systems.” (21)

“The role of national and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in reaching the rural population in Africa is being increasingly documented. The importance of NGOs to rural women varies from country to country, as does their focus on rural issues. In most of the countries examined, the growth in recent years of NGOs and women’s associations which pay attention to gender issues has benefited rural women immensely.” (23)

“It is common knowledge that gender inequality is one of the most pervasive forms of inequality, particularly because it cuts across other forms of inequality [37]. Different rules, norms and values govern the gender division of labour and the gender distribution of resources, responsibilities, agency and power. These are critical elements for understanding the nature of gender inequality in different societies." (25)

Topics: Civil Society, Agriculture, Development, Food Security, Gender, Women, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Equality/Inequality, Households, Livelihoods, NGOs, Rights, Land Rights, Women's Rights Regions: Africa, West Africa Countries: Nigeria

Year: 2009

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