FAO.org

Home > Gender and Land Rights Database > Country profiles > Countries List > General Introduction
Gender and Land Rights Database

Nigeria

The total population in 2006 was estimated at 140 003 542 people, of which 68 293 683 were female and 71 709 859 were male (1). The population density in 2007 was 160.3 people per square kilometre (2). In 2005, the rural population accounted for 64 percent of the total population (1).

The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2006 was US$146.9 billion (3) and the per capita GDP in 2004 was US$397 (6). The country is the seventh largest oil producer in the world and ranks fifth in natural gas reserves (4). Petroleum and natural gas accounted for 17.54 percent of GDP in 2008 (1). Agriculture contributed 42.07 percent to total GDP in 2008 (1), with 90 percent of the output coming from the smallholder sector (4). Growth in agriculture has shown a steady increase.

The agricultural GDP growth rate went from 4.25 percent in 2002 to 6.50 percent in 2004 (5). In 2006, agriculture sustained 90 percent of the rural population and employed 70 percent of the total labour force (5). Per capita agricultural GDP was US$364 in 2004 (6).

About 31 million ha are mainly smallholder-based, rainfed farms and the farming systems are characterized by low-input technology, extensive use of land, little capital and labour. Nationally, subsistence farming is very limited and food crops are de facto cash crops (4).

The country has a wide range of agro-ecological zones which allow for a diverse range of crops: sorghum, millet, maize, groundnuts and cotton in the northern savannah; cassava, yams, plantains and maize in the middle belt; and oil palm, cocoa and rubber in the south; rice is in the low-lying and seasonally flooded areas.

The country is one of the world’s most important producers of cassava, the second largest producer of palm kernel and Africa’s largest producer of yams and cowpeas (5).

With a Human Development Index (HDI) of 0.499 in 2006, the country ranks 154th out of the 179 countries (7). Despite its plentiful resources and oil wealth, 64.4 percent of the population lived under the US$1 per day poverty line in 2004 (8). The number of undernourished people in 2001−2003 was 11.5 million, which was 9 percent of the entire population (6).

The problems of malnutrition are compounded by the fact that more than 5 percent of the rural population is affected by HIV/AIDS and most of those affected are women and children (4). Life expectancy at birth in 2005−2010 was estimated to be 47 years for women and 46 years for men (2). In 2004, the adult literacy rate was 60.1 percent for women and 78.2 percent for men (9).

In 2006, 45.5 percent of women were economically active (2).Women are involved in 70 percent of agricultural work and in 90 percent of husbandry (1) and they play a major role in producing, processing and marketing food crops (10). Despite their important contributions in the agricultural sector, women are still mainly involved in manual tasks in farming and food processing, which are largely undocumented and excluded from the national accounting system. They also have limited access to agricultural inputs such as fertilizer, improved seedlings and agricultural extension services (11).

Only half of the 71 million ha of total cultivable area is under cultivation. The average cultivated area per farming household ranges from 0.5 ha in the high-rainfall, densely populated south to 4 ha in the arid north. Across the country, 44 percent of male farmers and 72 percent of female farmers cultivate less than 1 ha per household. Traditionally, each farm has twice as much or more fallow area as cultivated area (4).

Before the Land Use Act, customary tenure was the principal form of landholding throughout the country. The land tenure system in the south was a freehold system and in the north, trust land was held in trust by the traditional leader and given out by leasehold. Traditional land tenure was based on customary laws under which land was considered community property.

An individual had usufructuary rights to the land he farmed in his lineage or community area. He could possess the land as long as he used it for the benefit of his family or society, and he could pass the land on to heirs and pledge its use to satisfy a debt, but could not sell or mortgage it.

The right of disposal belonged only to the community, which, acting through traditional authorities, exercised this right in accordance with customary law. In 1978, the military government of the country promulgated the Land Use Act in an effort to impose land tenure reform that would replace the authority of customary leaders with state control over land tenure and impose a uniform, nationwide land tenure system.

The Act guarantees all Nigerians the right to land. Land in each state, excluding federal land, is vested in the individual governors who are empowered to acquire land deemed to be in the overriding public interest (12).

Under customary law, women rarely inherit land and primarily obtain use rights through their husbands (11). Although statutory law says women are entitled to inherit in the same way as men, this law applies only for women who are married under statutory law and only if there is a will.

Furthermore, under both statutory and customary systems, land registration is usually in the man’s name (13). Ninety percent of registered land and properties are in men’s names. Also, only 15 percent of beneficiaries of government programmes are women. Less than 14 percent of females have land in their name (11).


Sources: numbers in brackets (*) refer to sources displayed in the Bibliography