The main aim of the study was to analyze women labour utilization in crop production in Abia State. The specific objectives included (i) identify specific farming operations that utilize women  labour in the study area; (ii) compare the relative contribution of women and men to total labour utilization in different levels of farm operation in the study area; (iii) identify factors that affect the participation of women in different levels of farm operations; (iv) determine the effect of women labour utilization on the value of farm output ; and (v) identify  and analyze the constraints facing women farmers in crop production in the study area. Using multi-stage sampling technique, the study area was zoned into three using the existing zoning arrangement of the Abia State Agricultural Development Programme (ADP). Nine (9) rural Local Government Areas (LGA) were randomly selected from the Zones. From the LGAs, 18 communities were randomly selected and from the communities, 36 villages were randomly selected. From these villages, 108 households having women farmers were randomly selected. A set of structured questionnaire was administered on the relevant women and men farmers in the household to obtain required information. Data were analyzed using descriptive statistics, multiple regression analysis, t-test, likert rating scale and multinomial logit model. Results showed that among twelve crop production operations identified in 2010 farming season, greater proportion of all the operations were executed by the women farmers e.g. harvesting 70%, planting 63%, weeding 60% and transplanting 58%. The men and hired labour were used for tedious operations like ridging and bush clearing. The multinomial logit result showed that the participation of women belonging to large families were less in clearing and cultivation. Their level of income had a negative relationship with clearing. The multiple regression analysis showed that greater number of variables like age, farm experience and household size were significant and have positive effect on output at 5 % level of significance. The multiple regression analysis showed that the value of Coefficient of determination otherwise known as R-square (R2) was 0.67.  Despite the high level of participation of women farmers in crop production, they still face unique constraints which adversely affected their ability to increase food production. The identified problems included lack of finance, lack of improved inputs, lack of storage facilities among others. Poor implementation of agricultural projects and policies, lack of government commitment and intervention programmes not directed to the farmers needs were the major reasons why previous intervention measures did not achieve much success. The study therefore recommended that adequate finance should be provided by government to support women labour requirements. Government should ensure implementation of agricultural programmes by monitoring and evaluating them from the beginning to the end by independent consultants. The problem of illiteracy among rural women can be overcome if extension services extend their training to the rural women.





            Nigeria at the moment is witnessing an upward trend in the price of foodstuffs partly due to the inability of production to keep pace with increase in demand. Demand itself increases largely as a result of increase in population. The resulting effect of this imbalance between demand for and supply of food is malnutrition, poverty and deteriorating living conditions (Nnadozie and Ibe, 2000). This is mainly because agriculture is being neglected and, sometimes, down played in development strategies.

Agriculture is one of the main pillars of the Nigerian economy because it plays many roles.  It is a major source of food to the population, it provides employment for over 70 to 80 percent of the population and it is the only thriving economic activity in rural areas. It contributes foreign exchange as well as a source of industrial raw materials for the nation’s industries (Amanze, 2000).

However, with the oil boom in the seventies, there was a sharp decline in agricultural production as people’s attention was diverted from agriculture to the oil sector of the economy. The “oil boom” also rendered many indigenous land owners landless and, in some cases, a reduction in the hectare farmed. There was rural-urban movement because of lack of social amenities in the rural areas. Many able bodied men moved to the urban centres in search of white-collar jobs because of the income disparity and availability of amenities in the urban areas. Women and their children were left behind to carry on agricultural production activities which resulted in many household economic activities championed by women. This situation placed on them the responsibility of taking decisions on issues on the farm (Lily, Feidman and Shert., 2001).

Attempts to restore agriculture to its former glory, national efforts to boost the production of food and cash crops have been made through a number of agricultural programmes like National Accelerated Food Production Programme (NAFPP), Operation Feed the Nation (OFN), Green Revolution Programmes, Go Back to Land, Directorate for Food, Roads and Rural Infrastructure (DFRRI) etc.  Despite these efforts the problem of food shortage continues. Food production strategies so far tried, appeared to have achieved limited success. One of the remote causes of the apparent failure was inability to develop and utilize the nation’s manpower resources effectively and efficiently especially in the rural sector (Okunade, 1998).

The involvement of women in agriculture has attracted greater attention in recent years because women play very significant roles in Nigeria’s agricultural production, processing and utilization (Nnadozie and Ibe, 2000). Millions of women work as farmers, farm workers and resources managers (Olayide et al, 1990). In doing so, they contribute to national agricultural output, maintenance of environment and family food security (Brown et al., 2001). They dominate in almost all phases of food production such as production of food crops like maize, cassava, vegetables and yam. They have also undertaken the rearing of small farm animals and execution of certain intricate farm operations (Oluwesola 1998). Not only do women play significant roles in food production, they are now also mastering those aspects of agriculture that used to belong exclusively to men. For instance, women help with the strenuous jobs of cutting trees and clearing bushes (Onyibe, 2001). Nnoyelu and Gadzane (1991), revealed that women were found working all the year round producing food crops while men performed only pre-planting tasks that occupy small parts of the agricultural year.

While men specialized in certain tasks like clearing bush or forest, cultivation, felling or pruning trees, ploughing or tiling the land, women, have been estimated to do 70 percent of hoeing and weeding, 60 percent of harvesting, 80 percent of transporting crops home and 90 percent of food processing (Steady, 2001). As men’s participation in agriculture declines, the role of women in agricultural production increases. In Mozambique, for example, for every 100 men working in agriculture there are now 153 women (Saito, 1994).

Though traditionally, women do not have land of their own, they do their farming on family plots and in any available piece of land no matter how small. Women contribute in areas of food preparation, processing and marketing. The involvement of women in agricultural food production has no limits. Through increased participation in agriculture, women have influenced family decisions on what to produce, how to produce, the sale of small food surpluses to meet their needs and labour-supply. Therefore, their involvement in agriculture is without doubt (Oluwasola, 1998).

It is obvious that women are very active in food production. More emphatically, women are the backbone of African agriculture and Nigeria in particular. In the olden days, when agriculture was almost the only available profession, men used to marry as many wives as possible to assist in farm work.  Throughout the world, women constitute a greater part of the work force especially in the rural areas (Ufiem 2000).

Women are, to a large extent the backbone of Africa rural economics (Adetenwa, 1998) and they play specific roles in the production and processing of food. Having seen that women’s effort cannot be neglected, the World Bank funded two consultancies in Nigeria to determine the extent of the participation of women in agriculture and recommend strategies for concretizing their findings in the form of project activities in 1986 (Nonyelu, 1996).

FAOs (1995) report estimates showed that women contributed over 50 percent of the  labour force in 56 countries out of 82 developing countries  in the world. These figures show the importance of women in the agricultural development process. Furthermore, Mickewait (1999) observed that most African women are significantly engaged in subsistence agriculture; emphasizing Olayide’s (1993) classification of them as the backbones or pillars of small peasant farmers in Nigeria.

1.2              STATEMENT OF PROBLEM

Due to low recognition of women’s contribution to food production by both the men folk and the government through its established agencies, women are not seen as having little potential to contribute to the economy of the country (Ukonu, 2001). They are seen as playing supportive roles to their husbands. In fact women constitute more than half of the total agricultural work force but there is inequality in access to land and other capital resources when compared to the men (Azikiwe, 1990). Therefore, women’s food production potential is being reduced because it is carried out on small and scattered pieces of land which may be unsuitable for the crops planted. This is worsened by little access to basic agricultural production facilities. Thus, rural women’s production efficiency and capacities are influenced negatively. This has caused lots of problems encountered by the great majority of rural women who wish to fully participate in farm work and contribute more to agricultural production.

Women are usually the poorest in the society, less educated than men, disease ridden and with very low social, economic and political status. Yet men migrations often leave them in charge of the farm without capital, finances and inputs. Extension services, loans, improved inputs and planting materials by-pass them because they have not been largely recognized.  Extension services were often targeted exclusively at men with the assumption that they lead the informal sector and can therefore cause a ‘trickle down effect’ for women. These services, often target men’s agricultural activities such as the type of crops to grow and do not include women’s activities. Studies showed that not only did the extension messages rarely get to women, the few that got to them were inappropriate (Saito and Weidmann, 1995). Rural women’s predicaments are worsened because of the numerous daily domestic and childcare tasks that hinder their moving outside their homes to obtain agricultural assistance.

Significant changes have occurred in the agricultural sector over the past 20 years. Both in the role played by women and in the understanding of this role; programmes like women-in-agriculture, better life for rural women, family support programme, family economic advancement programme, and others have taken place. But these programmes/strategies have continued to fail because they were not appropriately carried out. Though the programmes were meant for women but those entrusted with the task of ensuring that the proceeds of these programmes reached targeted audience re-channeled enabling fund to their personal accounts (Osakue, 2006). It is worthy of note that none of these programmes targeted the women as either the emergent producer or as the economic mainstay at least in the food subsector and as a matter of fact constituting over 50 percent of the labour work force. Some of the programmes attained the notoriety of gathering only women in the middle and upper class for further enrichment with outright disregard for peasant and rural women whose lives required to be improved. The persistent failures of these programmes have given a wrong documentation of the value of women contribution in agricultural sphere. This has also caused their contribution to be invisible and unaided which has led to the failure to integrate them in development strategies and programmes. These are vexed issues that need urgent attention.

Invisibility is one of the numerous obstacles preventing women from attaining full potentials; it is conferred on them by culture and traditions. Rather than remedying the situation through change of mindset and dramatic improvement, the situation is worsening. Gender awareness that takes account of both women and men as unique economic and social actors and addresses their specific cultural, social and economic situation is needed. A clearer understanding of the specific situation of women will provide the basis for identifying the constraint and opportunities for promoting income-generating activities.  Women are responsible for providing family food, collecting water and fuel, generating household income (including unpaid labour on the family farm) and generating cash incomes from handcrafts, agro-processing and marketing.

Generally agricultural projects are expected to give equal access to men and women in Nigeria, however there are always the tendency of men to take over such projects while women participate minimally (Ekumankama, 2000). Analysis of past agricultural and rural development strategies confirm that the full production potential of human resources cannot be realized if women, who make substantial contribution to food production and agriculture, do not have equal access to productive resources and services (FAO, 2002). Nigeria cannot deal with food insecurity, hunger and malnutrition unless she invests in agriculture. Agricultural productivity dramatically changes when women get the same resources as men (Saito et al. 1996,). Women are key to addressing the food security and nutrition goals to cut hunger by half by 2015.

Many researches had been carried out on the role of women in agriculture and women labour in crop production. (Uwaka 1982, Olayide et al 1990, Ijere 1991, Okojie 1992, Green 1994, Siyanbola 1995, Nnoyelu et al 1996, Saito et al 1996 Oluwasola 1998, Nnadozie et al 2000 Ufiem 2000,  Enete et al 2002; Nzeuzor 2002; Oyilimba 2002; Enyinnaya 2007). The gaps that exist in all these studies are the non-identification of the factors that affect the participation of women at different farm operations, lack of analysis of the constraint facing women farmers and lack of investigating the reasons why previous strategic interventions in solving women agricultural problems have failed. Moreover, there is dearth of information on such studies in the study area, Abia State.

The challenge therefore is to bridge these gaps since this will create a clearer understanding of women’s roles and participation in crop production and make them better qualified to benefit from numerous intervention measures against poverty.



The broad objective of the study is to analyse women labour utilization in crop production   in Abia State. The specific objectives are to:

  1. identify specific farming operations that utilize women  labour in the study area;
  2. compare the relative contributions of women and men to total labour utilization in different farm operations in the study area;
  • identify factors that affect the participation of women in different farm operations;
  1. determine the effect of women labour utilization and other factors on the value of output;
  2. identify and analyze the constraints facing women farmers in crop production in the study area;
  3. identify why previous strategies in solving women agricultural problems have achieved limited success;
  • suggest ways of improving rural women involvement in crop production in the study area.



            The following null hypotheses were tested:

  1. There is no significant difference between women and men labour utilization in different farm operations.
  2. The socio-economic characteristics of women farmers such as age, level of formal education, farming experience, do not have significant influence on their participation in different farm operations; and
  3. Women labour utilization does not have significant effect on the value of farm output.




In Nigeria, the central challenge to sustaining agricultural production is to equip farmers both men and women for higher productivity. Increasing agricultural production is very important in facilitating social and economic transformation of traditional peasant economies like Nigeria. A large proportion of the population in Abia State is rural and women constitute an important segment of the state rural manpower. The potentials of women in food production have not been fully developed. According to Awa (1993), Better information about women’s situation and their multiple roles as well as the increase involvement of women in development, planning and monitoring is needed. This would help achieve greater productivity and national food self-reliance while also supporting socio-economic goals. Also, several studies have shown that if women farmers should have access to resources, they are more productive than men farmers s (FAO,1998). This was confirmed by Oyilimba (2002) that average gross value of output per hectare on Women’s managed plots is higher than that of men’s when used with the same resources. Hence, Nzeuzor (2002) opined that investing in women would increase agricultural production. It is now a consensus in development literature that women are vital force to reckon with in all sphere of human endeavour.

To enhance the efforts of rural women in food production and make way for greater contribution to agricultural development, the study explained the situation that determine and direct the activities of women in production. Knowledge of what the women do and why they do them were identified which will be of immense help to policy makers in their effort to facilitate the role of women in agricultural production. It is hoped that the result of this investigation will establish a new and in-dept understanding of the problems of women farmers with respect to food production.  Awareness of the problems and potential of women farmers will enable policy making bodies to develop well articulated polices for rural women. Such policies will be aimed at eliminating constraints that limit women’s contribution to agriculture, particularly, food production. The empirical findings will fill the literature gap on women involvement in food production.  The findings could also be useful to research scholars interested in this or related topics as information and data would be made available to them. Finally this study suggested possible approaches to solving the problems of women farmers so as to enhance their contribution to agriculture which will lead to national development.



            Some of the respondents usually filled in the questionnaire what they think is expected of them instead of what they do. Sometimes the questionnaires were simply answered to please the researcher. Most of the information provided by the respondents was by memory recalls. Most of the respondents did not have records of their farming activities and their financial transactions. Some of the respondents refused to fill the questionnaire in the belief that they are intended for taxation purpose notwithstanding the explanation given by the researcher.

There may be some error due to aggregation, loss of memory, under estimation or overestimation by farmers. Effort was made to obtain correct information by careful probing and also paying visits to their farms. In addition, fluctuation in prices posed another problem to the accuracy of the data. There was standardization of quantity and prices were placed based on “eye balling”. To minimize error due to these problems, average values of items given by farmers were used.

The study is limited only to Abia State due to financial problem and time constraint. A study of this nature would require extensive coverage of the entire states of the federation where women participate in crop production. However, these limitations notwithstanding, the reliability of the findings was not in any way impaired by the above factors and the result could be taken to represent the situation in Abia State.



The study is presented in five chapters; the first Chapter, the Introduction presents the background information, problem statement, objectives of the study, hypotheses to be tested, justifications of the study as well as the limitations of the study. The second Chapter reviews the existing literature which were described under the following headings: role of women in agriculture, labour as a factor of agricultural production, sources of agricultural labour, women as sources of agriculture labour, factors affecting agricultural labour, factors affecting agricultural production and their implication for women farmers, constraints to women agricultural production efforts, strategies toward enhancing the performance of women farmers in crop production, theoretical framework and analytical framework. The third Chapter deals with the methodology adopted for the research work. It shows how the study and respondents were selected as well as how data were collected and analyzed. The fourth Chapter presents the analysis of the results and discussions while the summary, conclusion and recommendations on policy issues arising from the findings are represented in Chapter five. The questionnaire used for data collection is represented in appendices.