The study focused on the role of women in agricultural production in Ibesikpo-Asutan Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State. Systematic sampling and purposive sampling techniques were used to sample 382 respondents in the study area. Data were collected using questionnaire and Focus Group Discussion (FGD) as major research instruments. Descriptive statistical technique was employed to summarize the data and multiple regression was used to measure the degree of relationship between the socio-economic characteristics of women in agriculture and its influence on their roles in agricultural production. The study found that women in Ibesikpo-Asutan LGA contribute their quota to economic development, household income and food security as revealed by 100% of the respondents. Also, it was revealed by the respondents that lack of awareness on new technologies (47.9%), land holding (67%) and financial constraints (87%) militate against the positive contribution of women farmers to nation building accordingly. Variables such as age (0.005), income (0.000), types of agricultural activities (0.000) and family size (0.002) were shown to positively influence the role women play in agricultural production as confirmed by the regression analysis which were significant at 5% level of significance. However, the Chi-square technique revealed that in harvesting/processing p-values of marital status (0.043), years of farming experience (0.002) and income (0.044) are identified. Also, in marketing/distribution, p-value of age (.000), Educational attainment (.016), years of agricultural experience (.000) and income (.000) are revealed. In weeding p-values of age (.000), marital status (.012), educational attainment (.000), years of agricultural experience (.000) and income (.000) are also revealed. And lastly, in planting the p-values of marital status (.057), educational attainment (.002), years of agricultural experience (.000) and income (.000) were significant at 0.05 alpha level of significant. The study recommends that empowerment of rural women farmers should be prioritized through provision of special agricultural credits and subsidization of farm inputs to optimize their invaluable role in food security, and women farmers should be provided access to financial assistance for their farming activities through formation of cooperative society. The study concludes that women play important roles in ensuring food security. They act as shock absorbers, grow crops, keep animals and spend time to keep the family economic boat afloat. They are into seed sowing, weeding, harvesting, processing, storage, marketing of food produce for the health of the family and the community at large.



1.1        Introduction

Agriculture contributes immensely to the Nigerian economy in various ways such as the provision of food for the increasing population, supply of raw materials and a major source of employment, generation of foreign exchange earnings, and provision of a market for the products from the industrial sector (Eze, Ugbochukwu, Eze, Awulonu and Okon, 2010). It has always played an important role in the socio-economic development of developing countries such as Nigeria. Onwualu (2012) had remarked that agriculture remains the dominant sector in the rural areas of Nigeria where over 70% of Nigerians reside. This is true to rural communities in Nigeria.

Onwualu (2012:4) stated that Nigeria was one of the world‘s largest agricultural producers and it is on record that at independence, agriculture contributed up to 60% of the

Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in this country. It generated enormous revenue for the development of infrastructural facilities in the defunct Northern, Eastern, and Southern, Western and Mid-Western regions of this country in the early 1960s. Oluwasola (2001) reported that women constitute 49.7 percent of the national population, 60% of world‘s female population with 70% of them in the developing countries, constituting two-fifth of active population in agriculture and majority of them reside in the rural areas where the means of livelihood depends on agro-forestry, soil conservation and exploiting the resources from nature. The activities of rural women in agriculture transcend beyond mere supporting food production but also promoting sustainability of the ecosystems. Historically, women are playing important roles in agriculture with a wide range of activities ranging from production, harvesting, transport, marketing to processing of the products. National Centre for Economic Management and Administration, NCEMA (1991) had highlighted the roles of women in agriculture to include among others: land clearing, crop planting, fertilizer application, weeding/pruning, spraying crops, harvesting, processing, storage, transporting farm produce and marketing of produce but the extent of the involvement of women in each of these agricultural activities varies with different cultures, economic systems and the socioeconomic milieu.

Women have valuable experience and roles in agriculture which according to Pesticide Action Network Asia and Pacific, (PANAP)(2012) the custodian of seed, conservers of biodiversity and being traditional veterinarians. The sustainable production of food is the first pillar of food security as millions of women work as farmers, farm workers and natural resource managers (Onyemobi, 2000). In doing so, they contribute to national agricultural development, maintenance of environment and family food security (Brown, Feidstein, Haadad, Peria and Quisumbing, 2001). 

Women produce over 60 percent of the agricultural food in the country (Ogunbameru and Pandy, 1992; Buckland and Haleegoah, 1996). This is evident in some rural societies mostly in the middle-belt and southern parts of Nigeria. Ironkwe and Ekwe (1998) remarked that more than 60% of agricultural activities of women went beyond crop production but also extended to other agricultural activities like fisheries, poultry as well as rearing of sheep and goats. Other works by Mijindadi (1993); Benjamin (1997) and Yahaya (2002) also discussed these multifaceted roles of women in agriculture. Also Buvinie and Mehra (1990) and Oluwasola (2001) are among others concerned with constraints faced by women farmers.

For women in agriculture, one cannot overlook their role in farm decision-making which constitutes an important aspect in agricultural development. Fabiyi, Danladi, Akande and Mahmood (2007) remarked that decisions have to be made when persons having limited resources have alternative causes of action and therefore must make some choices. Farmers make decisions on a number of pre-harvest and post-harvest activities such as what to produce, input to be used, methods of production – all affects production, processing, distribution, prices and costs of production. Despite the significant roles played by women in agricultural production, process and marketing in Nigeria, they have more or less been relegated to playing a secondary role in farm decision-making, (Amaechina, 2002). It was believed that agricultural development is in the decline because agricultural policies have a bias towards inappropriate technology and fail to recognize the role of women as fundamental in agriculture (Adawo, 2001). Moreover, in a country like Nigeria where agricultural extension services are largely dominated by men, women are by-passed by modern ideas of improved technology that could raise their productivity, increase their income generating capacity, and improve their general welfare (Oluwasola, 2001).

Oluwasola (2001) remarked that the efforts of rural women should no longer be ignored even at the local level and that the roles of women in agricultural development often remain concealed due to some social barriers, gender barriers and lopsided government programs that often fail to focus on women in agriculture.