1.1      Background of the Study


Nigeria is a country with great natural and human resource endowments. According to Ayoola (2009), Nigeria is a country that covers 98.3 million hectares with a largely rural population of about 150million comprising 350 ethnic nationalities. The country measures 1200 kilometres (km) from East to West, and about 1500km from North to South. Nigeria is blessed with other natural resources such as petroleum and solid mineral deposits. The water resources consist of large water bodies of surface water (268 billion cubic metres), underground water (58 billion cubic metres) and an extensive coastline coupled with an annual rainfall in the range of 300- 4000milimetres per annum. These features imply that the country is endowed with vast physical and human resources required for accelerated development of its agricultural economy. However, despite Nigeria’s great resource endowments, Nigerians are among the poorest people in the world (UNDP, 2005; Nsikakabasi and Ukoha, 2010). In spite of oil wealth and revenues amounting to over 300 billion US Dollars since 1970s, Nigeria is still a poor country where per capita income averaged only $1075 in 2009 (Central Bank of Nigeria, 2009). Since non-oil export receipts are small, export revenues are greatly influenced by oil and gas prices. Government’s fiscal policy that depends on oil and gas prices fluctuates in line with these prices. The major challenges facing the country are stabilizing expenditures and ensuring the government’s ability to meet social and human development goals (UNDP,2008). The human development report by the United Nations Development Programme, UNDP (2005) revealed that Nigeria is one of the poorest among poor nations of the world. With a human poverty index HPI-21 value of 38.8%, Nigeria is ranked 75th among 103 developing countries. According to the National Bureau of Statistics (2005), about 52% of Nigerians are living in poverty and about 70million people live on less than 1US dollar a day.


Dauda (2002) reported that poverty in Nigeria, like in other developing countries has a predominantly female face and that women in the rural areas of the country suffer the harshest deprivation and are extremely vulnerable to poverty. According to the author, of the one million adults who have no access to basic education, 60% are women. Furthermore, women are particularly disadvantaged since over 68% of female headed households are living in poverty. The International Monetary Fund (2004) observed that Nigeria has significant gender inequalities in women’s labour market participation, remuneration, health and human capital, with indicators for women being recorded as substantially lower than those for men are. Women in Nigeria are likely to be poorer than men and have fewer options for escaping poverty. Widows are more vulnerable to poverty than widowers as a result of patriarchal property rights and inheritance practices. Furthermore, since women have less formal education than men, they tend to be disproportionately confined to lower return, low productivity, and employment in the informal economy with limited ability to escape poverty through employment. According to the International Fund for Agricultural Development (2001), more than 50% of the population is affected by HIV/AIDS, and 50million Nigerians majority of them women and children suffer from a combination of protein energy malnutrition, vitamin A deficiency, iron deficiency anaemia, and iodine deficiency diseases. The apparent improvement in growth indices since 2004 is yet to be translated into welfare improvement for Nigerians, a situation that Eboh (2011) termed „jobless growth‟.


One of the major causes of poverty in Nigeria is the decline in agricultural productivity consequent to over dependence on oil. Prior to the discovery of oil in the 1970s, agriculture was the mainstay of the Nigerian economy, accounting for about two-thirds of the gross domestic product (GDP) and 75% of export earnings (Ayoola, 2009). From the standpoint of occupational distribution and contribution to GDP, agriculture was the leading sector. During this time, Nigeria was the world’s second largest producer of cocoa, largest exporter of palm kernel and palm oil, Nigeria was also a leading exporter of other commodities such as cotton, groundnut, rubber, and hides and skin (Ogen, 2007). With the oil boom, agriculture’s contribution to GDP declined to about 25% by 1980, later moved up to 41% by 2001-2004. Consequently, Nigeria moved from being a large exporter to a major importer of agricultural products (CBN, 2005; Yusuf and Adenegan, 2008). The low agricultural output has led to the poor performance of the food subsector as food demand became higher than food supply. This has induced high increases in the country’s food imports from about N8billion in 1996 to over N183billion in 2005 and increased the prices of major staple crops in the country (CBN, 2005). Other causes of poverty include the insufficient and poorly distributed GDP growth in combination with high population growth and inadequate job creation to absorb the growing labour force, volatile oil revenues, weak governance and corruption which have continually hindered public sector initiatives to reduce poverty(IMF, 2004; United States Agency for International Development, 2007). In recognition of the critical role of agriculture to the country’s economic development, many Nigerian governments introduced various measures to boost agricultural production and alleviate poverty in the country including the Agricultural Development Projects (ADPs). Most of these programmes have failed to produce the desired results (Idachaba, 1991; Nnadozie and Nwanu, 2002, Ogwumike, 2009). According to Eboh (2011), in spite of successive programmes, the economy remains undiversified and highly skewed, as crude oil still accounts for more than 95% of total export revenues and up to 80-85% of government revenues but contributes less than 4% of total employment. Agriculture’s contribution to GDP is presently about 41%. Ogwumike (2009) explained that the major reasons for failure of poverty alleviation efforts in Nigeria include programme inconsistency, poor implementation, corruption of government officials and public servants, poor targeting mechanisms, and the inability to focus directly on the poor ( in terms of identifying the poor and the nature of their poverty). He further explained that sustainable poverty reduction in Nigeria would require the proper identification of the poor (their characteristics and survival strategies) as well as a multi-pronged approach in tackling the poverty problem given its multidimensional nature. Presently, agricultural development forms an important component of Nigeria’s overall national prosperity ambition to become one of the top 20 economies in the world by the year 2020 (vision 20-20-20). To achieve this, the Human Development Report of the UNDP (2008) estimated that Nigeria would require overall growth of above 10% on a consistent basis to attain this vision. As a result, Nigeria has set targets for year 2020 namely a GDP of US$900 billion, out of which 15% (or US$135billion) is to come from agriculture, and a per capita income of US$4000. These impressive targets are set based on the expectation to make optimal use of non-oil sources of economic growth such as agriculture and others. Nigeria wants to achieve in the medium term an average annual GDP growth rate of 11% from the 7% growth during 2004-2009. It is expected that the country’s GDP would increase from US$212billion in 2008 to US$333 billion in 2013 while annual per capita GDP is expected to increase from US$1075 in 2009 to US$2008 in 2013. Similarly, non-oil exports (mainly from agriculture) are targeted to grow at an average annual rate of 30.0% from 2010-2013. A major component of these exports is to be cassava (Eboh, 2011).


According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (2004) and the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources (2008), Nigeria produces about 49million metric tonnes (MT) of cassava annually, an increase of 44% from the previous annual output of 34millionMT. The Federal Government has targeted a 100% increase in the annual yield of cassava to 100million MT by 2011. FAO (2004) observed that past increases in cassava yield have been due to increases in land area cultivated rather than increases in yield per hectare. This trend, Erhabor and Omokaro (2007) warned is not sustainable because of competing demand for land from other uses. Hence the urgent need to raise cassava yields through productivity increase rather than land area expansion. To increase the current level of production, there is need to examine other ways through which productivity increases could come. One possible way is through the improvement of the productivity of cassava women farmers. Women in Nigeria play a central role in cassava production, processing and marketing, contributing about 58% of the total agricultural labour in the Southwest, 67% in the Southeast, and 58% in the central zones. To cope with the severe economic crisis now being experienced by many sub-Saharan African countries (including Nigeria), human resources, especially women, have become a component of many national development plans (for instance Nigerian women form part and parcel of the national efforts to attain the millennium development goals and vision 2020 among others). Cloud and Knowles (1988), Rahman (2008), Alufohai and Ojogho (2010) that women of many countries are the principal producers and sellers of food, who in addition to their domestic activities spend lengthy hours in these efforts. Studies show that the role women play and their position in meeting the challenges of agricultural production and development are both dominant and prominent. Therefore, they should receive assistance (Cloud and Knowles, 1988; Rahman, 2008, Alufohai and Ojogho, 2010). According to World Bank (1994) development and growth are best served where scarce public resources are invested where they yield the highest economic and social returns, and that indeed social returns, are on the whole greater for women than for men and that investing in the women helps achieve these goals since the economic and social returns to such investments are higher.


1.2  Statement of the Problem


Several studies have demonstrated the significant contribution of Nigerian women to agriculture (Arene and Omoregie, 1991; Ijere, 1991; Ogbimi and Williams, 2001). In Nigeria, women make up to 60- 80% of agricultural labour force producing two-third of food crops (World Bank, 2003) and 80% of the food, and are involved in food production, food processing and marketing (World Bank, 1994; CTA, 2002). As much as 73% of women are involved in cash crops, arable crops and vegetable gardening, post-harvest activities(16%), agro-forestry(15%) while in some states, rural women have virtually taken over the production and processing of arable crops (Afolabi, 2008). In spite of the fact that women make numerous contributions to agricultural production, widespread assumption that men and not women make key farm management decisions has prevailed. So, when resources are released for agricultural development, women are often marginalized or even excluded (Ijere,1991; Oluwasola, 1998; IFAD, 2001). As a result, 70% of the world‟s poorest people (including Nigeria) are women (IFAD, 1992; United Nation Development Programme, 2004, Nsikakabasi and Ukoha, 2010). Reasons for the neglect of Women’s contribution to agricultural development include the small and fragmented nature of their farms, their lack of education, information and technical skills, their numerous domestic chores, lack of interest among planners on the role of women, societal attitude and traditions in the African society among others. According to Ogbimi and Williams (2001), the reason for women’s limited access to income and economic opportunities is that women work at the margin of development efforts and programmes. The establishment of the agricultural development programmes in Nigeria ushered in a new era in the history of Nigerian agriculture because for the first time an agricultural development programme focused attention on women farmers as an important component of agricultural development. A special component called the women in agriculture (WIA) was incorporated for women in 1990. While the general aim of the ADP was to raise farm productivity and standard of living of farm families, WIA was to address the peculiar needs of women farmers especially in gender specific issues, with emphasis on 70% production and 30% post-harvest technologies. This was to harness the total farm agricultural capabilities of farm women, so as to build better lives for them, their families, communities, and the nation at large. The specific objectives of WIA are to improve extension outreach to rural women; to train and encourage women farmers to adopt and use improved technologies in agricultural production, processing and utilization; to source and develop through research sustainable recommendation of technologies for activities solely performed by women; to train women in income generating activities by facilitating and motivating women farmers to form cooperative groups to strengthen and enable them acquire productive skills; to liaise and collaborate with national, and international organizations that have programmes for women (World Bank, 1996). The ultimate goal was to raise the income of women from agricultural enterprises.


Since 1990, the WIA in Benue ADP has disseminated different technologies to women farmers in the state such as: (a) Crop varieties (maize, soya bean, rice, groundnuts, cassava, beniseed, sweet potatoes, and cowpea). (b) Yam minisett technique. (c) Crop mixtures (yam/cassava/maize/egusi alternate row, soya bean/maize, soyabean/sorghum, groundnut/cassava, groundnut/maize, groundnut/sorghum, and rice/maize). (d) Livestock production (piggery, rabittary and poultry). (e) Fishery (homestead fish production, pond construction, stocking and feeding, cultural practices, checking of overflow, checking of weeds, fish feed formulation etc). (f) Agro forestry (bee keeping, management of beehive, honey harvesting, snail farming and mushroom production). (g) Fadama (vegetable production, management and use of tube wells, wash bores, and water pumps). (h) Post harvest innovations (processing, packaging, storage and marketing strategies) to women farmers in Benue State (BNARDA,1997). Among the crop varieties, Cassava production technology was selected because it has many advantages over the other technologies namely:


(i) cassava is one of the dominant crops in the study area,


(ii) there is no cultural restriction on cassava production by women in the area,


(iii) the renewed international interest in the cassava crop as a source of biofuels (ethanol) has raised the importance of the crop. Other reasons are:


(iv) Nigeria has potential comparative advantage(ability to produce at lower opportunity cost than others) in cassava production (Ayoola, 2009) in terms of a conducive climatic environment, abundant human and material resources, and favourable government policies (Fakayode et al, 2008) and others making it most suitable for this study.


The cassava crop itself has some desirable qualities; it can be produced profitably because of its comparative low labour input (Erhabor and Omokaro, 2008). The crop can produce a reasonable crop on marginal soils too poor for other crops (FAO, 2000). This is a major production advantage because in most cases women are allocated marginal lands to cultivate while men usually get the fertile ones. Besides, cassava is easy to process and responds readily to improvement. As a cash crop, cassava generates more cash income for the largest number of households than other staples, contributing positively to poverty alleviation and rural welfare (Enete, 2007). These and other features have endowed cassava with a special capacity to contribute to food security, equity, poverty alleviation, and environmental protection (Clair, et al, 2000), making it very suitable for studying.


Casley and Kumar (1987) observed that in development projects as well as other areas of human endeavour, well planned and sincerely executed efforts do not necessarily produce the desired results. About 50% of Benue state and its environs are involved in cassava production on a land area of about 164,550 hectares with individuals cultivating an average of about 1.36 hectares (Erhabor and Obiagwu, 1995; Daudu, et al, 2008). It is important to find out what really happened especially in the Benue ADP‟s WIA programme in order to incorporate the lessons into further planning for agricultural development in Nigeria. Also, there is a gap in knowledge about the effect of the WIA programme on women farmers‟ productivity and incomes in Benue State generally. This study’s aim is to fill this gap. The study seeks to answer the following questions: how have the women farmers in the study area fared since the introduction of the project? Are Benue state women farmers better off economically, socially as a result of their participation in the project? Specifically do these women farm better and earn more incomes? What are the constraints, opportunities and lessons learnt from the project? How can all these be incorporated into Nigeria’s current efforts to improve agricultural productivity, provide food security, reduce poverty, and to become one of the 20 most industrialized nations in the world in 2020?


1.3  Objectives of the Study


The main objective of this study is to determine the economic problems of cassava production. Specific objectives include;


i. To identify and describe the cassava production technologies available in the study area.


ii. To describe the socio-economic characteristics of cassava women farmers in the study area and determine their effect on respondents‟ productivity and income.


iii. To determine whether there are any constraints or prospects for increased cassava production in the study area.


1.4 Research Questions


i. What is the impact of cassava production?


ii.  What are the socio-economic benefits of cassava production?

iii. What are the constraints of cassava production in the study area?


1.5 Research Hypotheses


Hypothesis I


H0: There is no significant impact of cassava production technologies available in the study area.


Hi: There is a significant impact of cassava production technologies available in the study area.


Hypothesis II


H0: There is no significant impact of socio-economic characteristics of cassava women farmers in the study area and determine their effect on respondents‟ productivity and income;


Hi: There is a significant impact of socio-economic characteristics of cassava women farmers in the study area and determine their effect on respondents’ productivity and income;


Hypothesis III


H0: There is no significant impact of prospects for increased cassava production in the study area.


Hi: There is a significant impact of prospects for increased cassava production in the study area.


1.6 Significance of the Study


In a historic move, the agricultural development projects introduced to promote agricultural and rural development in Nigeria incorporated a sub-component, the women in Agriculture (WIA) for the first time to take care of the needs of women farmers. Other components such as the provision of rural credit, rural infrastructure among others are also of direct and indirect importance to the women farmers. An examination of how the rural areas and the women farmers have fared since is necessary to enhance the understanding of the way forward for agriculture and rural development in Nigeria. This study will be of benefit to stakeholders in agriculture and rural development in the study area and Nigeria as a whole namely-government policy makers, international donor organizations, non-governmental organizations, researchers, women farmers, and farm families. This study was undertaken to provide an independent and impartial revelation of the effect (positive and negative) of this landmark policy and also reveal its weaknesses and strengths. This was to help all concerned to understand how the project was received, and give an insight on how the women farmers view the project, and how they, their families and the rural areas have fared. The results of this work have provided a feedback which will enable agricultural planners to modify and refine on – going projects, evaluate successes and failures. This could provide lessons for future planning and investment in agriculture in Nigeria to the benefit of all concerned with agriculture, rural development and poverty reduction.


1.7 Limitations of the study

Time and financial constraints limited the sample size, duration and extent of data collection. The study was also constrained by the accuracy of respondents‟ records. They hardly kept records of their farm operations and in most cases depended on memory recall. Again, most of the values they gave were estimates. Also, in spite of the explanation that we were not government agents out to assess their incomes for tax purposes, some were still suspicious. So, they could have downplayed their benefits and exaggerated their expenses here and there. However, irrespective of these shortfalls, the results of the field data were taken as the true situation of the study area, and therefore did not diminish the value of research outcome hence its reliability.