The United Nations General Assembly has designated October 15 as the International Day of Rural Women. The Assembly honors rural women for the role they play in agriculture and the food industry. The UN-FAO FAOSTAT 2012 data show that rural women are primarily credited with majority of agricultural activities feeding the world. Despite this, they are mostly affected by economic and health inequalities that threaten their survival.
Small-scale commercial agriculture is a matter of survival for most rural women who often do not have the luxury of many professional options in a highly patriarchal society such as Nigeria. In this type of work, farmers produce crops or raise livestock to sell at the market. The benefits of small-scale commercial agriculture include the potential to earn a higher income than subsistence farmers and the ability to scale up the operation as demand increases. The downside is that commercial agriculture requires more investment than subsistence farming, so there is more risk involved.
Ladi is one of many women in Giwa Local Government Area of Kaduna. She shares with Vaccine Network the challenges women face especially from insecurity in rural areas in Kaduna. She narrated the fears of attacks by unknown insurgents in the remote farmlands. “Many women have refused to farm this year at the risk of losing their livelihoods. Others are now at internally displaced person camps.”
The struggles of rural women in men’s wars in Nigerian rural communities are hardly reported. As if that wasn’t enough, women who have been reported to be least supported by agricultural support programs, are the worst hit by recent environmental emergencies in the middle belt and northern regions of the country. Whereas Nigeria is recording record food inflation due to food insecurity and the World Bank has warned against a potential food scarcity due to the insecurity and environmental emergencies in rural communities. In spite of the obvious challenges, women in these communities have proven resilient, adapting and finding new ways to cultivate good food for all and supporting one another through tough times. And despite limited resources, they continue to invest in their communities by growing healthy food and providing nutrition education.
However, it is imperative for the government at all levels to pay closer attention to rural women who are the source of the country’s sustenance. Empowering rural women and addressing the social barriers that women face in rural areas is essential to building an equitable society. For as much as the majority of the country’s food is produced by women, protecting them is infact the only way to ensure a food-secure world for all.