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Rural Development

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Rural development has been the driving aim of agriculture and agricultural development in developing countries of sub-Saharan Africa; without rural development, agricultural development will be irrelevant. Evidently, majority of the farmers produce at the subsistence or smallholder level, with sustainable agriculture being uncommon. A significant feature of the agricultural production system in such countries, Nigeria inclusive, is that a disproportionately large fraction of the agricultural output is in the hands of these smallholder farmers (Odurukwe, S, Matthews-Njoku, E. & Ejioku-Okereke, and N. 2006). Also, there is very limited access to modern improved technologies and their general circumstances do not always merit tangible investments in capital, inputs and labour.

Household food and nutrition security relies heavily on rural food production and this contributes substantially to poverty alleviation. Consequently, the first pillar of food security[1] is sustainable production of food; it has been noted that in the early 1980s, while the population grew rapidly, food production and agricultural incomes declined in many African countries (F.A.O. 1995.). In many of the countries the diminishing capacity of agriculture to provide for the household results in increased workload shouldered by women as men withdrew their labour from agriculture. Hence, the increased attention that is being given to the role of smallholder subsistence agriculture in ensuring food security of the continent, since some 73% of the rural population consists of smallholder farmers (IFAD. 1993). The bulk of the poor; some three-quarters according to a recent World Bank estimate, live in rural areas where they draw their livelihoods from agriculture and related activities.

Evidently, development, food security and poverty alleviation will not be truly achieved without rapid agricultural growth in a sustainable manner such as food sovereignty[2]. Helping the rural people to enhance their means of livelihoods through food sovereignty and food security in a sustainable way posited a great challenge. Agricultural input and increased output is a key element central to improved food security, income distribution, poverty alleviation and growth in sub-Saharan Africa. All these cannot be achieved without the rural women and they are core to the successful efforts directed to agricultural development in rural areas.

Over time, women have played crucial roles and kept their dominant position in meeting the challenges of agricultural production. These rural women have shown significant relevance which cannot be overemphasized. The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) revealed that women make up some 60-80 percent of agricultural labour force in sub-Saharan Africa; which is dependent on regions, with two-thirds of the food produce. Nonetheless, it is generally assumed that the men make prevailing important farm management decision and not the women. Sub-Saharan Africa has lot of voiceless female farmers with respect to influencing agricultural policies; such policies which targets increased food security and poverty alleviation still have their drawbacks with regards to food sovereignty. These policies totally ignore women’s role in both production and the general decision-making processes within the household (Damisa, M. & Yohanna, M. 2007.).

Their decision-making in food production and farm practices in agriculture is characterized by the social economy status. In recent times it is clearly understood that, women are known to be more involved in agricultural activities than men in sub-Saharan Africa. Nigeria has about 73% of her rural women involved in cash crops, arable and vegetable gardening, while post-harvest activities has 16% and agroforestry 15% (Abdullahi, R., undated). In some rural areas, women have taken over approximately 80% of the production and processing of food crops (Afolabi, M., 2008). Estimates of women’s contribution to the production of food crops ranges from 30% in the Sudan to 80% in the Congo (F.A.O. 1995). There are factors that oppose women participation in agricultural production, with the most common such as; socio-cultural, economical, religion and institutional activities. Dealing with such barriers against women can be very daunting and requires strong advocacies, campaigns and enlightenments and promotion programs. These advocacies have been supported by lot of small agencies, NGOs and civil societies with continuous persistence for fairness and equality. [1] food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life” 1996 World Food Summit. [2] Food sovereignty, asserts that the people who produce, distribute, and consume food should control the mechanisms and policies of food production and distribution, rather than the corporations and market institutions dominance of the global food system.

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