BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
Agriculture contributes immensely to the Nigerian economy in various ways such as the provision of food for the increasing population, supply of raw materials and a major source of employment, generation of foreign exchange earnings, and provision of a market for the products from the industrial sector (Eze, Ugbochukwu, Eze, Awulonu and Okon, 2010). It has always played an important role in the socio-economic development of developing countries such as Nigeria. Onwualu (2012) had remarked that agriculture remains the dominant sector in the rural areas of Nigeria where over 70% of Nigerians reside. This is true to rural communities in Nigeria.
Onwualu (2012:4) stated that Nigeria was one of the world‘s largest agricultural producers and it is on record that at independence, agriculture contributed up to 60% of the
Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in this country. It generated enormous revenue for the development of infrastructural facilities in the defunct Northern, Eastern, and Southern, Western and Mid-Western regions of this country in the early 1960s. Oluwasola (2001) reported that women constitute 49.7 percent of the national population, 60% of world‘s female population with 70% of them in the developing countries, constituting two-fifth of active population in agriculture and majority of them reside in the rural areas where the means of livelihood depends on agro-forestry, soil conservation and exploiting the resources from nature. The activities of rural women in agriculture transcend beyond mere supporting food production but also promoting sustainability of the ecosystems. Historically, women are playing important roles in agriculture with a wide range of activities ranging from production, harvesting, transport, marketing to processing of the products. National Centre for Economic Management and Administration, NCEMA (1991) had highlighted the roles of women in agriculture to include among others: land clearing, crop planting, fertilizer application, weeding/pruning, spraying crops, harvesting, processing, storage, transporting farm produce and marketing of produce but the extent of the involvement of women in each of these agricultural activities varies with different cultures, economic systems and the socioeconomic milieu.
Women have valuable experience and roles in agriculture which according to Pesticide Action Network Asia and Pacific, (PANAP)(2012) the custodian of seed, conservers of biodiversity and being traditional veterinarians. The sustainable production of food is the first pillar of food security as millions of women work as farmers, farm workers and natural resource managers (Onyemobi, 2000). In doing so, they contribute to national agricultural development, maintenance of environment and family food security (Brown, Feidstein, Haadad, Peria and Quisumbing, 2001).
Women produce over 60 percent of the agricultural food in the country (Ogunbameru and Pandy, 1992; Buckland and Haleegoah, 1996). This is evident in some rural societies mostly in the middle-belt and southern parts of Nigeria. Ironkwe and Ekwe (1998) remarked that more than 60% of agricultural activities of women went beyond crop production but also extended to other agricultural activities like fisheries, poultry as well as rearing of sheep and goats. Other works by Mijindadi (1993); Benjamin (1997) and Yahaya (2002) also discussed these multifaceted roles of women in agriculture. Also Buvinie and Mehra (1990) and Oluwasola (2001) are among others concerned with constraints faced by women farmers.