Gender gaps in agricultural sector cost Nigeria dearly

Report estimated forgone earnings from the gender gap in agricultural productivity at $2.3 billion annually

By Madhumita Paul
Published: Monday 25 September 2023
Representative photo: iStock

The Nigerian economy can earn an additional $8.1 billion annually by closing gender gaps prevailing in the country’s agricultural sector, according to a new World Bank report. This translates into up to 2 per cent of Nigeria’s GDP.

In Nigeria, women are 10 per cent less likely to work in the agricultural sector than men and women farmers produce 30 per cent less per hectare than their male counterparts.

Three key factors: Limited use of inputs such as fertiliser and herbicides, engagement in less valuable crops and use of less productive farm labour contribute to women’s lower productivity, according to the report Gender Gaps in Agriculture Productivity and Public Spending in Nigeria.

The document estimated the forgone earnings from the gender gap in agricultural productivity at $2.3 billion annually or 0.6 per cent of GDP. So it is imperative for Nigeria to target investments toward boosting women farmers’ participation and productivity to capitalise on the potential economic gains, the report suggested.

The analysis used the 2018-19 Nigeria General Household Survey data.

Increasing the use of physical inputs is critical to boosting agricultural productivity. In Nigeria, men adopt inputs at a greater rate than women. However, in Southern Nigeria, fertiliser use is higher among women farmers than their male counterparts, as women use 34 per cent more fertiliser per hectare.

Like fertiliser use, the gendered use of pesticides varies significantly between the northern and southern regions of Nigeria. Gender gaps are significantly wider regarding the quantity of pesticide used per hectare (in kilograms). On average, men use over eight times the pesticide used by women plot managers.

Moreover, crop choice is a crucial driver of the productivity gap between female-managed plots and male-managed plots. There are consistent value differences across common crop types.

In Nigeria, women primarily grow staple food crops, while men engage more in cash crops. Women plot managers are 38 percentage points more likely to farm roots and tuber crops, many of which are lower in value and 19 percentage points less likely than male farmers to cultivate cereals, which are higher in value.

Several high-value crops, such as cocoa, also require up-front investments. Due to limited access to credit and finances, women farmers often cannot make targeted investments at the appropriate time of the agricultural cycle.

One fundamental and essential step to close the gender gap in the agriculture sector in Nigeria is to adopt gender-equitable budgeting and create fiscal space to address productivity gaps, according to the report.

These gaps can be closed via adjustments at fundamental stages of budget allocation and policy formulation like increasing spending on direct provision of physical inputs, increasing the budget allocated toward agriculture extension services designed to meet women farmers’ information, input and market needs, targeting more funds to incentivise women to cross over to high-value crops and investing in gender-disaggregated data collection, especially budget and expenditure data, to facilitate analytics and evidence-based policymaking.

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