Oluwatayo 2009 – Seasonal vulnerability of farmers in Nigeria

Over the past two or three decades, it has become increasingly clear that small-scale farmers in sub-Saharan Africa produce the bulk of the food consumed by inhabitants of these countries, in spite of their poor working conditions in terms of access to inputs, improved technology and basic infrastructure. Again, the changing pattern of climate, the HIV/AIDS pandemic, unstable micro- and macroeconomic conditions, coupled with the rising poverty situation have even made the matter worse, especially for staple food crop farmers. The resultant effect of this is manifested in poor living conditions and dwindling interest in agriculture. In Nigeria, agriculture remains the largest employer of labour, providing a livelihood for over 70% of the population. This paper relied on primary data collected through a well-structured questionnaire from a random sample of 360 staple food crop farmers in southwest Nigeria, using a multi-stage sampling procedure. The data were collected in March and September 2008, depicting the peak of dry and rainy seasons in the country. Respondents distribution by age indicates that average age of these farmers is 45 years, implying that majority of the farmers are young and still active. Distribution of respondents by gender reveals that there are more males than females, while their distribution by education level shows that about one-third are educated up to tertiary level while 36% have no formal education. However, respondents distribution by household size reveals that mean household size is 7, an important reason for the low per capita income estimated in the study area. Also, about two-third of the respondents were estimated to be vulnerable going by the vulnerability benchmark constructed using the consumption expenditure data obtained for the two periods (March and September). A probit analysis employed to ascertain the determinants of vulnerability to seasonal fluctuations in production and marketing show that respondents age, gender, years of formal education, household size, membership of cooperatives, access to inputs, access to extension services, distance to markets and price situation are major determinants of vulnerability in the study area. While the coefficients of age, household size, distance to market, price situation are positively associated with high vulnerability, those of gender, educational level, membership of cooperatives and access to extension services are negatively associated with high vulnerability. In other words, respondents that are young, having tertiary education, members of cooperatives and having access to extension services are less vulnerable than aged, those with no formal education, those not belonging to cooperatives and those lacking access to extension services. More so, an adaptive strategy index (ASI) was estimated to rank different adaptive measures employed to cushion the effect of seasonal variability in production and marketing. It was revealed that borrowing from cooperatives was very conspicuous, with over 65% employing the strategy. This is closely followed by diversification into non-farm activities. Other strategies employed include cutting down expenditure on non-food items, migration to cities and nearby towns in search of paid employment and relying on relatives/friends for buffer. Based on the study findings, it is suggested that government should encourage cooperative activities among small-scale farmers, having found that cooperatives are a veritable tool to cushioning the effect of income shortfall on farming households. Also, investment in capacity building through education (especially the girl child) should be intensified since education is known to enhance earning potentials and better adoption of innovations and technologies. Investment in market and road infrastructures should be made a priority in order to reduce wastages arising from bumper harvests, and this will equally encourage youths to embrace farming as a profession.

File: Oluwatayo 2009 - Seasonal vulnerability of farmers in Nigeria.pdf