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Monday, April 29, 2013

Agriculture: Reasons men marry more wives

A rural Nigerian woman farmer
It may sound crazy, but a true life story in a 21st century Nigeria. A young man of 35 years by name, Eze Egbunam, is a publicist for almost half a decade now, in the city of Lagos, but had cause to visit his village, Umuosite, Awka-North of Anambra State in South Eastern part of the country, for a family reason, which needed his physical attention.

After his arrival, his father, who is blessed with eight children – three females and five male; with Eze as the eldest, summoned him, very early in the morning of the next day. And being the custom, he quickly responded with the hope that the meeting would centre on how he has been managing, given the harshness of the economy, which is no longer news to most Nigerians including local dwellers made of farmers.

More wives for men:
Many wives of Masaba
But to his disappointment, after the initial how are you doing between those in the city and in the villages, his father, diverted the discussion by declaring that he wanted to marry a second wife. Promptly, Eze asked ‘What do you need that for?’ since his mother is still alive and strong, but his father, Mazi Egbunam’s response was that he wanted someone to help him in the farm.

Without much ado, Eze’s voice raised because he is aware both his father and mother who are now farmers outside their artisan trades, very often had to cultivate certain crops together, especially cassava and rice for family use and sustenance.
87-yr Alhaji Masaba during one of court sessions for marrying 86 wives

Eze’s immediate reaction was to announce to his father the suspension of his subsidy 
allowance, usually sent to him from time to time, as he could not fathom let alone agree with the reason given by Mazi Egbunam for his choice of second wife.

The above narration depicts how women are valued in most African countries, even till date and at this era of Information and Communications Technologies (ICT), women role in agriculture cannot, therefore, be over-looked for any reason.

Father can’t provide immediate succor
Looking around, afterwards, Eze took time to count the number of women passing their family company on their way to the farm or those return from fetching firewords. He was astonished with the number of women on transit to and from the farm, most of who attend to the farm with their children, who could not go to school because they have been asked to get one educational tool like handiwork exercise or even exercise and text books, which their parent, especially fathers could not provide immediately and their mother have to take them to the farm to labour for another villager to be able to work out the money for such needs to be taken care of.

Then, he began by doing soul-searching, why most men in olden days marry many wives, and the answers provided by his own father was for prowess and have children who will attend to their farm lands, mostly yam barn.

Women still surpass men’s contribution:
Some of Alhaji Masaba's children
The truth, according to Eze is that women still surpass men in terms of contribution to agriculture; be it planting, harvesting and even taken some of the produce to the village markets around in order to provide alternative food or money for such exchanges for the family usage.

Further surprising aspect, Eze noted was that despite all the efforts, women like in the eastern part of Nigeria inhabited by the Igbos, still submit every income to the man of the house and go back begging anytime she needs to buy something for the family or as the children’s need arises, except for a few enlightened women, who understand that the man is not always available when emergency need come up.

This tradition, not only kept the women in check holistically, but also reduces their economic powers, thus, they are very much dependant on their male counterpart for almost everything.

In the western part of Nigeria, where Eze works, the story changed a little, with more women going into trading on agricultural products, whereas in the northern part of Nigeria, women are still much kept in the Burqaa; an outfit that Muslim women wear, yet they, women are not most often privileged to own the farm lands.

Sabo Elizabeth of Department of Agricultural Economics and Extension, Adamawa State University, confirmed that the impact of the women in agriculture particularly in Borno State in northern Nigeria indicated that about 52 per cent were married women farmers, buttressed the role of women in agriculture on the continent.

Prevailing issues on women in agriculture:
Its no longer news that women play a significant role in agriculture, the world over, so Africa is not exonerated, though there are some prevailing issues like land tenure systems, national and local institutions enforcing land regulations, land administration institutions and women quotas as well as funding provisions to guarantee women’s land transactions and other related factors influencing gender discrimination on land rights among others.

It was not surprising that the Sustainable Development department of Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in its recent submission confirmed that women play a major role in household animal-production enterprises by having primary responsibility for the husbandry of small animals and ruminants, and also take care of large animal systems - herding, providing water and feed, cleaning stalls and milking.

Women made up 70% agric workforce:
FAO also concluded by identifying the fact that in Africa, women made of up 70 per cent of the agriculture workforce, 60-80 per cent of the labour to produce food for household consumption and sale, 100 per cent of the processing for basic food stuffs, 90 per cent of household water and fuelwood, 80 per cent of food storage and transport from farm to village, 90 per cent of the hoeing and weeding work, while made up of 60 per cent of the harvesting and marketing activities.

Noteworthy is that these figures showed less difference from FAO report since 1985, which means that much may not have been achieved in terms of changing the mindset of policy makers and women and gender advocates in turning the campaigns around.

If Africa must feed the continent and be self-reliance in food security through agricultural science and innovation, then, African continent has a lot to do to empower women.

It is encouraging that recently the Federal Government through its WIN project gave a focused attention to women entrepreneurs, with free loans, moreso, for those investing in agriculture.

Government at all levels of governance, mostly the local government administration needed to do more in assisting women farmers in form of appropriate policies and strategies to make certain they access right information by extension services, the land resources, credit and any other subsidized inputs to mention but a few.

The sooner we take and examine these hiccups against women agriculture input seriously, the better policies and harvest await the continent. Just as we have to change the perception of our today rural men on marrying many wives for the sake of getting agriculture assistants.

Remmy Nweke/NaijaAgroNet

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