Include women farmers when developing and testing drought-tolerant maize
Female farmers from Nigeria, who are usually left out of agricultural decision-making, were included in an on-farm trial to determine which Drought Tolerant (DT) maize varieties they find more favourable, and therefore more profitable.
Smallholder farmers produce more than 70% of the crops in Nigeria. Female farmers, who make up almost 50% of this group, are often not invested in, and not included in agricultural development decisions, even though they play such an important role in ensuring food security for communities.
Female farmers could have more productive crop yields if they grow Drought Tolerant (DT) maize, since DT maize can grow during times of drought or in very dry conditions.
Researchers therefore wanted to determine which DT varieties were preferred by female farmers, by including them in on-farm trials to select for DT maize.
Groups of female farmers, from 7 villages in the Southern Guinea Savannah Agro-Ecological Zone of Nigeria, were given small plots to grow 2 DT maize varieties and 1 normal farm variety. In total, 80 female farmers participated.
The researchers visited these plots while the plants were still growing, and again when they were flowering, so that they could assess the crop yield. The researchers collected information relating to the age, marital status and level of education of the farmers using questionnaires, and they looked at farm budgets and profits.
The female farmers, who were all married and were around 43 years old on average, preferred the DT maize varieties over the normal varieties. Different DT varieties were preferred in different areas though. The female farmers also found the DT varieties to be more profitable.
Researchers and farmers were aware that DT maize is needed to help with food security, and we know that women play a significant role in agricultural production and household food security. This study linked these two ideas by including women in the testing of DT varieties on farm trials.
The researchers say there should be policies and programmes introduced to include women in agricultural development and testing; however, it is up to governments to ensure that this does happen.
Maize is the most widely grown and most important food crop in sub-Saharan Africa. Climate change is threatening food security and therefore the development of DT maize is important to maintain profitable food production.
All of the researchers involved in the study are based in Nigeria, and the female farmer participants were all Nigerian.
Women play a significant role in agricultural production and household food security. However, there has been low involvement of women in on-farm trials of agricultural technologies. In this study, data were collected through well-structured questionnaires administered to 80 women farmers in an on-farm trial of the drought tolerant (DT) maize variety in Southern Guinea Savannah (SGS) Agro-ecological zone of Nigeria. The study showed that the women farmers are all married, about 23% of them having no formal education and an average age of 43 years. The women farmers ranked the DT maize variety as the best at all the locations. It is therefore recommended that women farmers should be involved in the development and testing of agricultural innovations in order to ensure food security and attain sustainable growth through enhanced agricultural productivity.
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