Agribusiness describes the entire range of activities in the agricultural value chain, both individually and collectively. It covers all the enterprises involved from production to final consumption and showcases innovations in areas of food, medicine, recreation and other allied ventures.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), “Women play a significant role in agriculture, the world over. About 70% of the agricultural workers, 80% of food producers, and 10% of those who process basic foodstuffs are women and they also undertake 60 to 90% of the rural marketing; thus making up more than two-third of the workforce in agricultural production (FAO, 1985).
Women are known and acknowledged, all over the world, to make essential contributions to the agricultural and rural economies, especially in developing countries. In the Agriculture sector, women are involved in producing crops, tending animals, processing and preparing food, working for wages in agribusiness enterprises, and engaging in trade and marketing. These, in addition to caring for family members and maintaining their homes. According to the FAO Report for March 2011, “many of these activities are not defined as “economically active employment” in national accounts but they are essential to the well-being of rural households”.
The Role & Participation of Women in Agribusiness
When it comes to crop production, women are actively involved in land preparation, application of chemicals (herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers, etc), weeding, harvesting and storage. Women are also heavily engaged in the livestock sub-sector. For example, women often have a prominent role in managing poultry (FAO 1998; Gueye 2000; Tung 2005) and dairy animals (Okali and Mims 1998; Tangka, Jabbar and Shapiro, 2000) and in caring for other animals that are housed and fed within the homestead. The influence of women is strong in the use of eggs, milk and poultry meat for home consumption and they often have control over marketing and the income from these products. Perhaps for this reason poultry and small-scale dairy projects have been popular investments for development projects aiming to improve the lot of rural women. In some countries small-scale pig production is also dominated by women. Ownership of livestock is particularly attractive to women in societies where access to land is restricted to men (Bravo-Baumann 2000).
Factors Besetting Women in Agribusiness
In spite of the fact that the role and participation of women in agriculture is well recognized and clearly significant, there hasn’t been much documentation about the engagement and investment of women in many critical activities in the agribusiness value chain beyond production and processing. Nor do we easily come across accurate, current, specific information and analysis of women ownership of large commercial agro-enterprises. Much as these women strive to be better productive and more relevant in the agribusiness sector, they often experience a multitude of problems.
1. Lack of access to land
One of the biggest challenges that Nigerian women face in agribusiness is the lack of access to land/property ownership. Due to certain cultural/traditional practices, women in many communities in Nigeria are not allowed to own land/property. It is said that women produce up to 80% of crops but own only about 1% of land.
This deprivation has bred insecurity in land/property ownership and has led to the poor recognition of the contributions of women in the agribusiness sector. It is believed that if women are given equal access to agricultural land, there will be increased production, productivity and sustainability in the sector.
2. Poor access to funding
Women face a lot of challenges getting finance for their agribusiness. The problems stem from availability to affordability. Apart from the fact that many women agropreneurs are not financially literate to meet the borrowing criteria of the financial institutions, the major problem actually comes from the high interest rates charged, making the funds unaffordable.
It is believed that women’s contribution to agribusiness will experience a huge boost were they to have sufficient funding for their business.
3. Lack of/Poor infrastructure
Africa generally, is bedeviled with poor infrastructure and most of the women engaged in agribusiness are located in the rural areas where the roads are not only bad, but also insufficient, making transportation and logistics difficult and expensive.
Because agribusiness cuts across the value chain, there are many other infrastructure needs to include energy and power supply, extension services, storage facilities, improved technologies, etc, all of which are unavailable or epileptic at best, to the women.
It is believed that if infrastructure were provided and/or improved upon, the Nigerian women in agribusiness would produce more cheaply and efficiently and significantly increase productivity and industrialization while reducing poverty in the society.
4. Lack of access to markets
Majority of the Nigerian women in agribusiness have no access to market research and information and this has limited their ability and capacity to take advantage of market opportunities.
They are confined to local community markets where the prices offered for their produce/products are lower than in urban markets. In addition, there are no support systems available to assess the quality of their products so opportunities to tap into large markets and export completely elude them.
5. Lack access to technology
Agribusiness has made a lot of progress through the use of technology. Apart from the production sub-sector which has grown through mechanization, processing to distribution is also being managed using sophisticated equipment and machinery.
But most of the women have no knowledge on how to use these technologies and are still conducting their business using rudimentary methods. This has kept many of them at the subsistence level, leaving little or no room for advancement.
In addition, most agricultural extension services focus on large-scale commercial farming with limited research conducted on small farming techniques, which are often owned by women.
6. Diversion of income from women
According to FAO, “the rapid modernization of agriculture and the introduction of new technologies, such as those that characterized the green revolution, have benefited the wealthy more than the poor, and men more than women“.
These new techniques in agriculture, particularly those involving commercialization, have been discovered to “shift economic control, employment and profit from women to men” (ILO), causing increased suffering for families. This is because studies have found that, in general, income controlled by women benefits families more than income controlled by men (UN).
Without a concerted effort to empower the women who make up about 50% of the population, Nigeria will continue to wallow in poverty and deprivation. Women are known to be wealth creators and their contributions over the centuries, even with no recognition, have put food on millions of tables and improved the lot of their families. They can do much more, and better too, if only attention will be paid to the challenges discussed above.
- Women And Agriculture
- Reports of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)