Agriculture has been a major and significant contribution to Nigeria’s economy Pre and Post-independence. It is the largest employment provider, with much attention and infusion of technology into the sector in the last 20 years. However, the agricultural system has placed more focus on Men and side-lined Female smallholder farmers who make up almost half the number of agricultural workers. These women play an important role in aspects of sustainable development and this includes being a major player against hunger and poverty in rural areas. Yet, the majority of these women still struggle to access affordable financial services to help them develop their farming operations and livelihoods.
Nigerian women in agriculture are involved in all aspects of farming, which ranges from producing food on farms to putting it on plates. They’re involved in the land clearing process, planting of crops, livestock production, harvesting, marketing, and processing of farm produce as well as preparing these meals to care for their household. With all of these activities, women have still had less access to financial services than their male counterparts, such limited access is harmful to the farmers and their families and significantly impedes their ability to grow and prosper, some of the services include: access to formal savings and credit, which limits their ability to manage shocks and invest in seasonal inputs or in durable goods and productive assets. It is estimated that closing the gender gap in access to productive assets could lead to a 20-30 percent yield increase per household, which would benefit not only female farmers but also their families (FAO 2011).
Financial inclusion simply means the avenue to ensure everyone has equal opportunity to access and use affordable financial services. These services include savings, credits, insurance, payments, transfers, and remittances. Interestingly, it is a significant tool for accomplishing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), primarily goal 5-achieving gender inequality and facilitating the empowerment of women. It is clear that as of now, “women and girls still earn less, learn less, own less, and wield much less economic power than their husbands and brothers.”
Muibat Olawale, a female smallholder farmer at the Oyo state network of Crop2Cash farmers stated " We work as hard as our husbands on the field, and when it is time for interventions, the men have an upper hand in getting the opportunities. Prior to having an account with Crop2Cash, whenever we approach financial institutions for help, we are usually turned back either to bring our husband as signatories or provide sophisticated documents to prove we own the farm we cultivate on".
There are various factors stifling progress in woman’s financial inclusion, the most critical being the impact of social norms, which are prevalent mainly in Africa. Social norms influence nearly every aspect of daily life, including financial services. They have an adverse impact on financial inclusion for women because they can limit their ability to work outside the home, engage with male agents, or even own a phone.
Some common social norms and beliefs include:
Women are primarily viewed as caregivers hence are confined to the home which also limits the scope of financial products they can access.
Beliefs that women are not as financially savvy as men and must rely on their husbands/male relatives to make financial decisions and must therefore use joint bank accounts or their husband’s account.
Societal beliefs that women should not own properties or be involved in financial decisions. Some countries have enacted inheritance laws that favor men over women, reducing women’s access to family assets.
Other factors contributing to women’s financial exclusion include poverty, low levels of literacy, limited education, and limited assets. In addition, because of cultural and patrilineal traditions women typically don’t own land.
Other restrictions in relation to agriculture include the fact that most women are constrained from participation in the marketing of high-value crops. And then there’s institutional discrimination. Another example is when financial institutions require a male signatory to grant a formal loan to a female farmer.
To deal with these, there's a need for Nigeria to strategically integrate gender-specific goals for financial inclusion in smallholder agriculture. It is also important to establish partnerships between different stakeholders. These would include government, non-governmental, and private organizations such as crop2cash that have a common interest in women smallholders’ access to finance. Such partnerships should implement and finance clear-cut strategies in bridging financial inclusion gender gaps in smallholder agriculture in Nigeria.
Approaches could include developing agricultural finance innovations that reflect the realities of women that are affordable, based on the financial needs of farmers. For example, financial institutions should come up with and accept options apart from land that can be used as collateral for women smallholder farmers.
Similarly, successful models like the crop2cash Base wallet system which gives them freedom and total financial control of their activities for Agricultural Lending should be integrated and empower women smallholders in their agricultural value chain processes.
In conclusion, it is important that Nigeria’s financial literacy agenda extend to smallholders and rural areas. And there should be systemic efforts at all levels of society to ensure that women have direct access to finance and control.
- Promoting prosperity through agricultural innovations
- Where did all the food go? A probe on why there's food insecurity in Nigeria
Financial inclusion in Nigeria [Retrieved from https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/handle/10986/35471 on 27th October 2021]
Why we need to close the financial inclusion gap [ Retrieved from https://theconversation.com/nigeria-needs-to-close-the-financial-inclusion-gap-for-women-smallholder-farmers-132522 on 27th October 2021]