Resource for Household Food Security

The 2023 International Women’s Day (IWD) theme highlights efforts to embrace equity. It is a day set aside to draw attention to women's strides and accelerate efforts towards inclusiveness, creating a level playing field for all genders to ultimately benefit the world.

We can all work towards this goal through the fair and efficient use of our available resources as a society. The IWD initiative started in 1911, following the second International Socialist Women's Conference decision held in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 1910. It has elevated from being celebrated in four countries: Germany, Switzerland, Denmark and Austria, to gaining global commemorations status.

Over the years, men and women fought for social justice and women’s suffrage, including better working conditions, the right to be trained in any profession, equal pay, and ending discrimination – with great success in some areas. However, discrimination and bias persist in many climes, some more prevalent than others. Society discrimination and biases affect women in the workplace and at home

The World Bank reports that 58.5% of the population of Nigeria was food insecure in 2020, and the World Food Programme opined that 70% of Nigerians had insufficient food in 2021. Rural women in, for example, the Bayelsa state in Nigeria are culturally tasked with providing food for the households through subsistence farming. Productive assets such as owning agricultural land, receiving training and having access to extension services, information, and financial support, amongst others, are essential for successful farming. Female farmers as perceived as engaging in secondary agricultural practices as they only produce food crops – most of which will be consumed at home. Some might be sold for a pittance that will be used towards small household expenses.

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Farming engagements by men are considered the primary income generator that supports significant expenditures such as housing, access to capital, land ownership, and other enhancements. In a few communities where men practice farming as their primary occupation, they have secure access to sizeable prime land to cultivate plantain and yam as cash crops. This land has been passed down from generation to generation.

Women are allocated smaller portions of land – whatever is left. That said, in most farming communities in the Bayelsa State, women are considered vital to the farming sector. They gain access to land through their male relatives for the sole purpose of farming. These lands can also be leased to other farmers, as they cannot be sold or used as collateral for loans, except that some women can purchase land from their male relatives.

Selling land means that farmlands are fragmented, and some families no longer own extensive farmlands to allocate to women in the family. Women from such families are forced to lease farmlands from those who own large portions of land. Because women have limited access to finance, they can only afford to rent small portions for farming. Some who might have the opportunity to use vast land for farming – using their family ties – hardly do so because of the paucity of funds to cultivate large farms.

Most female farmers continue to work on small farmlands – usually less than one hectare – using friends and family to assist, yet producing food crops that might be inadequate for the household requirement.



Women and children processing cassava amid rising floods at Norgbene, Bayelsa State.

In addition to the problems of inadequate finance and secure land rights, women also need access to extension services, farm technology and agricultural inputs. They are also confronted with the constraints caused by environmental degradation and annual floods. This leads to a situation where most female farmers continue to work on small farmlands – usually less than one hectare – using friends and family to assist, yet producing food crops that might be inadequate for the household requirement.

Humans must efficiently use their available resources, thus recognising women as a resource for sustainable household food security. It should be of concern that women, who comprise a notable percentage of the agricultural workforce, lack access to land and other necessary resources. On the economic front, society should empower women with access to financial opportunities, essential training and relevant information to access productive assets like land, labour, capital and knowledge. This will enable them to achieve results – even beyond expectation – to ensure profitability for themselves and society.

Article submitted by Tonye Odubo

 

The Future Africa Research Leader Fellowship (FAR-LeaF) is a fellowship programme, focussed on developing transdisciplinary research and leadership skills, to address the complex, inter-linked challenges of health, well-being, and environmental risks in Africa.