At least 70% of the world’s population live in rural areas in the developing countries (IFAD, 2011). Majority of these depend directly or indirectly on agriculture as a means of livelihood, with women providing on the average, more than 40% off the agricultural labour force (GIZ, 2013).
Indigenously in Nigeria and other developing countries in the Sub-Saharan region women in the household are responsible for food selection and preparation, care and feeding of the children and the entire households in some cases with the inclusion of extended families as in the case of farming households in Oyo state, Nigeria where on the average a household has one or more extended family staying with them which the women have to feed and cater for with her husband and children (CIA-GED, 2017).
With the rising cases of war, terrorism leading loss of life, incapacitation, displacement, increased rural-urban migration leading to reduction in the population in the rural areas, women are forced to take additional roles while they battle with inequality in the society and Gender Based Violence. As a result of key roles played by women in the society, changing their economic condition through empowerment will fast track achieving sustainable economic development in Nigeria. Women determines what the household eat, thus they are responsible for proper nutrition of the household. The issue with malnutrition and public health can easily be traced with the economic and hygiene condition of the women. Apart from the domestic roles played, women also perform reproductive duties, thus gender equality will play crucial role on issues like ending Female Genital Mutilation, HIV/AIDs, STDs, and various health challenges among children.
Coping strategies of poor households to ensure food security and to reduce risk will have to take women empowerment into consideration, else such will not be sustainable. Based on field engagements and other research reports, women normally spend a higher share of their income than men on providing food, health and education to the family. For an example women Cassava producers in Oyo state produce mainly for the household consumption and for the local markets, there are cases where due to poverty ravaging the society, they offer some of these produce to friends and family as gifts this reducing the overall income obtainable from such produce.
Additionally, women also expend a lot of time and hard work on domestic duties like fetching water, sourcing for food, going to market to procure food for the household, bathing the children, preparing the children for school which leave them little time to engage in economic activities. Alongside the above described responsibilities, women also carry out agricultural work (mostly in small scale), raising cattle, seed management, planting, as well as the processing and marketing of agricultural products (GIZ, 2013). In livestock farming, women feed the animals, clean the stalls and compost manure as in the case of the wives of Fulani Cattle herders who are responsible for family survival when their husband are on herding trips. Selling of cattle milk (Wara) is the major livelihood of the Fulani wives in Nigeria, scarcely do they engage in crop production except with intervention from projects.
Gender inequality in many households in Nigeria has created a lot of gaps in women having access to land assets, inputs and services: e.g. access to or control over land, financial services, productive resources, and extension or marketing services. For example, in Nigeria men has the larger share of land ownership, in Oyo State, 80% of the women in the Producer’s organization cultivates lands allocated to them by the husbands and the ones jointly owned with their siblings as an inheritance from their diseased parents, this has prevented them from being and to make decision on what to plant, and what to use the land for.
Nigeria men own more than twice the units of livestock compared to women. Similar gaps exist in access to fertilizer, mechanical equipment, new technologies, extension services and credit (UNDP 2012). Women are often underrepresented in rural organizations and institutions, and are generally poorly informed regarding their rights, 85% of the men in the Producers Organizations (POs) in Oyo state do not believe that women can occupy leadership position in the POs. This has prevented the women in the POs from having equal access to resources and equal say in decision-making processes, and thus reducing access to information on cassava cuttings and ways to source for credit and labour for their crop production, not only that they suffer loss from land encroachment by herdsmen and land retrieval (CIA-GED, 2017).
Gender inequalities result in less food being grown, less income being earned, and higher levels of poverty and food insecurity. Gender equality is recognized as a human right on an international level (GIZ, 2013). Over the past several years, UN member states have entered into a number of commitments. The Rome Declaration on Food Security, resulting from the FAO World Food Summit in 1996, affirms the obligation to promote the equal rights and duties of men and women regarding food security.
The Millennium Development Goals underline the fact that, without gender equality, it will be impossible to reduce by half the number of people who suffer from hunger by 2015. With its Development Policy Action Plan on Gender 2009 – 2012, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) has committed to strengthening the economic empowerment of women and, in particular, to highlighting the need for gender specific answers to the negative impact of gender inequality on agriculture.