Education Knowledge

Posted March 1998

Enrolment of Women in Higher Agricultural Education: Case Studies from Côte d'Ivoire, Jordan, Nigeria, Philippines and the Caribbean (Part 1)

prepared by Marilee Karl
FAO consultant
in collaboration with the Education Group
Extension, Education and Communication Service (SDRE)
FAO Research, Extension and Training Division
This article is an extract from "Higher agricultural education and opportunities in rural development for women" (FAO, 1997) - see Preface, Table of contents and Introduction. The full publication can be downloaded here in Word 6.0 for Windows, zipped (66K).

Role of agriculture in the economy

Agriculture has an important place in the economy of each of the four countries and the CARICOM, although its importance varies considerably from country to country. Côte d'Ivoire, Nigeria and the Philippines are largely dependent upon agriculture as a source of livelihood for their populations, while agriculture plays a much smaller role in the economies of Jordan and the CARICOM countries, although it is estimated that many more people are dependent upon agriculture for their livelihood than is reflected in the percentage of the population in the agricultural labour force.

Classified among the least developed countries, Côte d'Ivoire is primarily an agricultural country, depending on agriculture for a great part of its exports, Gross Donation Product (GDP) and employment. A major problem is the decrease in arable land, upon which a majority of the population depends for their existence. Cash crops include coffee and cacao, while the main food crops are manioc, rice, yam and vegetables.

In Nigeria, agriculture is the mainstay of a majority of the population, many of whom work in subsistence food production. Agriculture still provides a large percentage of the GDP and employment, in spite of the importance of petroleum to the economy. The share of agricultural exports fell from 80 percent in 1960 to 1.5 percent in 1990, due both to the rise in oil exports and the poor performance of the agricultural sector. Major crops include millet, sorghum, palm, yam and rice.

The economy of the Philippines is still largely dependent on the agricultural sector which provides 22 percent of the GDP. Nearly half of the labour force is employed in agriculture, and it is estimated that as much as 67 percent of the population is dependent on agriculture either directly or indirectly. While the rural population is declining due mainly to migration to urban areas or abroad, more than half the population of the country still resides in rural areas. The major agricultural products are rice, corn, coconut, sugar, banana, livestock, poultry and fisheries.

Jordan, on the other hand, depends upon agriculture for less than 10 percent of its GDP, although the agricultural sector makes up more than 20 percent of its exports and employs 15 percent of its labour force. Jordan is situated in an area which is semi-arid and has little arable land available for the expansion of agriculture.

The population of the CARICOM countries is largely rural but there are few data on the importance of agriculture to GDP and exports. The percentage of the labour force employed in agriculture, in the countries for which data are available, ranges from 11 percent in Trinidad and Tobago to 75 percent in Antigua and Barbuda. Trinidad and Tobago is largely dependent upon petroleum as a source of revenue, and agriculture contributes only three percent of the GDP. It is estimated that the populations of the CARICOM countries are more dependent on agriculture than appears from official statistics. One reason is because much of women's unpaid labour in food production is not counted.

Table 1 - Agriculture in the economies of Côte d'Ivoire, Jordan, Nigeria, the Philippines and the CARICOM countries
Country Rural popul. as % of total 1993* Agriculture as % of GDP 1993 * Agriculture as % of Exports** % of the Lab. Force in Agr. 1990*
Côte d'Ivoire 58 37 66 (no date) 60
Jordan 30 8 20.7 (1993) 15
Nigeria 62 34 1.5 (1990) 43
Philippines 48 22  46
Ant. & Barb. 64   75
Bahamas 15   5
Barbados 54   7
Belize 53   34
Guyana 65   22
Jamaica 47 8  25
St. Kit.& Nev. 59    
Saint Lucia 53    
Saint Vinc. 55    
Trin. & Tob. 29 3  11
* Source: UNDP Human Development Report 1996, Tables 8, 13 and 16.
** Source: Country case studies

Women's roles and contributions to agriculture

Women play important roles in agriculture in all of the countries studied.

In Côte d'Ivoire, women provide 80 percent of the labour for food production and are responsible for 60 percent of its marketing. Men are responsible for land clearing and preparation and for most of the work in the cash crops of cacao and coffee. Women are completely responsible for yams and vegetables, including sowing, weeding and harvesting, although in the south and eastern central areas, men help out with the sowing. Women do all of the work in rice production (sowing, weeding, harvesting and gathering), except in the west and southwest region, where men perform 75 percent of the harvesting. Women also assist with the cash crops, supplying 25 percent of the labour involved in weeding and drying, as well as all the labour in gathering and packing.

The roles of women farmers in Nigeria vary considerably by ethnic group. The Hausa Fulani women do little work in the fields because of the plough/grain culture and the restrictions on women of the Islamic religion. However, only the well-to-do urban Muslim women in seclusion do not engage in agricultural work of some kind. Poor Muslim women are heavily involved in food processing and preparation. The Yoruba women are becoming more and more involved in agricultural work with the increase of cash crop production and the expansion of food production and raw materials for industry. Among the Ibo, women play a dominant role in food production. In the traditional gender division of labour, men were responsible for land preparation while women engage in planting, weeding, harvesting, animal husbandry and food processing. With the involvement of men in cash crops, women are increasingly performing all the tasks involved in food production and processing, including those previously done by men. Most women's work in agriculture is unpaid, but some women are employed as agricultural labourers.

In the Philippines, women play a major role in agriculture, mostly as unpaid family workers or self-employed farmers, although about 17 percent are wage and salary workers. The crops with the largest number of women workers are rice, coconut and banana. In most farm systems, men and women share the same tasks. While there is considerable overlap and flexibility in the division of labour, men tend to be involved more in land preparation, applying fertilizers, repair and maintenance of infrastructure and irrigation, while women are responsible for much of the planting, weeding, harvesting, threshing and processing. In livestock, men take most responsibility for carabao and cattle, while women care for pigs and poultry. In fisheries, men do the catching while women process and sell the catch. In agro-forestry, women plant the tree species and sell the produce, while men care for the crop and transport it to market. In addition, women cultivate family plots to produce vegetables for their families (Illo 1995).

Women constitute only a small part of the agricultural labour force in Jordan, which employs only 15 percent of the entire labour force. A survey of women and agriculture in the Near East showed that most women engaged in agriculture in the region work on small subsistence farms in food production, care of small livestock and food processing (El-Fattal 1996).

Women in the Caribbean are responsible for more than 50 percent of food production and are also involved in food processing and marketing, including inter-island marketing. The percentage of female-headed of households is generally high, as much as one-third in Trinidad and Tobago. As these households are also among the poorest, the women cannot afford to hire labour and thus usually shoulder all agricultural tasks themselves.

Access to extension and other services

In Côte d'Ivoire, women's work in agricultural production is undervalued and largely unpaid. Even in the performance of essential tasks in cash crops, women are considered to be helping the male farmers, rather than as partners or as farmers in their own right. Consequently, women are largely ignored by the extension services and information programmes which have been developed for and are delivered almost exclusively to men.

In Jordan, cultural restrictions limit women's access to male extension workers, and since there are few women extensionists, women farmers have little access to extension.

Women in Nigeria also have little access to productive resources. A major constraint is their lack of land titles. Women have, at best, only usufructuary rights and not permanent land tenancy. Most women use a part of their husband's land and consequently their plots are generally very small. Less than ten percent of women have access to extension, improved seedlings, fertilizers, herbicides and training. Less than seven percent have access to credit.

Very few women in the Philippines have access to extension and other services. In 1993, only six percent of the participants attending activities conducted by the Agricultural Training Institute were women, ranging from three percent of the participants in on-farm research to 15 percent of those attending day training. The traditional assumption has been that women are housewives and therefore the major services extended to them have been through home management technicians and Rural Improvement Clubs. This perception is gradually changing and the home management technicians are now known as agricultural technicians and receive basic training in agriculture. Bank-managed credit programmes are out of the reach of most women, but small credit schemes run by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are making small loans available to women (Illo 1995).

In the CARICOM countries, women's access to land ownership varies. In the Cayman Islands and in St. Kitts and Nevis, there are relatively similar numbers of male and female landowners. In other countries, far fewer women own land than men, and in all cases, women's landholdings are smaller. While women have less access than men to public loans, there are a number of traditional rotating credit schemes where women predominate, such as the "sou-sou" in Trinidad and the "partner" scheme in Jamaica.

Literacy and basic education

Since literacy and access to basic education are the prerequisites for any type of higher education, it is important to note what percentage of women in these countries have this prerequisite for going into higher agricultural education. A look at the adult literacy rates and enrolment rates of men and women in the age groups for primary and secondary education reveals significant differences among the countries studied.

Literacy rates and access to primary and secondary education in the CARICOM countries, for which data are available, are high and the data indicate that girls in the region have nearly equal, and sometimes greater, access to basic education than boys. While data are not available on male and female gross enrolment rates at primary and secondary school levels in the Philippines, the high adult literacy rate for both men and women indicates that basic education ratios are probably also high. In Jordan, both boys and girls have a high degree of access to first level education, but this drops sharply, although about equally, at the secondary level. Data from the Jordan case study indicate that in 1993/1994, 55 percent of the students enrolled in academic secondary education were female, as were 35 percent of those enrolled in vocational secondary schools.

It is in Côte d'Ivoire and Nigeria where the greatest disparities between men and women can be seen. Adult literacy rates are low in general and far fewer women than men are literate. In Côte d'Ivoire access to primary and secondary education is low for both boys and girls, especially at the secondary level, with girls' enrolment ratio considerably lower than that for boys. Nigeria has a high gross enrolment ratio for boys at the primary level, but the gross enrolment ratio for girls is only 79 percent. Enrolment drops sharply for both boys and girls at secondary level, with a lower percentage of female enrolment as compared to males enrolment.

Thus, except for Côte d'Ivoire and Nigeria, a high percentage of women in the countries studied have the basic requisites for tertiary education and should thus also have the same opportunities to participate in higher agricultural education as men.

Women's enrolment in tertiary education

In the countries in which women's enrolment is as high as or higher than that of men, the pattern varies considerably in tertiary education. In Barbados, the Bahamas and the Philippines, the enrolment of females in the age group 18 to 23 years as a percentage of male enrolment increases, whereas it decreases considerably in Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago. In the Côte d'Ivoire and Nigeria, which have a low female enrolment ratio at the primary and secondary level, this decreases even more dramatically at the tertiary level. Two major factors for this are the greater or fewer educational opportunities for women in some countries, and greater need and/or opportunity for women or men of this age group to enter the labour force.

Table 2 - Female enrolment at tertiary school age as percentage of male enrolment, 1990
Country Tertiary School Age (18 -23)
Côte d'Ivoire36
Nigeria 53
Philippines 113
Barbados 149
Bahamas 149
Trinidad and Tobago 69
Jamaica 79
Source, UNDP, Human Development Report 1995, Annex Table A2.1

Higher agricultural education in Côte d'Ivoire

The Ecole Nationale Supérieure Agronomique (ENSA) was established in Abidjan in 1965. In 1989, ENSA was transferred to Yamoussoukro. The purpose remained that of providing training to the agricultural and agro-industrial sectors, as well as research, expertise and advice in agricultural development in Côte d'Ivoire and the sub-region. In addition to its academic and research facilities, ENSA maintains greenhouses irrigated practice farms and a palm plantation.

Entering students are required to have a good record in science studies. The course of study includes two preparatory years, followed by two years of basic agronomics which includes an eight week internship, and finally one or two years of specialization. Graduates obtain diplomas as Agricultural Engineers. The school also offers continuing education courses and carries out research.

The first admission of a woman to ENSA occurred in 1974. Out of 663 Agricultural Engineer diplomas delivered by ENSA, 52 (7.8 %) have been given to women. Women tend to specialize in Agricultural Economics (28.8 %), since this leads most often to administrative positions. Other preferred specializations include Plant Production, Plant Protection, Agro-Industry, Animal Production and Forestry. Of the 52 women graduates, 3 are employed in international bodies, including FAO; 9 in research and higher education; 2 in secondary education; 27 in government development bodies; and 9 in the private sector. Only two are unemployed, of which one is a recent graduate seeking her first job and the other is married and living abroad.

Established in 1996, l'Institut Agricole de Bouaké (IAB) is a public institution of higher agricultural education and research. Although it was moved to Yamoussoukro and is situated on the premises of ENSA, it remains independent. IAB trains students to work as civil engineers or in the fields of agricultural production, livestock, water and forestry, management, extension, planning, research, marketing and food processing. It also directs training to agricultural producers and their organizations, offering study possibilities and technical advice.

Students come to IAB following one preparatory year at ENSA or at a university and obtain a diploma in technical engineering after successfully completely the three-year course of studies. To date, IAB has awarded 804 diplomas, 31 of them to women (4 %). It has also given training to 950 interns and advice to 50 farms. In 1995/96, there were 124 students, including 12 women (9.7 %). All the graduates are working in the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources in the Côte d'Ivoire or Benin.

IAB places more emphasis on practical work than does ENSA, with 40 percent of the students' time spent in field work as interns. The continuing education department directs its training to agricultural and rural development agents and emphasizes management and communications in the rural environment. A unit on farm management is directed to graduates who are currently running farms. The emphasis of IAB's practice farm for interns is farm management rather than the demonstration of techniques.

Agronomic research is carried out in two institutes, the Institut des Savannes (IDESSA) and the Institut des Forêts (IDEFOR). In 1990, less than five percent of the 216 researchers were women. The Faculty of Science and Technology of ENSA also engages in research. Lack of funding, uncertainty regarding promotion, and low salaries act as disincentives in this Faculty.

There are very few female teachers at the university level. Out of 53 teachers at ENSA, only six are women (11 %). There are no women on the teaching staff of IAB. Women agronomists are more likely to find jobs in departments of the Ministry of Agriculture or related agencies. NGOs, such as INADES-FORMATION, and the private sector also employ women agricultural graduates.

Obstacles to improving women's access to higher agricultural education stem from two main sources: low educational levels of girls and the difficulties women encounter in pursuing careers in agriculture. Côte d'Ivoire has a generally low level of school enrolment with gross enrolment ratios of 69 percent at the primary level and 24 percent at secondary level. The disparities between males and females at both levels are great.

A major cause of the overall low school enrolment is the economic crisis affecting the country and the consequent lack of purchasing power of families. Enrolments rates vary considerably by region, however; the forested zones where cash groups are grown has a high rate of primary enrolment whereas the poorer Savannah zones have an extremely low rate. The reasons for the low rate of female enrolment are:

There are very small numbers of women, therefore, who have the basic educational prerequisites to enter higher agricultural education.

Given the importance of agriculture to the population of the country, opportunities for agricultural training at the secondary level are insufficient. There are two structures providing such training: The Centre de Formation Rural (CFR) with an intake of 59 pupils in 1995, including 9 girls; and the Lycée Agricole de Bingerville with a student body of 152 in 1995, including 42 girls.

At the level of the National University, only 10 percent of the female students chose to study science and technology in the years 1981 to 1992. This decreases the potential number of women who might take up agronomic sciences. The reasons that few of the women who do have the basic education to enter higher agricultural studies choose to do so include:

Recommendations for improving women's access to higher agricultural education and career opportunities in agriculture include:

Increasing the enrolment of girls and women at all levels through:

Greater dissemination of information on careers in agriculture through:

Financial support through:

Improvement of training through:

Greater employment opportunities through:

The important roles of women in agriculture and in the economy of the country, the economic environment and natural resources which favour agricultural activities, an expanding private sector and the development of professional agricultural organizations all justify taking women into account in development and training programmes.

Higher agricultural education in Jordan

The main focus of the case study on women and higher agricultural education in Jordan was the Faculty of Agriculture at the University of Jordan, the oldest institution offering degrees in agriculture in the country. In addition to the University of Jordan, three public community colleges and one private and three public universities offer agricultural diplomas or degrees.

Founded in 1962, the University of Jordan established its Faculty of Agriculture in 1972. In the 1995/96 academic year, the percentage of women in the total enrolment in the university was higher than that of men at the undergraduate level (57.4%). The percentage of female enrolment at the MSc level dropped to 30.6 and at the PhD level to 16.8.

The percentage of female enrolment in the Faculty of Agriculture was 60.6 percent at the BSc level and 23.9 percent at the MSc level. There were no women enrolled in the PhD programme in agriculture. The reasons for the sharp decline of women students at the higher levels are reported to be: marriage, moving to another city or country with the husband, pregnancy, and lack of interest in continuing.

More women specialized in Nutrition and Food Technology, Plant Production, Agricultural Economics, and Extension than in the departments of Plant Protection, Animal Production and Soil and Irrigation. The choice of specialization appears to be strongly influenced by the opportunities women have to benefit from their agricultural education through employment. Most women graduates in Nutrition and Food Technology work in related public sectors, hospitals, schools and bakeries, while graduates in Plant Production work in flower shops, plant nurseries and shops dealing in agricultural inputs.

A survey of 163 randomly-selected female graduates from 1978 to 1995 found that 73 had worked immediately after graduation and another 63 had worked at sometime since, while 27 had not worked at all. Most of those surveyed were working in the public sector, a significant number in the private sector and a very few on their own. Most of the women were working in their field of specialization and almost all were working full time. Some 85 percent of the women surveyed responded that they had found no difficulties in getting jobs because they were female and 93 percent said that they did not encounter difficulties as females in their most recent jobs.

A significant finding, however, was that most of the working women were working morning shifts and not in field work. The reasons for this are the social restrictions on women which do not permit women to work outside the home in the evenings, to have contact with male farmers or to ride in vehicles driven by men. These social restrictions prevent women from working in extension services and benefiting equally with men from their education.

Although the University is an equal opportunity employer, women make up only 13.3 percent of the staff of the Faculty of Agriculture, and only 2.9 percent of the PhD holders on the staff are women. The low percentage of PhD holders on the staff is due to the very low number of women agricultural graduates with PhDs.

Wasted investment

If we do not enable female graduates to make use of their education and capabilities, we will be wasting the resources, money and time invested.
(Snobar, Jordan Case Study, 1996)
A major conclusion of the study was that there is a need to restructure the Faculty of Agriculture by creating disciplines that will not only better meet the needs of the country's development and local job markets, but will also be more suitable for preparing women for jobs in the public and private sectors. The job market for women with higher agricultural education is expected to improve, especially in the fields of hospital nutritionists and university teaching. Women are also applying their education through work with cooperatives and NGOs.


El-Fattal, Lamia (1996). "Rural Women and Food Security in the Near East Region: Current Status and Perspectives". Cairo, FAO Regional Office for the Near East

Illo, Jeanne Frances I. (1995). "Women, Agriculture and Rural Development - National Sectoral Report for the Philippines". Rome, FAO

Snobar, Bassam (1996). "Enrolment of womn in higher education in Jordan". Country case study. Rome, FAO

UNDP (1995). "Human Development Report 1995". New York, Oxford University Press

UNDP (1996). "Human Development Report 1996". New York, Oxford University Press

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