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Landownership and access to farm inputs by rural women in Nigeria

Landownership and access to farm inputs by rural women in Nigeria

D.O. Chikwendu and J.O. Arokoyo

National Agricultural Extension and Research Liaison Services

Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Nigeria

The ownership of land and easy access to farm inputs and services by rural women are essential to increase their productivity and hence income status. This paper is based on the results of a nationwide study conducted in 1993. The aim was to determine the extent of landownership by women and their access to farm inputs, extension services, agricultural loans and membership of cooperatives. The results indicate that the majority of rural women had access to farmland; however, few had control over such land. Only those who have purchased their land could rightly be said to have control over it, as others could easily lose access if it so pleased the men who gave it to them.

Contrary to some opinions, the study showed that, when granting loans, banks do not discriminate against women because of their gender. However, fear of being refused credit and lack of collateral impede their access to loan. The majority of women belonged to associations which were mainly socio-cultural religious groups and not really agricultural production- or farm interest-based associations or cooperatives. With the introduction of the Women in Agriculture programme, an increasing number of women are beginning to have contact with extension services. Regarding the availability of farm inputs, the results of the study indicate that rural women experience problems in obtaining the inputs.

Land is a major production resource. and lack of control over this important resource has been a major limiting factor to women's productivity. For centuries traditional land tenure systems in Africa "have made most women little more than temporary custodians of the land as it passed from father to male heir". Landownership (land rights) is generally defined by the land tenure system which basically determines the ability of individuals to gain access to land as well as to security over its use. Ownership of land is different from ownership of other property in that it is the legal possession of certain rights and obligations. Although some of the rights may be held by the individual, some may be held by groups and others by political bodies. No single individual holds land in a totally exclusive way (Ega, 1991). There are three forms of land rights: rights to use, rights to transfer and rights to exclude others from land.

The basic instrument of the Nigerian Government's land-use policy is the Land Use Decree, promulgated in 1978. This decree provides that:

Despite the above provisions, the traditional land tenure system is still very much in operation.

Land tenure systems in Nigeria may be described as traditional, customary or communal. Ega (1991) identifies three main principles in land tenure types: i) the principle of interrelationship between land rights and the family or community system of social organization; ii) the principle of collective interest in land and the decentralized system or hierarchy of control, with the head of the community acting as the custodian of the community's land at the local level; iii) the principle that provides for ascertainable inheritable rights of the individual. These three principles are applicable to virtually all communities in Nigeria.

The community or the landholding unit may be an extended family composed of a man, his wife or wives, their children, their adult sons, etc. Ega (1991) reports that, on the general level, there is nothing to suggest that women should not own land. However, the concepts of ownership imply that control over land cannot reside with women, who are not usually considered household heads even in matrilineal societies.

It is generally accepted that women perform substantial work on both family and personal farms. If there is no involvement in farming, there may be a problem of access to land or restriction of capital. But women in Nigeria generally have access to land by virtue of their membership in households as wives, daughters and sisters. The most common access to land is through the husband. Ega (1991) reports that, even if they were to borrow, rent or beg for land, the transactions would usually be carried out on their behalf by the husband or male relatives.

The most common and important way of land acquisition in Nigeria is by inheritance, which is usually paternal, passing from father to son or sons. However, under Islamic law, which applies to a substantial part of the country, women are entitled to half the share of their male counterpart. Ega (1991) reports that it is not customary for a woman to inherit her husband's lands although, if she has children, she may hold the land in trust for her children if they are minors. If a woman has no male child and does not remarry within the family. the land could go to her husband's family. In effect, women's access to land depends on marriage; they retain access to land as long as they remain in their husband's household. This does not give them security of tenure (Ega, 1991). Women could, however, buy land either directly or indirectly through their father, husband or children. In instances where women inherit land, they are not allowed to transfer it, even to their husbands (Ogungbile, Olukosi and Ahmed, 1991).

Extension education is an important service to farmers and is based on the premise that human beings are naturally endowed with the power to change themselves mentally and physically and have the ability to learn new attitudes, skills, methods as well as to make decisions, construct or alter their physical surroundings, etc. An effective extension service must therefore implement planned programmer of learning activities that are specifically designed for adults, both men and women, to enable them to acquire new knowledge and skills required for the efficient utilization of available resources and to cope better with a changing world of technology.

Unfortunately, there is ample evidence to show that, despite a growing awareness of the need to reach women farmers, agricultural extension services in the past were generally geared towards male farmers. This was sometimes by design, but more often by default. According to FAO (1982) and Lamming (in FAO, 1983), even though women farmers accounted for up to 80 percent of food production in some developing countries, they received only 2 to 10 percent of extension contacts. This was so because a disproportionately larger number of the extension agents were men. In developing countries where the extension service has more than just an advisory role, there is thus the difficulty of access, not only to information on new technologies but also to other essential production inputs and credit for women. The problem of rural women's limited access to extension services is further compounded by the competition between their time spent on farming activities and that spent on searching for water and fuel, food preparation and child care. The end result of all these is usually subsistence farming, poor production output and lower incomes.

Agricultural credit is another critical production input needed for success. Women's lack of landownership rights has hindered their access to bank loans, as they are left without land rights to offer as a security. In a study of Ugwoda village in Benue State, it was discovered that, between 1977 and 1985, only four women farmers benefited from the Nigerian Agricultural and Cooperative Bank's agricultural loan scheme, whereas the corresponding number of men was 132 (Amodu, 1 988).

The inability of women to obtain bank loans has resulted in their weak capital base to enable them to purchase and use improved [arm inputs such as fertilizers, pesticide and seeds. Women's financial constraints are further accentuated by their limited integration in the wage economy as well as their having less access than men to formal education. The combination of these factors has restricted Nigerian women to very small holdings with minimum production resource use, including obsolete or inappropriate technologies.

This paper attempts to determine the access of rural women to land, agricultural credit, farm inputs, extension services and membership of cooperatives.


The study was conducted in 17 states of the country. The selection of the states was based primarily on the country's five farming system zones, taking into consideration the cultural practices of the people, the ecological location and agricultural practices. The states studied were: southwest zone - Delta, Edo, Ondo and Oyo states; middle-belt zone - Benue, Kwara and Plateau states: northwest zone - Bauchi, Kaduna, Kebbi and Katsina states; and northwest zone - Porno and Taraba states.

A multistage sampling technique was adopted and 120 households were chosen in each of the selected states. Women in the households were then interviewed and simple descriptive statistics as well as a correlation analysis were used to analyse the data.


A majority (37.5 percent) of the women sampled in the present study stated that they owned personal farms. None complained about not having access to land for farming (Table 1). Many of the respondents indicated that they had acquired their farmlands by inheritance, purchasing, borrowing or even renting. It must be noted that even though most of the women had access to farmland, the majority of them did not own the land. silence, women who received their farmlands by inheritance or borrowing from their husbands could lose these lands once a divorce was instituted by one of the partners or in the case of death of the husband. There are cases of loss of access by women who have inherited from their fathers either because of marriage or on the death of the father. Respondents also reported loss of access to farmlands borrowed or leased without prior notice. especially after such lands had been properly developed and "fertilized'' - with residual fertilizers that would enhance fertility and hence yields.


Distribution of women farmers by ownership of personal farms, size of personal farm and land tenure


Number of respondents


Ownership of term


Own farm

1 437


Do not own farm



Size of personal farm (ha)


<= 1

1 228


1.01 - 2



>= 2 01



Land tenure














Thus, while "access" to farmland was not found to be an important limiting production factor for women, "control" of such lands was a major problem, as the women could not pledge them as collateral for a loan or even use them as they liked. For example, the growing of lucrative tree crops that require several years for gestation was either restricted or discouraged. Clearly, the only women who could rightly be said to have control over their land were those who bought it, and they accounted for 14.1 percent of the respondents.

Access to agricultural credit

Agricultural credit is a necessity in increasing the capital base of women farmers. Women farmers, like most small-scale farmers in Nigeria, do not always have enough funds for farming. Their problem is even more compounded by the fact that they do not have easy access to agricultural credit because they lack such security as land.

Findings of the present study confirmed that a majority of the rural women farmers interviewed (76.6 percent) did not have enough funds for farming (Table 2). Only 27.7 percent of the women obtained credit for farming during the 1993 season. The few women who obtained credit for farming obtained it through different sources, the most important source being through friends or neighbours (29 percent), closely followed by cooperatives (27 percent). Only 17.1 percent of those who obtained loans did so through a bank.


Distribution of women farmers by adequacy of funds and access to agricultural credit


Number of respondents


Adequacy of funds for farming








Obtained agricultural credit in the 1993 season






1 413


Source of credit








Friends or neighbours









It is generally assumed that different factors such as gender, religion, culture, education and lack of collateral contribute to women's limited access to commercial bank loans in Nigeria. However, in a study by Anyanwu (1991) the following observations were made:

From the observations above, it would seem that banks do not discriminate against women because of their gender. Rather, women do not obtain credit because only very few of them apply for it. This view is supported by recent empirical evidence on loan applications and approvals from the Nigerian Agricultural and Cooperative Bank (NACB) (Table 3). An analysis of the data in the table shows that. among male applicants at the bank's Kabba Branch in 1992, 44 percent of applications were approved while, among women, 49 percent were approved. Women had a 35 percent approval rate for the same branch in 1993 while men had only 28 percent. At the Kaduna Branch, about 97 percent of women's applications were approved while 88 percent of applications by men were approved. These results support the hypothesis that women do not have limited access to bank loans; rather, few of them apply for such loans. This is a pointer to the ineffectiveness of extension services which are supposed to educate rural women in the methods and procedures of obtaining agricultural loans.


Applications for agricultural credit from the Nigerian Agricultural and Cooperative Bank









Kabba Branch


No of applicants



1 201


No. of approvals





Percentage approved





Kaduna Branch


No. of applications


1 499


No. of approvals


1 318


Percentage approved




llorin Branch


No. of applications




No. of approvals




Percentage approved




Membership of associations

Although a majority of the respondents (70.6 percent) indicated that they belonged to "associations" (Table 4), it was clear from the interviews that these were mainly socio-cultural and religious groups and not really agricultural production- or farm interest based associations or cooperatives that could have a positive impact on their farming activities by raising production levels and hence their incomes and living standards. In fact, only 23.5 percent said they were members of cooperatives and 12.6 percent indicated membership of thrift or credit associations. Functional and dynamic cooperatives and credit unions have been found to be an effective strategy for promoting agricultural and rural development, and they are consequently important for poverty alleviation in rural areas, for example in Mexico under the "PUEBLA Plan" and in some other developing countries.

Contact with extension services

In agricultural extension, probably the most effective methodology for message transfer is by individual contact. Thus, it is assumed that the frequency of the clientele's contact with the extension agent is related to the level of adoption of improved production practices; the more frequent the contacts, the higher the adoption rates - and this should translate into higher yields and incomes for the rural farmers.

Unlike most earlier studies, the present one showed that a majority of rural women studied (77.6 percent) had contact with the extension services (Table 4). This was assumed to be due to the introduction of the Women in Agriculture (WIA) programme of the Agricultural Development Projects (ADPs), which stipulates that all WLA agents must work with rural women farmers and that 60 percent of the contact farmers of all other female village extension agents (VEAs) must be women. With these requirements, under the training and visit extension approach, it was not surprising to find an even spread in the responses as to who extension agents talked to: 33.1 percent to men; 28 percent to women and 38.9 percent to both men and women. This is quite in contrast to the earlier Trickle down" theory reported by Ngur (1987).


Distribution of women farmers by membership of associations and contact with extension services


Number of respondents


Membership of associations



1 440


Not member



Type of association





Women's group



Thrift or credit union



Contact with extension services



1 583




24 4

Who extension agents talk to











Although modest gains have been reported in agricultural production since the recent introduction of the ADPs, it is obvious that the gains have not had a significant impact on the lives of most rural women because the positive contributions of contacts with agents under the new system of extension delivery have been negatively affected to a certain degree by the restructuring of the service component of extension. The restructuring reclassified inputs and withdrew their procurement and distribution as an inessential extension activity. This new conditionality has been compounded by the effects of the structural adjustment programme (SAP) which caused the prices of essential inputs to sky-rocket beyond the reach of the rural poor. The net effect has been the inability of these rural women farmers to adopt new technologies and recommended packages passed on to them by the extension services: hence their continued low-input. Iow-technology production and resulting low outputs and incomes as well as their continuing poverty cycle.

Availability of farm inputs

Most of the respondents indicated that they had problems acquiring farm inputs. They also relied heavily on crude farm tools owned by their husbands.

The constraints women farmers face regarding access to production resources are more or less similar elsewhere in the developing world. Jayawardena and Jayaweera (1985), cited in Arokoyo and Chikwendu (1994), reporting on the situation in Sri Lanka, state that gender-based differentiation in that country is reenacted in economic development policies which work on the assumption that women in an agrarian society are only farmers' wives and are not farmers in their own right. The misconception of women farmers in most of the developing countries is such that innovation packages are usually provided with men in mind as the end users. Additionally, it is often assumed that, as husbands, the men would naturally pass on such innovative information to their wives in a kind of "trickle down" diffusion model.


Distribution of Fulbe men and women by level of awareness of development packages


Have heard about packages


Number of men


Number of women


High-yielding seed




















Plough and tractor hiring services





Credit facilities





Agroservice centres





Grazing reserves





Livestock or veterinary health services










Improved animal breeds





Improved animal feed





Total number of men and women questioned





Source: Ngur, 1987.

In reality, the foregoing assumption is not always so. A study by Ngur (1987) on Fulbe men and women in Mubi in Gongola state illustrates this point, as shown by the results in Table 5. The generally low scores for women relative to men serve to indicate the constraints women face with regard to awareness of development packages, in the study area in particular and the country in general.


The results of this study show that, although rural women generally have access to farmland, only very few of them have control over such land. In fact only 14.1 percent of the respondents who purchased their land can be said to have control over their land. The results of this study also showed that, contrary to the widely held opinion in Africa. banks do not discriminate against women when processing loan applications. Rather. few women obtain bank loans because only very few apply for them. However, fear of being refused a loan and lack of collateral impede their access to credit.

The results also showed that the majority of women belonged to associations which were mainly socio-cultural or religious groups and not really agricultural production- or farm interest-based associations or cooperatives. With the introduction of the Women in Agriculture programme in the Agricultural Development Projects, an increasing number of women now have contact with extension agents. With regard to farm inputs, women farmers find it difficult to acquire them.

From the foregoing, it is obvious that the only way women can have control over the land they farm is to have some sort of legal backing to control the farmlands. Luckily, the Land Use Decree of 1978 has entrusted ownership of all the land in the federation to the government. Use rights can be granted to women through statutory rights by the local government councils. Hence, it is recommended that various local government councils should view this issue seriously and grant women use rights for lands that are not currently being used in the rural areas. In most rural areas, many such pieces of land can be found. For this to be implemented effectively. an enlightenment programme should be carried out to educate women on the procedure for applying for land use rights.

With the legal right to use lands, women can then pledge them as collateral when applying for bank loans. Added to this, the local government councils. the extension agents and the state governments should mount a campaign to educate women on the importance of agricultural credit as well as on the procedures for obtaining it from banks. The government should give the NACB and the Peoples' and Community Banks specific mandates for supplying credit to rural women. With enough funds for farming. women would find it easier to acquire improved technologies for farming.

So that appropriate and meaningful programmer for rural women can be designed and delivered, a gender-sensitizing and development education programme, including an extension planner and implementer, is needed. Emphasis will thus be placed on "people-oriented'' programmed rather than "projects". This will also ensure the "situation specificity" of programmer, as is also recommended by the World Bank.

The WIA programme needs to educate rural women seriously in the formation of strong, action-oriented farmers' associations and cooperatives. To overcome the various constraints, they must be taught the basics of cooperative formation and management. As most of the women are illiterate, an adult literacy programme could also be channelled through the cooperatives, thus exploiting the currently underutilized women's training centres.

Finally, a lack of knowledge about improved methods of farming is one of three major constraints limiting women's contribution - a clear indictment of the extension service. The WIA programme, as recommended by the World Bank, has not really taken off effectively in most states. This important development strategy, aimed at rural women, should be appropriately reviewed so that it may be implemented effectively.


Amodu, I. 1988. Extension needs of rural women: a case-study of Ugwoda village of Benue state. Ahmadu Bello University. Zaria, Nigeria. (B. Sc. thesis)

Anyanwu, J.C. 1991. Women's access to credit facilities from commercial banks in Nigeria: challenges for the 1990s. Summary Report for the Social Science Council of Nigeria. 30 pp.

Arokoyo, J.O. & Chikwendu, D.O. 1994. Women in agriculture and the issue of poverty. A research report commissioned by the World Bank Population and Humen Resources Division, West African Department. 78 pp.

Domner, P. 1988. The influence of tenure institutions on economic development of agriculture in less developed countries. Land Tenture Center Research Paper No. 55. University of Wisconsin, Madison. USA.

Ega, L A 1991. Land tenure problems and access of women to land in Nigeria. In Proceedings of the National Workshop on Extension Strategies for Reaching Rural Women, 23-27 September, p. 165-178. NAERLS. Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Nigeria.

FAO. 1982. Follow-up to WCARRD: the role of women in agricultural development. Rome.

FAO. 1983. Women in cooperatives: constraints and limitations to pull participation. Rome.

Ngur, N. 1987. Women and development in crop and livestock production in Nigeria: what c hanger? Paper presented at the Seminar on Women's Studies: The State of the Art Now. University of Ibadan, Nigeria. 4 6 November.

Ogungbile, A.O., Olukosi, J.O. & Ahmed, B. 1991. Women's participation in agricultural production in northern Nigeria. In M.O. ljere. ed. Women in the Nigerian economy. Enugu, Nigeria, Acena.

Land regulation policy for sustainable agriculture in Laos

Although Laos is still an underpopulated country, land pressure has increased during the last decade, especially on the alluvial plains. With the reserve of unappropriated land dwindling, property transactions have increased. A monetary, and often speculative, land market has opened up and is likely eventually to bring about a reduction in the area of arable and pasture land to the detriment of peasant farming. The Government of Laos has therefore requested FAO's expert assistance in formulating a position paper and policy orientations aimed at the sustainable use of land resources by the agricultural sector

In two priority pert-urban zones close to Vientiane, a systems approach has been applied, focusing on access to and the use of land resources. In this case, two major forces converge. One is the developing city itself which, being blocked to the south, is expanding in the only two directions possible - north and northeast. The other is the increasing flow of migrants arriving by the same route from different regions of the country. The conclusions and recommendations presented by the authors cover both the politico-legal aspects of agricultural and land issues and the relevant technico-economic measures.

Política de regularización de la sierra pare una agricultura sostenible en Laos

Aun cuando Laos siga siendo un país despoblado, la presión que se ejerce sobre la sierra, en particular en las planicies aluviales, ha aumentado durante los últimos diez años. Frente al agotamiento de las reserves de sierras disponibles, los intercambios de sierra se han multiplicado. Surge un mercado monetizado de sierras y en muchos caves de tipo especulativo, susceptible de provocar, a mediano plaza, una reducción de las parcelas cultivadas y de los espacios forjaremos en perjuicio de la agricultura campesina. El Gobierno de la República Democrática Popular Lao ha solicitado una consultoría por parte de la FAO en vista de la formulación de un documentes de base y de las orientaciones políticas centradas sobre una utilización sostenida de los recursos de sierra en el sector agrícola.

Un diagnosticó sistémico ha sido realizado en dos zonas perdurabas prioritarias en las cercanías de Vientiane, en función de las cuestiones de acceso al recurso sierra y su utilización. En este cave, dos grandes fuerzas se enfrentan: por un lado al desarrollo de la ciudad misma, bloqueada al sur, que se expandes en las únicas direcciones posibles, el norte y el nordeste; per otro ladee, el flujo de migrasteis en aumento, por esta misma red de caminos, procedentes de varíes regiones del parts. Las conclusiones y recomendaciones elaboradas por los autores cubren, a la vez, los aspectos politico-juridicos en materia agrícola y de sierra, as i come las medidas de acompañamiento de orden técnico-económico.

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