Rising hunger and food crisis are among today’s major threats to human survival and wellbeing globally. This situation has been a source of worry to governments, development experts and researchers. In the struggle to win this “war of the belly” attention has been directed to rural communities where more than eighty percent (80%) of world’s foods are produced. Rural women have been found to be the catalyst in the fight against hunger. In spite their roles in agricultural production, several factors pose serious challenges to the success of these women as food producers, especially, at the subsistence level.

This study is on the Socio-cultural Factors Affecting Subsistence Agriculture among Rural Women: A Study of Bende L G A, Abia State. The study adopted cross-sectional survey research design. Simple random multi-stage sampling method was used to select a total of five hundred and ten (510) respondents to whom questionnaires were distributed to generate quantitative data for the study. Focus Group Discussion (FGD) and In-depth Interview (IDI) were also employed to generate qualitative data.

Descriptive statistics were used to analyse the quantitative data using Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS), while qualitative data were manually analysed. Three hypotheses were proposed and tested with chi-square (x2) at 0.05 level of significance.

The results showed that women were the major food producers, with their rate of participation in agriculture higher than that of men in all the communities studied. Lack of access to land was one of the major challenges women in Bende LGA faced in agricultural production. Though there were cultural restrictions on women regarding access to land, that did not pose serious problems to them like lack of finance and bad roads.



FAO    –           Food and Agricultural Organization

IFAD  –           International Fund for Agricultural Development

IFPRI  –           International Food Policy Research Institute

ILO     –           International Labour Organization

MGDs –           Millennium Development Goals



Title page             –           –           –           –           –           –           –           i

Certification   –           –           –           –           –           –           –           –           ii

Dedication     –           –           –           –           –           –           –           –           iii

Acknowledgment               –           –           –           –           –           –           iv

Abstract    –           –           –           –           –           –           –           –           v

List of acronyms       –           –           –           –           –           –           –           vi

Table of contents      –           –           –           –           –           –           –           vii

List of tables            –           –           –           –           –           –           –           x

List of charts   –           –           –           –           –           –           –           –           xii

List of pictures           –           –           –           –           –           –           –           xiii


  • Background to the study –           –           –           –           –           –           –           1
  • Statement of the problem –    –           –           –           –           –           4
  • Research questions       –           –           –           –           –           –           6
  • Objectives of the study –           –           –           –           –           –           7
  • Significance of the study –     –           –           –           –           –           8
  • Operational definition of concepts –     –           –           –           –           9



2.1       Review of empirical studies     –           –           –           –           –           11

2.2       Review of relevant theories             –           –           –           –           18

2.3       Theoretical framework          –           –           –           –           –           23

2.4       Study hypotheses      –           –           –           –           –           –           24



3.1       Research design     –           –           –           –           –           –           26

3.2       Area of study             –           –           –           –           –           –           26

3.3       Scope of the study           –           –           –           –           –           –           27

3.4       Study population      –           –           –           –           –           –           27

3.5         Sample size and sampling procedure           –           –           –           –           28

3.6       Instruments for data collection               –           –           –           –           30

3.7       Methods of data collection         –           –           –           –           –           31

3.8       Methods of data analysis          –           –           –           –           –           31


4.1       Socio-demographic characteristics of respondents        –           –           33

4.2       Roles of women in agricultural production        –           –           –           39

4.3       Cultural factors affecting subsistence agriculture among rural women          –           42

4.4       Implications of educational attainment of women on agricultural production           46

4.5       Consequences of domestic chores on women’s agricultural production        –           48

4.6       Bende LGA assistance to rural women farmers            –           –           51

  1. 7 Test of hypotheses –           –           –           –           –           –           –           –           55

4.8       Summary of findings  –           –           –           –           –           –           –           –           57


5.1       Discussions              –           –           –           –           –           –           59

5.2       Conclusion      –           –           –           –           –           –           –           60

5.3       Recommendations      –           –           –           –           –           –           61

5.4       Suggestions for further research              –           –           –           61

References      –           –           –           –           –           –           –           –           –           63

Appendix I                 –           –           –           –           –           –           68

Appendix II    –           –           –           –           –           –           –           –           –           75

Appendix III   –      –           –           –           –           –           –           78



Table 4.1: Distribution of Respondents on Age

Table 4.2: Distribution of Respondents on Marital Status

Table 4.3: Distribution of Respondents on Educational Status

Table 4.4: Distribution of Respondents on Religious Affiliation

Table 4.5: Distribution of Respondents on Number of Years Farmed

Table 4.6: Distribution of Respondents on Opinions on Common Understanding about women’s                   Role in Agricultural Production

Table 4.7: Distribution of Respondents on Types of Farm

Table 4.8: Distribution of Respondents on Category of Crops Produced

Table 4.9: Distribution of Respondents on who spend more Time Working in the Farm between                     Men and Women

Table 4.10: Distribution of Respondents on Crop Specifications

Table 4.11: Distribution of Respondents on whether Culture allows Women to own Land

Table 4.12: Distribution of Respondents on how they get Land for Agricultural Activities

Table 4.13: Distribution of Respondents on Cultural Restrictions on Women’s Access to Land       for Agricultural Production

Table 4.14: Distribution of Respondents on Whether Restrictions on Women’s Ownership of     Land Hinders Agricultural Production

Table 4.15: Distribution of Respondents on Awareness of Agricultural Extension Services

Table 4.16: Distribution of Respondents on Whether Educational Attainment can affect                                   Reception of Agricultural Extension Services

Table 4.17: Distribution of Respondents on Whether Extension Officers had ever come to their   Communities

Table 4.18: Distribution of Respondents on ever Accessed Extension Services

Table 4.19: Distribution of Respondents on whether they do Domestic Chores

Table 4.20: Distribution of Respondents on the type of Domestic Chores they do before going to    Farm

Table 4.21: Distribution of Respondents on whether Domestic Chores Affect Farm Work

Table 4.22: Distribution of Respondents on awareness of Bende Local Government Assistance to Rural women

Table 4.23: Distribution of Respondents on Types of Assistance given by Bende Local                                     Government

Table 4.24: Distribution of Respondents on Rating of Bende Local Government Assistance

Table 4.25: Distribution of Respondents on Most Useful ways to Assist Rural Women in their    Subsistence Agriculture

Table 4.26: Distribution of Respondents on Hindrance on women’s Productivity by Restriction on Land Ownership

Table 4.27: Distribution of Respondents on Women’s Participation in Agriculture by Domestic   Chores

Table 4.28: Distribution of Respondents on Access to Information by Educational Attainment




  • Background to the Study

Hunger is on the increase among nations of the world. Food crisis is hurting the poor all over the world, hitting the landless and women the hardest (Karl, 2009). About 800 million people go hungry each day, globally (Canadian International Development Agency, 2003). Currently, this figure has increased to 925 million (Food and Agricultural Organization, 2010).  This situation is expected to worsen if extreme measures are not taken (International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) as cited in FAO, 2010). In Nigeria, recent estimates put the number of people that go hungry each day at over 53 million (Ajayeoba, 2010). One of the challenges confronting the global community today is how to feed the 6.6 billion inhabitants of the world. Ogbonna and Okoroafor (2004); Nabinta, Kushawha, Yahaya and Olajide (2007) contend that one of the greatest challenges facing the world, with particular focus on Africa, is to find solution to the problem of hunger and poverty. This concern is reflected in the first of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which is, to reduce by half, the proportion of people living in extreme poverty and hunger by the year 2015 (Todaro and Smith, 2009:24).

However, empirical evidence has shown that rural women, most of whom are subsistence farmers, are crucial in the fight against hunger and rural poverty. Globally, more than 30% of the female workforce is engaged in agriculture, while in regions like sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, more than 60% of all female employment is in this sector (International Labour Organization (ILO), 2009). According to Prakash (2003), women’s contribution to agricultural production and household food security cannot be overemphasized. They feed the world. He also noted that on the global scale, women produce more than half of all the food that is grown.

In Sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean, they produce up to 80% of basic foodstuffs. In Asia, they provide from 50% to 90% of the labour for rice cultivation. And in South-east Asia and the Pacific as well as Latin America, women’s home-gardens represent some of the most complex agricultural systems known. In countries in transition, the percentage of rural women working in agriculture ranges from about a third in Bosnia and Herzegovina to more than a half in Poland. In his findings, Morvaridi, as cited in Akpinar, Talay, Celylan, and Gunduz (2003) recorded that in Turkey, women’s contribution to agriculture is immense. All over Turkey, 74% of employed women work in the agricultural sector, constituting 53.8% of the total labour force.

Majority of these rural women engage in subsistence farming. According to Kisamba-Mugerwa (2001), subsistence agriculture still dominates the working lives of more than half of world’s women. Ugwu (2009) observed that women produce up to 60% of the food consumed in the developing countries through subsistence agriculture. According to Mijindadi (1993), women are responsible for 70% of actual farm work and constitute up to 60% of the farming population in Nigeria. Also Youssef (1995) noted that the predominant occupation of rural women, especially Igbo women of South Eastern Nigeria, is agriculture. According to him, these women are associated with traditional subsistence agriculture.

In spite of their role in household food security and agricultural production, rural women face a number of constraints that affect their agricultural production, especially at the subsistence level. Some of the constraints arise from misguided development policies and programmes, and others are rooted in cultural, religious, and social institutions. As highlighted by Butt, Hassan, Mehmood and Muhammed (2010); Nazarpour and Rezaei (2011), rural women face a number of constraints in their agricultural activities. These constraints can take different forms ranging from lack of access to credit, lack of information, illiteracy, lack of access to land, non availability of agricultural extension services, lack of time resulting from their engagement in normal domestic works, to male domination and lack of recognition for their contributions in agricultural development and food production. Generally, rural women face more difficulty than men do. They often spend long hours collecting firewood and carrying it back home over long distances. The time and labour expended this way exhaust them and limit their ability to engage in other productive and income-generating activities (agriculture inclusive). Their health suffers from hauling heavy loads of firewood and water and from cooking over smoky fires.

Communities in Bende L.G.A. are basically rural and agriculture engages the labour of the greater proportion of the inhabitants. Farming in any of the communities that make up the Local Government Area is characterized by cultural norms, beliefs and traditions, which influence gender division of labour, both in terms of crops and tasks. Ownership and accessibility of factors of production such as land and extension services are influenced by cultural norms and beliefs. Farmers here produce mostly food crops for household subsistence, even though some of their products are sold at the local markets for income. Some crops like cassava, maize, melon, cocoyam, vegetables, etc are culturally believed to be women’s crops, while yam, the “king” of all crops is believed to be men’s crop (Ezumah and Di Domenico, 1995). Although men and women in Bende L.G.A. are mostly farmers, women do most of the farm work, starting from planting to harvesting seasons. Based on the foregoing, a study of this nature is deemed appropriate.



1.2       Statement of the Problem



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